Deal will allow military spouses to telework from overseas

Deal will allow military spouses to telework from overseas

The Defense and State departments last week signed a long-awaited agreement that would allow the spouses of military service members to telework while overseas, a milestone for the Biden administration’s initiative to boost employment for military spouses.

Last summer, President Biden signed an executive order aimed at increasing the federal government’s recruitment and employment of military spouses, given the demographic group’s high unemployment and economic certainty. The unemployment rate among spouses of military service members is more than 20%, well above the national rate, which sat at 3.8% last month.

Among the order’s provisions was a requirement that federal agencies loosen rules governing when employees of domestic federal agencies can telework from outside the United States, arrangements called Domestic Employee Teleworking Overseas. Last week, the Pentagon and the State Department held a signing ceremony for a new memorandum of agreement to do just that.

“So last June, Joe signed an historic executive order to address the barriers that military spouses face when trying to find work—by making it easier for the federal government to hire them, encouraging federal employers to give spouses time off when they have to move, and reducing child care costs for military families,” said first lady Jill Biden. “A critical part of the executive order is allowing military spouses who work for the federal government to take those jobs with them if they have to [permanently change station] overseas. With today’s agreement, we’re making that a reality.”

“To retain top talent, we must put people first, and this memorandum of understanding does just that,” said Deputy Secretary of State Richard Verma. “DETO arrangements, including those facilitated by this new agreement, allow us to keep critical expertise within the department, protecting key members of our team from career disruption.”

The new agreement streamlines the State Department’s approval process for DETO arrangements by making the Defense Department responsible for determining whether the safety and security of a foreign residence is suitable for remote work. And it no longer requires the State Department to conduct its own, separate inspection of a residence for remote work suitability.

Additionally, it clarifies that spouses of members of the U.S. Coast Guard assigned overseas are also covered by the new procedures. Officials said the changes should speed up the process so that military spouses can keep their positions in the federal government, rather than resign because moving day arrived before approval did.

“Ensuring our military spouses can maintain meaningful careers is not just the right thing to do, it is a national security imperative,” said Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks. “Allowing more spouses the ability to keep their federal jobs and telework strengthens economic security and quality of life for our servicemembers and their families and enhances readiness and retention for our all-volunteer force.”

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