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OPM Finalizes Rule to Boost Agency Hiring of Military Spouses

Regulations removing obstacles to hiring spouses of active duty service members outside of the competitive process will go into effect next month.

The Office of Personnel Management this week published final regulations aimed at making it easier for federal agencies to hire the spouses of active duty military service members, following through on multiple congressional measures and an executive order.

Programs to employ military spouses, who often struggle to find jobs due to the isolation of military bases and the routine relocations that accompany a life in the armed services, have existed for years, but often went underutilized. Those initiatives allow spouses to apply non-competitively to vacant federal jobs or to use the Priority Placement Program, which gives spouses preference when applying to competitive federal jobs shortly after relocating but does not supersede veterans preference.

Over the last several years, Congress has passed multiple provisions as part of annual National Defense Authorization acts to try to increase agencies’ use of these hiring authorities. And in 2018, President Trump signed an executive order aimed at promoting the hiring incentives.

Last year, OPM issued proposed rules that would, among other things, remove some of the restrictions that contributed to the programs’ underutilization, including quotas and the requirement that a spouse have recently relocated to access the Priority Placement Program. A final rule published in the Federal Register this week will finalize these changes’ implementation as of Oct. 21.

In a blog post announcing the regulations, OPM Associate Director for Employee Services Rob Shriver said the regulations apply to spouses of active duty service members, as well as widows and spouses of service members who are “100% disabled.”

Shriver said the federal government’s current maximum telework posture due to the COVID-19 pandemic—and the Biden administration’s efforts to make remote work a more permanent fixture of federal employment—will make it even easier for spouses to find and keep full-time jobs on a long-term basis.

“Employers across sectors and around the world rely heavily on telework and remote work as a result of the pandemic, and the federal government is no exception,” he wrote. “These have become the new ways of working, and OPM is helping agencies use these flexibilities as strategic management tools to better recruit and retain workers. This creates an unique opportunity for military spouses—while military families often have to move frequently, they can access their work remotely and remain in their federal jobs.”

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