Military Spouse Employment Initiative

The military spouse unemployment rate (21%) has not significantly changed since 2015.* That’s why USAA, Navy Federal Credit Union, and PenFed have joined forces to tackle military spouse employment through a multi-year effort aimed at understanding specific employment barriers and identifying solutions for long-term spouse employment.

*2021 Active-Duty Spouse Survey

Nearly half of military spouse respondents (47%) identified working with large corporations to design military spouse-friendly work options (i.e., flexible hours, job-sharing options, remote/virtual work options) as their top suggestion for improving the unemployment/underemployment of military spouses (2018 MFLS).

Employers can be part of the solution. Here’s how.

"Military spouses are critical to the community and family unit. It is well known that military spouses face unique employment challenges compared to their civilian counterparts, which hinders their careers, family livelihood and the broader military community. Our companies are committed to helping address this critical issue and support the livelihood of our military families and their communities."

Chief Executive Officers of Navy Federal, PenFed, and USAA

"Military spouses are the backbone of their families and defense communities, which is why our mission to figure out why they continue to face employment challenges is so important. Through this multi-year research project, we're hoping to uncover barriers and work towards solutions, together."

Mary McDuffie, President and CEO of Navy Federal Credit Union

"We all have a joint mission to serve those who serve, which means also taking care of military spouses. Now more than ever, military spouses are struggling with employment and underemployment, and we want to do something about it."

Mary McDuffie, President/CEO of Navy Federal Credit Union

"PenFed is proud to be a part of the historic partnership to spotlight and focus efforts on military spouse employment challenges. PenFed has served the military and defense community for over 86 years, and we truly value the wealth of skills and knowledge military spouses bring to our team."

James Schenck, President and CEO of PenFed Credit Union

"Strong military families are an important foundation of our country. For nearly 100 years, USAA has served them proudly with products, services and philanthropic support to help them achieve financial security. We're delighted to join with Navy Federal, PenFed, and Blue Star Families to multiply the impact of our efforts to find solutions that will leverage military spouses' value and keep military families strong. Contributing to this spouse employment initiative is a natural extension of USAA's ongoing commitment to our mission to serve."

Wayne Peacock, President and CEO of USAA

What We Know About Military Spouse Employment

Moving the Needle on Spouse Employment

Longitudinal Data Collection

Quantify the predictors of positive spouse employment outcomes.


Identify employer-based barriers to military spouse employment, identify necessary supports for employers to recruit and retain military spouse employees.

Spouse Stories

Understand the decision points in which spouses make choices about their employment, and the factors that influence their decisions.

Military Spouse Employment Efforts Timeline


  • President Biden issues Executive Order 14100 - Advancing Economic Security for Military and Veteran Spouses, Military Caregivers, and Survivors.
  • The DoD launched the Military Spouse Career Accelerator Pilot program to expand employment opportunities for eligible military spouses.


  • Blue Star Families launches a 3 year longitudinal Military Spouse Employment Research Project funded by USAA, Navy Federal Credit Union and, PenFed Credit Union
  • The DoD opens Biannual Survey of Military Spouses to ALL spouses.


The DoD launched its newly-enhanced MySECO website.


  • The NDAA required the DoD to enter into a cooperative agreement with the Council of State Governments to assist with funding of the development of interstate compacts on licensed occupations, expanded MyCAA to include the Coast Guard, and increased relicensing reimbursement following a PCS move from $500 to $1.000.
  • President Trump signs EO 13966 - Increasing Economic and Geographic Mobility Executive Order


The NDAA amended the noncompetitive appointment authority for military spouses, made improvements to the MyCAA program, and required assessment on the impact of frequent changes of station affect military spouses, and how unemployment and underemployment can affect readiness.


  • President Trump signed EO 13832 - Enhancing Noncompetitive Civil Service Appointments of Military Spouses
  • The NDAA authorized the Secretary of Defense to carry out a pilot program on public-private partnerships for telework facilities for military spouses on OCONUS military installations.

2011 - 2017

  • The NDAA amended the military spouse noncompetitive appointment authority to eliminate the 2-year eligibility limitation. (2017)
  • The NDAA directed the Secretary of Defense to collect data to evaluate the effectiveness of military spouse employment programs. (2015)
  • The NDAA provided for the noncompetitive appointment of military spouses. (2013)
  • The NDAA mandated the GAO to review DoD spouse employment programs and the federal hiring mechanisms targeted to help military spouses. (2012)
  • The Military Spouse Employment Partnership, or MSEP is officially launched. (2011)
  • Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training Services (DOL VETS) launched nationwide initiative to help veterans and their spouses find jobs, later becoming Hiring Our Heroes. (2011)

2002 - 2010

  • The NDAA authorized the DoD to establish a pilot program to help military spouses secure internships at federal agencies. (2010)
  • Blue Star Families conducts the first annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey (2010)
  • Blue Star Families is founded. (2009)
  • President Bush signs Executive Order 13473 - To Authorize Certain Noncompetitive Appointments in the Civil Service for Spouses of Certain Members of the Armed Forces (2008)
  • The DoD’s Military Community and Family Policy office established a portfolio of initiatives under the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities SECO program. (2007)
  • The NDAA directed the DoD to examine existing military spouse employment programs to improve access to financial and other assistance for job training and education. (2002)

1985 - 1996

The Military Family Act is established. Subsequent NDAAs amend the Military Family Act to provide for and expand military spouse employment hiring preference.