At Fort Liberty, North Carolina, today, President Joe Biden signed an executive order designed to strengthen economic opportunities for military and veteran spouses, caregivers and survivors.
"This new executive order establishes the most comprehensive set of administrative actions in our nation's history to support the economic security of military families, veterans, spouses, caregivers and survivors," Biden said at a large gathering of military personal and spouses at Fort Liberty.
The actions of the executive order, he said, focus on three main goals: more flexibility, more support and more resources.
"This executive order encourages all federal agencies to do more to retain military spouses through flexible policies, policies like granting leave when their partner has to PCS [permanent change of station], improving remote work opportunities for military spouses — including when they're stationed overseas," he said.
The executive order enables more support to military families, for instance, by enabling spouses to seek advice on overseas employment issues through military legal assistance officers.
"You also need support to navigate challenges unique to military families, challenges like juggling child care and work while your partner's deployed or when you're caring for an injured loved one," he said. "Too often, the people you work with, they just don't know ... they don't know what you're going through."
The executive order, he said, establishes new training for federal human resources and hiring personnel to ensure that those people fully understand the needs of military families.
The president also said the executive order provides resources — especially for things like affordable child care.
"Today, we're accelerating the implementation of the dependent care flexible spending account, which will give military families the option to receive a pretax benefit for daycare, preschool and summer camps, and much more," Biden said. "This order also focuses on providing resources … for military spouses who are entrepreneurs."
Included there are new funding options, including grants and loans to help military spouses start and sustain businesses.
The directions provided within the executive order, Biden said, are an important part of sustaining the all-volunteer force, which will next month turn 50 years old.
"All of you who raised your hand, all of you who volunteered are the reason that our military today is the greatest fighting force in the history of the world, bar none — that's the reason. And the reason we've been able to sustain that force year after year, decade after decade is because military spouses, caregivers and survivors have answered the call, as well."
Today's executive order supports those military spouses, caregivers and survivors who currently — or have in the past — provided support to U.S. military personnel.
"I'm here as commander in chief to sign this executive order because it matters. .... It matters to our military recruitment and retention, it matters to our troops' readiness and resilience, and it matters to our nation's safety and security. Supporting our military and veterans' families is not just a moral imperative, it's a national security imperative."
~President Joe Biden
The contents of the executive order were informed in large part by work done through Joining Forces — the White House initiative spearheaded by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and former First Lady Michelle Obama in 2011. That program focuses on providing support to military families, caregivers and survivors of the U.S. military.
"This moment belongs to your community," Jill Biden told those in attendance. "I want to thank all the military spouses everywhere who made it possible. Thank you for sharing your stories. Thank you for trusting us to make this right."
While the executive order will help many military and veteran spouses, caregivers and survivors find more meaningful work, it won't solve every problem, she acknowledged. She called on the private sector to also pitch in to augment what was done by the executive order.
"We're calling on employers everywhere to do their part: Recruit military spouses [and] offer flexible work opportunities so that you can retain their talent no matter where in the world they are working. Yes, it's vital for the future of our nation, but it's also a great way to find the dynamic talent that your businesses need," said the first lady.
Military spouses, Jill Biden said, bring experience and adaptability to the workforce that can't be learned anywhere else.
"When they [military spouse] get the opportunities that they deserve, our service members can do their duty knowing that those they love most are able to thrive. We all benefit," she said.