oversight

Military Spouse Employment Programs: DOD Can Improve Guidance and Performance Monitoring

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-12-13.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                United States Government Accountability Office

GAO             Report to Congressional Committees




                MILITARY SPOUSE
December 2012



                EMPLOYMENT
                PROGRAMS

                DOD Can Improve
                Guidance and
                Performance
                Monitoring




GAO-13-60
                                               December 2012

                                               MILITARY SPOUSE EMPLOYMENT PROGRAMS
                                               DOD Can Improve Guidance and Performance
                                               Monitoring
Highlights of GAO-13-60, a report to
congressional committees




Why GAO Did This Study                         What GAO Found
The approximately 725,000 spouses of           The Department of Defense (DOD) has recently created three new programs
active duty servicemembers face                to help military spouses obtain employment: (1) the Military Spouse Career
challenges to maintaining a career,            Advancement Accounts (MyCAA) tuition assistance program, (2) the Military
including having to move frequently.           Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP), which connects military spouses with
Their employment is often important to         employers, (3) and the Military Spouse Career Center, consisting of a call center
the financial well-being of their families.    and a website for military spouses to obtain counseling and information. DOD’s
For these reasons, DOD has taken               goals for these programs are to reduce unemployment among military spouses
steps in recent years to help military         and close their wage gap with civilian spouses. Aside from these new programs,
spouses obtain employment.
                                               military spouses can also use employment assistance programs that the military
Moreover, the federal government has
                                               services have long operated on DOD installations. However, GAO’s site visits
hiring mechanisms to help military
spouses obtain federal jobs.
                                               and interviews indicate that there may be gaps in coordination across the various
                                               programs that result in confusion for military spouses. Currently, DOD does not
The National Defense Authorization             have guidance describing its overall strategy and how all of its programs should
Act for Fiscal Year 2012 requires GAO          coordinate to help military spouses obtain employment, but DOD is in the
to report on the programs that help            process of developing such guidance.
military spouses obtain jobs. This
report examines: (1) DOD’s recent              DOD is not yet able to measure the overall effectiveness of its military spouse
efforts to help military spouses obtain        employment programs and its performance monitoring is limited, but DOD is
employment, (2) DOD’s steps to                 taking steps to improve its monitoring and evaluation. To determine whether its
assess effectiveness of these efforts,         programs have been effective in reducing unemployment among military spouses
and (3) the hiring mechanisms to help          and closing their wage gap with civilian spouses, DOD is planning to contract
military spouses obtain federal jobs.          with a research organization for a long-term evaluation. With regard to its
GAO conducted interviews with DOD,             performance monitoring for these programs, DOD has performance measures for
the Office of Personnel Management,            MSEP and MyCAA, but has no measures for the Career Center. In addition,
and two advocacy groups; conducted             reliability of the data is questionable on the MSEP performance measure
site visits; analyzed relevant data; and       because DOD’s data are derived from an informal and inconsistent process.
reviewed relevant documents, laws,             DOD’s other measure—the percentage of courses funded by MyCAA tuition
and regulations.                               assistance that military spouses complete with a passing grade—is a useful
                                               interim measure for monitoring how the funds are being used, but it does not
GAO Recommends                                 provide information on whether the funds help military spouses obtain
GAO recommends that DOD consider               employment. DOD has efforts underway to improve its performance monitoring,
incorporating (1) key collaboration            including identifying additional measures it would like to track and collecting
practices as it develops its spouse            additional data on participants’ employment and educational outcomes.
employment guidance, and (2) key               The federal government has two hiring mechanisms that can provide military
attributes of successful performance           spouses who meet the eligibility criteria with some advantages in the federal
measures as it develops and finalizes
                                               hiring process. The first mechanism—a non-competitive authority—allows federal
its performance measures. DOD
                                               agencies the option of hiring qualified military spouses without going through the
partially concurred with the two
recommendations, citing steps it has
                                               competitive process. The second mechanism—DOD’s Military Spouse
already taken. GAO recognizes DOD’s            Preference program—provides military spouses priority in selection for certain
efforts, but given their preliminary           DOD jobs. These hiring mechanisms can increase a military spouse’s chances of
nature, GAO continues to believe DOD           obtaining federal employment, but they do not guarantee that military spouses
would benefit from further incorporating       will obtain the job they apply for. In fiscal year 2011, agencies used the
key practices and attributes.                  noncompetitive authority to hire about 1,200 military spouses, which represented
                                               approximately 0.5 percent of all federal hires that year. Military spouses
                                               represented 0.4 percent of the working-age population in 2010. With regard to
View GAO-13-60. For more information,          the Military Spouse Preference program, DOD has placed about 12,500 military
contact Andrew Sherrill at (202) 512-7215 or
sherrilla@gao.gov.
                                               spouses into civil service jobs in the past 10 years, which includes both new hires
                                               and conversions of DOD employees.
                                                                                       United States Government Accountability Office
Contents


Letter                                                                                    1
               Background                                                                 3
               DOD Has Initiated Programs and Is Developing Guidance for
                 Collaboration                                                            6
               DOD Currently Cannot Measure the Effectiveness of Its Programs,
                 but Efforts Are Underway                                               13
               Two Hiring Mechanisms Can Provide Advantages to Military
                 Spouses Seeking Federal Employment                                     18
               Conclusions                                                              22
               Recommendations for Executive Action                                     23
               Agency Comments and Our Evaluation                                       24

Appendix I     Objectives, Scope, and Methodology                                       27



Appendix II    DOD’s Spending on Military Spouse Employment Programs                    30



Appendix III   Comments from the Department of Defense                                  31



Appendix IV    GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments                                    35



Tables
               Table 1: Key Attributes of Successful Performance Measures               17
               Table 2: Expenditures on Selected DOD Employment Programs for
                        Military Spouses, Fiscal Years 2009 to 2011                     30


Figures
               Figure 1: Military Services’ Employment Assistance Programs                5
               Figure 2: DOD Employment Programs Targeted to Military Spouses             7




               Page i                          GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
Abbreviations
Career Center         Military Spouse Career Center
CPDF                  Central Personnel Data File
DOD                   Department of Defense
MSEP                  Military Spouse Employment Partnership
MSP                   Military Spouse Preference
MyCAA                 Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts
OPM                   Office of Personnel Management
SECO                  Spouse Education and Career Opportunities
TAP                   Transition Assistance Program

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Page ii                                  GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
United States Government Accountability Office
Washington, DC 20548




                                   December 13, 2012

                                   Congressional Committees

                                   For many of the approximately 725,000 spouses of active duty
                                   servicemembers, the special conditions of military life may make it difficult
                                   to start or maintain a career. Military spouses may have to move
                                   frequently to keep families together when servicemembers are relocated,
                                   or they may have to bear a larger share of family responsibilities,
                                   particularly during servicemembers’ deployments. Some studies have
                                   found that being a military spouse is correlated with a higher
                                   unemployment rate and a lower wage on average, compared to civilian
                                   spouses.1 The employment situation of military spouses, in turn, affects
                                   the well-being of the military family and may also influence whether a
                                   servicemember chooses to remain in the military. For these reasons, the
                                   Department of Defense (DOD) has recently made new efforts to help
                                   military spouses obtain employment. In addition, the federal government
                                   has established special hiring mechanisms targeted to those military
                                   spouses interested in obtaining federal jobs.

                                   The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 mandates
                                   that we review the DOD spouse employment programs as well as the
                                   federal hiring mechanisms targeted to help military spouses.2 This report
                                   addresses the following questions: (1) What efforts has DOD recently
                                   made to help military spouses prepare for and obtain employment? (2)
                                   What steps has DOD taken to assess the effectiveness of these
                                   programs? (3) What hiring mechanisms exist to help military spouses
                                   obtain federal jobs? In June and July 2012, we provided briefings to
                                   cognizant committee staff. This report summarizes those briefings and
                                   provides additional information.

                                   To identify DOD’s efforts to help military spouses prepare for and obtain
                                   employment and to examine the steps DOD has taken to assess the



                                   1
                                    Nelson Lim and David Schulker, Measuring Underemployment Among Military Spouses
                                   (Santa Monica, CA: The RAND Corporation, 2010); Nelson Lim, Daniela Golinelli, and
                                   Michelle Cho, ‘Working Around the Military’ Revisited: Spouse Employment in the 2000
                                   Census Data (Santa Monica, CA: The RAND Corporation, 2007).
                                   2
                                    Pub. L. No. 112-81, § 578, 125 Stat. 1298.




                                   Page 1                                   GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
effectiveness of these programs, we conducted interviews with key
officials involved in DOD’s spouse employment programs from DOD
headquarters and each of the military services (Air Force, Army, Marine
Corps, and Navy). We also reviewed DOD’s program descriptions,
funding data, strategic planning documents, performance reports,
guidance, and other relevant documents. To identify the hiring
mechanisms that can help military spouses obtain federal jobs, we
interviewed officials at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and
DOD’s civilian personnel office and reviewed relevant federal laws,
regulations, and guidance. To determine how many spouses were hired
under these mechanisms, we analyzed data from OPM’s Central
Personnel Data File (CPDF) and obtained data from DOD. We assessed
the reliability of these data by reviewing relevant documents, interviewing
DOD and OPM officials about the data, and conducting electronic testing
of the CPDF data. We found the data sufficiently reliable for our
purposes. To supplement the information we obtained from DOD central
offices and OPM, we interviewed local program officials and spouses at
three military installations in the Washington, D.C.-area—Fort Meade
(Army and Navy programs), Joint Base Andrews (Air Force), and
Henderson Hall (Marine Corps). The information we obtained from these
site visits is not generalizable. We also interviewed two advocacy groups
for military families to obtain their perspectives on DOD’s efforts to
provide employment services to military spouses.

We conducted this performance audit from March 2012 to December
2012, in accordance with generally accepted government auditing
standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to
obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for
our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe
that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings
and conclusions based on our audit objectives (see appendix I for further
information on our scope and methodology).




Page 2                            GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
Background
Employment Conditions of   Among the 1.4 million active duty servicemembers in fiscal year 2011,
Military Spouses           over half (57 percent) were married, according to DOD’s data.3 More than
                           90 percent of the spouses of active duty servicemembers were women.
                           Recent studies have found that among those in the labor force, being a
                           military spouse is correlated with a higher unemployment rate, compared
                           to civilian spouses.4 In addition, among those employed, being a military
                           spouse is correlated with a lower wage on average, relative to civilian
                           spouses. Researchers have posited several possible reasons for this.
                           First, military spouses tend to be a younger group than civilian spouses,
                           as well as more likely to be caring for young children. As a result, a larger
                           proportion of military spouses are more likely to be at the beginning of
                           their careers compared to civilian spouses, and a larger proportion have
                           childrearing responsibilities that may make obtaining or maintaining a job
                           more challenging. Second, military spouses move more often than civilian
                           spouses as a whole, which may make it more difficult to retain jobs and
                           develop careers. Some have also speculated that employers may be less
                           willing to hire military spouses than other populations, for example, if they
                           are concerned that military spouses will relocate. Third, demanding work
                           schedules for the servicemembers may mean that spouses bear a larger
                           share of childrearing or other family responsibilities, particularly when
                           servicemembers are deployed. One recent study controlled for many of
                           these characteristics and found that they explained some, though not all,




                           3
                            Department of Defense, 2011 Demographics: Profile of the Military Community
                           (November 2012).
                           4
                            Lim, Golinelli, and Cho, 2007; Lim and Schulker, 2010. The 2007 study by Lim, Golinelli,
                           and Cho examined differences in employment situations between military wives and
                           civilian wives, as well as between military husbands and civilian husbands, using 2000
                           Census data. This study found that among both wives and husbands, being married to an
                           active duty servicemember was correlated with a higher unemployment rate and a lower
                           wage on average, compared to their civilian counterparts. The 2010 study by Lim and
                           Schulker examined differences in employment situations between military and civilian
                           wives using data from the 2006 Current Population Survey data and a DOD of survey of
                           military spouses. The study found that being a military wife was correlated with a higher
                           unemployment rate relative to civilian wives. Both studies also found that being a military
                           spouse was correlated with a lower rate of labor force participation, compared to civilian
                           spouses.




                           Page 3                                    GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
                          of the correlation between being a military spouse and having a higher
                          unemployment rate and lower average wage, relative to civilian spouses.5


DOD Employment            Recognizing the challenges that military spouses face in beginning or
Assistance Programs and   maintaining a career, DOD has historically had efforts to help military
Other Efforts to Help     spouses obtain employment. The military services have operated
                          employment assistance programs at military installations since the 1980s.
Military Spouses          While these programs serve spouses, they also serve many other
                          populations in the military community, including dependent children,
                          active duty servicemembers, active Reserve and National Guard
                          members, DOD civilian personnel, servicemembers transitioning to
                          civilian life, wounded warriors, and DOD retirees (see fig. 1). These
                          programs assist in a variety of ways, including providing referrals to job
                          openings, job fairs, one-on-one employment counseling, and workshops
                          on resume writing, networking, entrepreneurship, and other topics. These
                          programs are often located at military installations’ family centers, where
                          a variety of “family readiness services” are provided.6 These services may
                          include relocation assistance (e.g., providing information on housing, child
                          care, and schooling options), non-medical counseling, financial education
                          and counseling, deployment assistance (e.g., educating servicemembers
                          and their families about challenges they may face and services to help
                          them cope), services for family members with special needs, child abuse
                          and domestic violence prevention and response, emergency family




                          5
                           Lim, Golinelli, and Cho, 2007. A 2010 study by Lim and Schulker controlled for several
                          demographic and contextual factors and did not find significant differences in
                          unemployment rates between military and civilian wives. However, they found that being a
                          military wife was correlated with a greater likelihood of working part-time involuntarily and
                          working in a job for which she might have more years of education than average among
                          workers in her occupation, compared to civilian wives with similar characteristics.
                          6
                           The family centers are the Airman and Family Readiness Center, Army Community
                          Service, Marine Corps Community Services, and Navy Fleet and Family Support Center.
                          DOD issued a new instruction on family readiness services in July 2012. Pursuant to that
                          instruction, family readiness services are composed of both DOD-operated and
                          community-based services that are delivered through a variety of access points, including
                          Military and Family Support Centers (the new term that refers to family centers). The
                          purpose of family readiness services is to help servicemembers and their families manage
                          the challenges of daily living experienced in the unique context of military service. DOD
                          Instruction 1342.22, Military Family Readiness (July 3, 2012).




                          Page 4                                    GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
                                       assistance, and transition assistance to help servicemembers separating
                                       from the military and their families to reenter the civilian workforce.7

Figure 1: Military Services’ Employment Assistance Programs




                                       Over the years, the Congress and the executive branch have sought to
                                       enhance the employment assistance provided to military spouses. In
                                       2001, Congress directed DOD to examine its spouse employment
                                       programs and develop partnerships with private-sector firms to provide for
                                       improved job portability for spouses, among other things.8 A study we
                                       conducted in 2002 discussed a number of efforts DOD was making,
                                       including holding a “spouse employment summit” to identify needed
                                       actions, establishing partnerships with private-sector employers, and
                                       seeking the Department of Labor’s assistance to resolve issues with
                                       different state residency and licensing requirements for particular
                                       occupations.9 More recently, in 2008, Congress authorized DOD to
                                       establish programs to assist spouses of active duty servicemembers in
                                       obtaining the education and training required for a degree, credential,
                                       education prerequisites, or professional license that expands employment




                                       7
                                        Aside from the military services’ employment assistance programs, spouses may also
                                       access state-run employment centers mandated by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998,
                                       known as “one-stops.” At these one-stops, states and localities are required to provide
                                       access to the services of many federally funded employment and training programs.
                                       8
                                        National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002, Pub. Law No. 107-107, § 571,
                                       115 Stat. 1012, 1120 (2001).
                                       9
                                        GAO, Military Personnel: Active Duty Benefits Reflect Changing Demographics, but
                                       Opportunities Exist to Improve, GAO-02-935 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 18, 2002).




                                       Page 5                                  GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
                      and portable career opportunities.10 Congress also authorized DOD to
                      establish a pilot program to help military spouses secure internships at
                      federal agencies by reimbursing agencies for the costs associated with
                      the first year of employment of an eligible spouse.11 In 2011, the
                      administration issued a report identifying commitments federal agencies
                      made to help military spouses obtain employment.12 In that report, DOD
                      committed to expanding an employer partnership program that the Army
                      initiated in 2003 to the other military services, improving employment
                      counseling, and providing financial assistance to help certain spouses
                      obtain further education.


                      Since 2009, DOD has established three programs targeted to military
DOD Has Initiated     spouses to help them obtain employment: (1) the Military Spouse Career
Programs and Is       Advancement Accounts (MyCAA) tuition assistance program; (2) the
                      Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP), which connects military
Developing Guidance   spouses with employers; and (3) the Military Spouse Career Center,
for Collaboration     consisting of a call center and a website through which spouses can
                      obtain counseling and information. These three programs comprise
                      DOD’s Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) initiative
                      (see fig. 2). DOD has two goals for its SECO programs: (1) reduce
                      unemployment among military spouses and (2) close their wage gap with
                      civilian spouses.




                      10
                       National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, Pub. Law No. 110-417, § 582,
                      112 Stat. 4356, 4473 (2008).
                      11
                         National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, Pub. Law No. 111-84, § 564,
                      123 Stat. 2190, 2308 (2009). In fiscal year 2011, DOD piloted an internship program to
                      help spouses obtain jobs with federal agencies. During the 1-year pilot program, DOD
                      helped seven spouses obtain internships. DOD reimbursed federal agencies for the first
                      year’s salary, benefits, and training costs for those spouses, with the intent that after the
                      first year, they would be able to obtain permanent positions and career progression. DOD
                      discontinued this pilot in fiscal year 2012 because according to a DOD official, it was
                      difficult to promote the internship program to federal agencies. In addition, the official said
                      there were existing hiring mechanisms to assist spouses in obtaining federal employment
                      without expending DOD funds.
                      12
                        Strengthening our Military Families: Meeting America’s Commitment (January 2011).
                      This report was issued pursuant to a presidential directive to national security staff
                      (Presidential Study Directive #9).




                      Page 6                                      GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
Figure 2: DOD Employment Programs Targeted to Military Spouses




                                      Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA): DOD created
                                      the MyCAA program to help spouses obtain further education and training
                                      toward a portable career. To enroll in this program, spouses must identify
                                      the course of study they want to pursue, develop an educational plan, and
                                      apply to DOD for tuition assistance. The tuition funds must be used for
                                      education or training toward a portable career field, defined by DOD and
                                      the Department of Labor as a high-growth, high-demand career field that
                                      is likely to have job openings near military installations.13 Since its
                                      inception in 2009, there have been several changes to the program’s
                                      eligibility criteria and benefits. After a pilot period, DOD established that
                                      any spouse of an active duty servicemember could participate in the
                                      program and could receive up to $6,000 in tuition funds for any continuing
                                      education, including educational programs to obtain certificates and
                                      licenses, as well as bachelor’s and advanced degrees.14 Due to concerns
                                      about rising costs and enrollment requests, however, DOD (1) tightened
                                      the eligibility criteria to target the program to spouses of junior
                                      servicemembers, (2) reduced the benefit amount to $4,000, and (3)
                                      restricted the funds’ use to the attainment of certificates and licenses for




                                      13
                                        According to DOD officials, DOD relies on the Department of Labor’s database of in-
                                      demand occupations to identify portable careers eligible for MyCAA tuition assistance.
                                      DOD provides a list of portable careers on their Military OneSource website and
                                      encourages spouses to contact a Career Center counselor to help them identify portable
                                      careers.
                                      14
                                        MyCAA began in 2007 as a demonstration project with the Department of Labor to
                                      provide tuition assistance to spouses of junior servicemembers in eight states.




                                      Page 7                                  GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
portable careers, not for bachelor’s or advanced degrees.15 In our site
visits and interviews with advocacy groups, some felt that the program
should be expanded to allow spouses to obtain higher-level degrees or
enable more spouses to use the program. DOD officials said that
MyCAA’s revised criteria reflects the original intent of the program and
ensures fiscal sustainability. In fiscal year 2011, DOD spent
approximately $55 million on the MyCAA program; however, MyCAA’s
expenditures have fluctuated as the program has changed. Specifically,
DOD’s spending increased in the first 2 years after it was launched, and
then declined 70 percent in its third year, after DOD changed the eligibility
criteria, benefit amount, and types of training or educational programs for
which the funds could be used (see appendix II for further information on
MyCAA expenditures). According to a DOD official, approximately
125,000 spouses received MyCAA tuition assistance from October 2008
to May 2012.

Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP): DOD created MSEP in
2011 as an expansion of an Army program to connect spouses from all
services to employment opportunities at Fortune 500 companies,
nonprofits, and government agencies.16 Specifically, MSEP establishes
partnerships with employers who pledge to offer spouses transferrable,
portable career opportunities. Any spouse interested in working for these
employers then registers for MSEP and accesses MSEP’s web-based
portal. The MSEP portal allows spouses to search for job openings
posted by participating employers, build their resume, and apply for jobs.
Currently, MSEP is partnering with more than 125 companies, according
to DOD. In fiscal year 2011, DOD spent $1.2 million on the MSEP
program for the contractors that operate and enhance the web-based
portal and work with employers (see appendix II for further information on
MSEP expenditures).

Military Spouse Career Center (the Career Center): The Career Center
consists of a call center, through which spouses can speak with


15
  Specifically, those eligible for MyCAA are spouses of servicemembers on active duty in
pay grades E1 to E5, W-1 to W-2, and O-1 to O-2 who can start and complete their
coursework while the servicemember is on Title 10 military orders. This includes spouses
married to members of the National Guard and Reserve Components in these same pay
grades.
16
 The MSEP program was an expansion of the Army Spouse Employment Partnership,
which was instituted in 2003.




Page 8                                   GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
employment counselors, and a website with employment information.17
The counselors at the call center and the website provide assistance with
spouses’ general employment needs, such as exploring career options,
resume writing, interviewing, and job search. In addition, the Career
Center helps spouses learn about and navigate DOD’s other spouse
employment programs. For example, spouses interested in MyCAA may
speak with a counselor at the Career Center to help them develop their
education plan, which is a requirement for receiving MyCAA benefits.
Until recently, the Career Center was part of DOD’s Military OneSource,
which provides information and referral to services for servicemembers
and their families. Information has not been available on the amount
spent on the Career Center because expenditure data for the center was
not separated from Military OneSource expenditures. DOD has recently
separated the Career Center from Military OneSource.

In addition to the three SECO programs, spouses can also receive
employment assistance from the long-standing programs operated at
military service installations.18 The services’ programs also provide
counseling to spouses and information about DOD’s spouse employment
programs, but they differ from the Career Center in that they are provided
in-person. For example, some of the activities offered for spouses at
installations we visited in the Washington, D.C. area include an annual
spouse job fair, a dress-for-success workshop with stylists at a
department store, and a spouse support group with guest speakers, such
as MSEP representatives.19 DOD officials explained that they created the
Career Center to supplement the services’ programs, which may not have
been fully meeting the needs of all spouses. The military services’


17
  According to DOD data, the Career Center received about 185,000 phone calls in fiscal
year 2011.
18
  Spouses may also use services provided by the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), a
partnership among DOD, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Veterans
Affairs. TAP helps servicemembers transitioning out of the military with employment and
relocation assistance and with assistance obtaining a variety of other benefits and
services, such as veterans benefits, educational opportunities, health and life insurance,
and financial planning. DOD officials said that although TAP services may be available to
spouses, few spouses use TAP for employment assistance. A DOD official stated that the
TAP program is currently being revised and plans to have three new tracks available for
spouses in late 2012.
19
  The services’ employment programs are generally part of broader budgets, such as
base operations and support, and funds spent on employment assistance for military
spouses are not separately tracked.




Page 9                                   GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
programs are available only during business hours and may not be
accessible to spouses who do not live on a military installation. In
contrast, any military spouse may access the Career Center, 24 hours a
day, 7 days a week. Furthermore, DOD officials noted that installations
vary in the level of employment assistance they provide to spouses. For
example, some of the services’ employment assistance programs are
staffed by generalists who provide other types of counseling as well, and
many of the services’ programs also serve other members of the military
community, such as servicemembers and retirees. In contrast, the Career
Center is staffed by counselors with specialized knowledge in
employment services, and the counselors are focused specifically on
assisting military spouses. With the Career Center, spouses who do not
feel that the employment assistance programs at their local installation
are meeting their needs have an alternative resource they can turn to.

The creation of the new SECO programs has had many benefits, according
to advocacy group representatives, program staff, and spouses we
interviewed. Officials and spouses agreed that these programs help
address unique challenges faced by military spouses, such as frequent
relocation to installations with varying services offered. For example, a
spouse we spoke with explained how she spoke with a Career Center
counselor to identify job opportunities in a rural installation and applied for
MyCAA tuition assistance upon relocating to another installation.
Additionally, one official with a spouse group praised MSEP for connecting
spouses with private sector job opportunities throughout the nation.

However, with the establishment of the new SECO programs overlaid on
the services’ existing programs, program staff, spouses, and advocacy
groups we spoke with expressed some confusion and noted gaps in
coordination:

•   A representative from an advocacy group noted that the information
    spouses are provided about the various employment programs is
    inconsistent across installations and websites, and the names and
    terminology used for the programs also varies. This may make it
    confusing for spouses as they move and seek assistance in different
    locations.

•   The advocacy group representatives also said that while the various
    programs refer spouses to other programs, spouses may not be
    provided information to help them make the best use of other
    programs. For example, they said that staff at the services’
    employment assistance programs may refer spouses to the Career



Page 10                             GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
    Center website but do not inform them about the breadth of services
    that Career Center counselors can provide. As a result, some
    spouses may not be aware of the various types of assistance that the
    Career Center can offer. With regard to MSEP, the representatives
    said that counselors at the Career Center and the services’
    employment assistance programs refer spouses to the MSEP web
    portal but do not provide them with further guidance on how they can
    effectively use the portal to obtain a job with an MSEP partner.

•   An advocacy group representative and program managers we spoke
    with indicated that the various programs’ websites may not be easy to
    navigate or find. For example, a representative from an advocacy
    group noted that the Career Center website has good information, but
    it is difficult for spouses to find it within the Military OneSource
    website. A program manager at one installation said that some
    spouses have had difficulty finding the MyCAA website. Another
    program manager said that the Career Center website does not have
    links to local installations’ employment assistance programs.

Additionally, during our site visits and interviews, we heard about some
issues that have been created by having two different programs—the
Career Center and the military services’ employment assistance
programs—that appear to offer some similar services. Specifically, we
heard the following accounts about how often spouses are referred to the
Career Center, instances where spouses have been referred back and
forth between the two programs, and potential duplication of efforts:

•   A program manager at one installation noted that she would not refer
    spouses to the Career Center unless she was unable to handle the
    workload.

•   A program manager at one installation said that she refers spouses to
    the Career Center when she believes the type or level of services they
    need would be better provided by Career Center counselors.
    However, she said, in several cases, those spouses have been
    referred back to her.

•   At a different installation, a program manager said that she
    encourages her staff to refer spouses to the Career Center because
    of the quality of services offered. However, she also noted that
    because the Career Center provides some of the same services as
    her office (e.g., counseling and help with resume writing and
    interviewing skills), there is a potential duplication of effort. She said
    that it would be acceptable to her if her office no longer provided


Page 11                              GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
     those employment services that the Career Center can provide and
     instead, focused on delivering other services spouses need.

DOD has taken some steps to help spouses navigate among the various
programs. Its guidance for its family readiness programs, which the
military services’ employment assistance programs are one part of,
directs military services’ staff to assess a spouse’s need for SECO
services and identify opportunities to refer spouses to other services that
support their well-being. In addition, DOD officials said they recently
established a policy to ensure that MyCAA participants were referred to
the other SECO programs. Beginning in early 2012, spouses who want to
enroll in MyCAA are expected to speak with a counselor at the Career
Center first and also register for MSEP.

However, DOD does not currently have guidance describing its overall
strategy and how its various programs should coordinate to help spouses
obtain employment. According to DOD officials, DOD is in the process of
developing such guidance to provide direction on SECO programs and
address coordination and referral among the various programs. To do so,
DOD has convened an advisory group that includes representatives from
all of the services. As DOD develops its new guidance, our prior work on
enhancing and sustaining collaboration may be helpful. We identified the
following eight practices that can help sustain collaboration across
organizational boundaries:20

1. Define and articulate a common outcome.

2. Establish mutually reinforcing or joint strategies.

3. Identify and address needs by leveraging resources.

4. Agree on roles and responsibilities.

5. Establish compatible policies, procedures, and other means to
   operate across agency boundaries.



20
  GAO, Results-Oriented Government: Practices That Can Help Enhance and Sustain
Collaboration among Federal Agencies, GAO-06-15 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 21, 2005).
See also our report on interagency collaborative mechanisms, Managing for Results: Key
Considerations for Implementing Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms, GAO-12-1022
(Washington, D.C.: Sept. 27, 2012).




Page 12                                 GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
                        6. Develop mechanisms to monitor, evaluate, and report on results.

                        7. Reinforce agency accountability for collaborative efforts through
                           agency plans and reports.

                        8. Reinforce individual accountability for collaborative efforts through
                           performance management systems.

                        While all of these are relevant to DOD’s spouse employment programs,
                        two are particularly relevant because of the issues raised in our site visits
                        and interviews: (1) agreeing on roles and responsibilities, and (2)
                        establishing compatible policies, procedures, and other means to operate
                        across agency boundaries. The concerns about duplication of effort and
                        referrals back and forth between the Career Center and the military
                        services’ programs may indicate that the roles and responsibilities of the
                        two programs may not be sufficiently clear or defined. Similarly, the
                        inconsistencies and gaps in collaboration may indicate a need to
                        establish compatible policies, procedures, or other operational means, for
                        example, common names and terminology for the programs and new
                        procedures or mechanisms to ensure spouses are informed about the
                        programs that can help them.


                        DOD is not yet able to measure the overall effectiveness of its spouse
DOD Currently           employment programs in achieving the goals of reducing unemployment
Cannot Measure the      among military spouses and the wage gap with civilian spouses.
                        Additionally, DOD only has limited information on the performance of its
Effectiveness of Its    individual programs.21 DOD is aware of these limitations and is taking
Programs, but Efforts   steps to assess the programs’ effectiveness and develop a more robust
                        performance monitoring system.
Are Underway

                        21
                          Measuring performance has important distinctions from assessing effectiveness.
                        Performance measurement is the ongoing monitoring and reporting of program
                        accomplishments, particularly progress toward pre-established goals. Performance
                        measures may address the type or level of program activities conducted (process), the
                        direct products or services delivered by a program (outputs), or the results of those
                        products and services (outcomes). However, when a program’s desired outcomes are
                        known to be influenced by factors outside the program, measures of program outcomes
                        alone may provide limited information on a program’s effectiveness. In these cases, an
                        impact evaluation can be used to assess a program’s effectiveness. Impact evaluations
                        attempt to isolate the program’s impact from other factors, but they can be expensive and
                        difficult to conduct.




                        Page 13                                  GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
To assess effectiveness of the three SECO programs, DOD is planning
on contracting with a research organization to conduct a long-term
evaluation. DOD officials would like the research organization to examine
whether the programs have affected spouses’ unemployment rates and
their wage gap with civilian spouses, as well as determine whether the
programs have had an effect on servicemembers’ retention in the military
and the families’ financial well-being. It is too soon to tell whether this
evaluation will be able to measure these possible outcomes and also
demonstrate whether the outcomes can be attributed to DOD’s spouse
employment programs.22 DOD officials anticipate establishing the contract
for this evaluation in fiscal year 2013.

In the meantime, DOD is conducting limited monitoring of the
performance of two of its spouse employment programs. First, DOD
monitors the number of spouses hired by employers participating in
MSEP. Second, DOD tracks the percentage of courses funded by MyCAA
tuition assistance that spouses complete with a passing grade.

DOD’s performance monitoring is limited for several reasons. First, DOD
has no performance measures for the Career Center. Second, DOD’s
data on the MSEP program are of questionable reliability because they
derive from an informal, nonstandardized process. Specifically, the data
on the number of spouses hired by employers participating in MSEP are
collected primarily by Army program managers through informal contacts
with spouses. These informal methods create the potential that DOD is
not obtaining reliable data. For example, if program managers vary in the
questions they ask spouses, information spouses provide may be
inconsistent. Moreover, by using data primarily from Army program
managers, DOD is missing information from spouses of servicemembers
in the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy who are working at MSEP
employers.23 Finally, DOD’s performance measure for MyCAA—showing



22
   For example, changes in military spouses’ unemployment rates over time are likely to
be affected by labor market conditions in the United States. An impact evaluation would
attempt to isolate the effect of the program from the effects of labor market conditions and
other external factors by comparing program outcomes with an estimate of what would
have happened in the absence of the program.
23
  Aside from the Army data, DOD also includes spouses hired at exchanges and
commissaries at DOD installations when reporting data on the number of spouses hired
by employers participating in MSEP. DOD exchanges and commissaries are employer
partners in MSEP.




Page 14                                   GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
that more than 80 percent of courses funded with MyCAA tuition
assistance were completed with passing grades in fiscal year 2011—may
be a useful interim measure for monitoring how the funds are being used.
However, this does not show whether the MyCAA funds are helping
spouses obtain employment or increase their earnings.24

DOD recognizes the need to improve its performance monitoring for its
spouse employment programs and is taking steps to improve the data it
collects on its individual programs:

•    For the Career Center, DOD is planning to ask the contractor who
     runs the call center to follow up with spouses who use the center’s
     services and ask them about their employment situation. DOD officials
     said that these follow-ups could be used to obtain information on
     employment outcomes of spouses who used the center, as well as
     those who used MyCAA and MSEP programs, since the call center
     also provides counseling to spouses using those programs.25

•    For MSEP, DOD is planning to implement new procedures to collect
     data from participating employers on the number of military spouses
     they hire. Spouses hired by an MSEP employer will self-identify to the
     employer that they are a military spouse. Employers will then report to
     DOD the number of spouses they hired through a reporting
     mechanism in the MSEP web portal.

•    For MyCAA, DOD has established methods to obtain data on when
     spouses complete their planned programs of study and the
     educational degrees they have obtained due to MyCAA funding.


24
  With regard to the military services’ employment assistance programs, each of the
services tracks data on their programs, but they track different data. Generally speaking,
they compile data on the number of services provided over a period of time, for example,
the number of group trainings or workshops, one-on-one consultations, or job fairs
provided, though the specific items they track vary across the military services. The
Army’s program is the only one that collects outcomes data on whether their clients
obtained a job, but as discussed above, it does so using informal and non-standardized
procedures, so reliability of the data cannot be assured.
25
  DOD officials said that the contractor who operates the call center has been conducting
follow-up with military spouses who called to obtain their feedback on how they were
served. To obtain military spouses’ feedback on the other SECO programs, DOD has an
email address specifically for spouses to provide their feedback on MyCAA, and DOD
officials said that spouses can send messages with their feedback through the MSEP web
portal.




Page 15                                   GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
     DOD’s web-based portal for MyCAA now asks spouses to report to
     DOD when they are taking a class that will complete their planned
     program of study. It also asks schools to report when a spouse has
     obtained a certificate or degree.

DOD has also identified four measures that it would like to track, including
three broader measures related to the SECO programs’ goals and one
measure for MyCAA: (1) spouses’ unemployment rate, (2) the wage gap
between military and civilian spouses, (3) spouses’ ability to maintain their
jobs or similar jobs after relocation, and (4) the change in earnings among
MyCAA participants. DOD has been conducting a survey of spouses
biennially to obtain information on military spouses’ unemployment rate,
and it will be fielding a new survey in late 2012 to obtain updated
information. DOD does not yet have processes for collecting data on a
regular basis on the three other measures it is considering.

As DOD continues to develop its performance monitoring system, our
previous work on developing effective performance measures may be
helpful.26 Specifically, we identified nine key attributes of successful
performance measures (see table 1).27 No set of performance measures
is perfect, and a performance measure that lacks a key attribute may still
provide useful information. However, these attributes can help identify
areas for further refinement. For example, one of the attributes calls for
covering core program activities. As we noted above, DOD does not have
a performance measure for the Career Center, and thus its measures do
not cover all of its core program activities intended to support military
spouse employment. DOD’s performance measure for MSEP has also
been lacking the attribute of reliability, since DOD has not had a
standardized process for collecting the data. Reliability refers to whether



26
  Federal agencies are required to measure their performance under the Government
Performance and Results Act, as amended. Specifically, the act requires federal agencies
to have a performance plan that covers each program activity set forth in their budget, to
have objective, quantifiable, and measurable performance goals that are aligned with an
agency’s goals and missions, to establish a balanced set of performance indicators to
measure progress toward those goals, and to include a description of how the agency
ensures the accuracy and reliability of its performance data. 31 U.S.C. § 1115. For further
information on requirements under the Government Performance and Results Act, see
GAO, Managing for Results: Opportunities for Congress to Address Government
Performance Issues, GAO-12-215R (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 9, 2011).
27
 GAO, Tax Administration: IRS Needs to Further Refine Its Tax Filing Season
Performance Measures, GAO-03-143 (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 22, 2002).




Page 16                                   GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
standard procedures for collecting data or calculating results can be
applied to the performance measures so that they would likely produce
the same results if applied repeatedly to the same situation. Another key
attribute that may be relevant is limiting overlap. There is potential for
overlap if DOD has performance measures that track employment
outcomes for each of the three SECO programs, but military spouses
often use more than one program. For example, if many spouses who
use MSEP also use the Career Center, a measure on the number of
spouses who obtained employment through MSEP could overlap with a
measure to track spouses’ employment through the Career Center, since
the two measures would capture employment attainment for many of the
same individuals.

Table 1: Key Attributes of Successful Performance Measures

Attribute                 Definition
Balance                   Balance exists when a suite of measures ensures that an
                          organization’s various priorities are covered.
Clarity                   Measure is clearly stated and the name and definition are
                          consistent with the methodology used to calculate it.
Core program activities   Measures cover the activities than an entity is expected to
                          perform to support the intent of the program.
Governmentwide            Each measure should cover a priority such as quality,
priorities                timeliness, and cost of service.
Limited overlap           Measure should provide new information beyond that
                          provided by other measures.
Linkage                   Measure is aligned with division and agencywide goals and
                          mission and clearly communicated throughout the
                          organization.
Measurable target         Measure has a numerical goal.
Objectivity               Measure is reasonably free from significant bias or
                          manipulation.
Reliability               Measure produces the same result under similar conditions.
Source: GAO.



Because DOD has multiple employment programs that military spouses
may use, our work on practices for enhancing and sustaining
collaboration, which we discussed above, may offer some helpful insights
as DOD refines its performance monitoring system.28 Specifically, we


28
  GAO-06-15 and GAO-12-1022.




Page 17                                GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
                           noted that developing mechanisms for monitoring, evaluating, and
                           reporting on results of collaborative efforts can help agencies identify
                           areas for improvement. We also stated that agencies can use their
                           strategic and annual performance plans as tools to drive collaboration
                           and establish complementary goals and strategies for achieving results.


                           The federal government has two hiring mechanisms targeted specifically
Two Hiring                 to military spouses seeking federal jobs. The first mechanism—a
Mechanisms Can             noncompetitive hiring authority for military spouses—is available to any
                           federal agency. The second—DOD’s Military Spouse Preference (MSP)
Provide Advantages         program, which allows DOD to give military spouses preference in hiring
to Military Spouses        for civilian or nonappropriated fund positions—applies only to DOD.
                           These two mechanisms can increase a military spouse’s chances of
Seeking Federal            obtaining federal employment, but they do not guarantee that spouses will
Employment                 obtain the jobs they apply for. DOD provides general information to
                           military spouses on these mechanisms through the Career Center’s
                           website and the military services’ employment assistance programs.
                           Civilian personnel offices at local installations may provide more detailed
                           information and also inform spouses about how to apply for DOD and
                           other federal job openings.

Noncompetitive Authority   The noncompetitive authority, which became effective in late fiscal year
                           2009,29 allows any federal agency the option of hiring qualified military
                           spouses into the competitive service without going through the
                           competitive examination process.30 In other words, this authority allows
                           eligible military spouses to be considered separately from other
                           candidates, meaning that military spouses do not have to compete
                           directly against other candidates as is the case under the competitive
                           examination process. To be considered for a position under this authority,
                           military spouses applying for federal jobs indicate in their applications that
                           they would like to be considered and include documentation verifying their
                           eligibility. According to OPM, the purpose of the noncompetitive authority


                           29
                             This authority was provided by Executive Order 13473 (2008). It became effective on
                           September 11, 2009.
                           30
                             The competitive examination process is the traditional method for hiring into federal
                           service positions. The federal hiring process typically involves notifying the public that the
                           government will accept applications for a job, screening applications against minimum
                           qualification standards, and assessing applicants’ relative competencies or knowledge,
                           skills, and abilities against job-related criteria to identify the most qualified applicants.




                           Page 18                                    GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
is to minimize disruptions in military families due to permanent
relocations, disability, and deaths resulting from active duty service.
Agencies can use the noncompetitive authority to hire: (1) spouses who
are relocating because of their servicemember’s orders for up to 2 years
after the relocation, (2) widows or widowers of servicemembers killed
during active duty, and (3) spouses of active duty servicemembers who
retired or separated from the military with a 100 percent disability.

The extent to which use of this authority results in employment of a
military spouse depends on a variety of factors. First, federal hiring
managers have the discretion whether to consider candidates under this
authority for a job vacancy. Second, if the hiring manager chooses to
consider candidates under this authority, the hiring manager is not
required to select a qualified military spouse, and the manager can
ultimately decide to select a qualified candidate other than a military
spouse. This authority allows for eligible military spouses to be
considered and selected for federal jobs, but it does not provide a hiring
preference over other qualified applicants. Federal agencies may also
consider using noncompetitive appointment authorities or hiring
mechanisms for other populations, such as those for veterans, people
with disabilities, and federal employees who lost their jobs due to
downsizing or restructuring.

OPM officials told us that they conduct oversight of this authority as part
of their general oversight of federal agencies’ human capital systems.
OPM officials said that thus far, they have found no irregularities in
agencies’ use of this hiring mechanism. OPM officials also said they have
provided technical assistance and briefings to federal agencies and
stakeholders on this authority and other ways to support military families,
such as using authorities for hiring veterans.

Federal agencies hired about 2,000 military spouses using this hiring
authority in the first 2 years of implementation, with more hired in the
second year (about 1,200 in fiscal year 2011 and about 800 in fiscal year
2010). The approximately 1,200 military spouses hired in fiscal year 2011
represented about 0.5 percent of all federal hires that year.31 For context,
spouses of active duty servicemembers represented 0.4 percent of the


31
  These numbers do not reflect military spouses who may have obtained federal jobs
without using the noncompetitive authority. Data on the number of military spouses hired
under the noncompetitive authority are from OPM’s Central Personnel Data File.




Page 19                                  GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
                             working-age population in 2010.32 DOD has been the primary user of this
                             authority, hiring 94 percent of all military spouses hired under the
                             authority. OPM officials said this was likely due to military spouses’
                             greater familiarity with DOD, and that DOD is more likely than other
                             agencies to have job openings where military spouses are located.

Military Spouse Preference   DOD’s Military Spouse Preference (MSP) program provides military
Program                      spouses priority in selection for DOD positions. The MSP includes two
                             hiring mechanisms—one for spouses seeking DOD civilian positions, and
                             one for spouses seeking DOD nonappropriated fund positions. With
                             regard to the mechanism for DOD civilian positions, the MSP provides
                             hiring preference to qualified spouses for DOD positions if the spouse is
                             among persons determined to be best qualified for the position.33 The
                             other mechanism provides military spouses with preference in hiring for
                             nonappropriated fund positions below a certain pay level.34
                             Nonappropriated fund positions within DOD include those paid for by
                             funds generated from services provided, such as at exchanges,
                             recreation programs, and child care centers on military installations. To
                             be considered for a position under the MSP program, military spouses
                             must register for MSP, provide supporting documentation, and identify
                             which types of jobs they would be willing or able to perform based on their
                             backgrounds and geographic location. When a spouse’s qualifications
                             and desired job characteristics match a job opening, the spouse must
                             submit his or her application through MSP.

                             As with the noncompetitive authority, the extent to which this authority is
                             used depends on several factors. MSP only applies to civilian jobs at
                             DOD that a hiring manager chooses to fill through a competitive process,
                             which generally means that the hiring manager is to consider more than
                             one candidate for the position and select the best-qualified candidate


                             32
                               This estimate is obtained from DOD’s data on the number of military spouses,
                             according to its report Demographics 2010: Profile of the Military Community, as well as
                             data from the 2010 decennial census on the size of the U.S. working-age population (ages
                             18-64). We present 2010 data in order to use population data from the decennial census.
                             33
                                  10 USC § 1874(b).
                             34
                               Exec. Order No. 12,568 (1986). The 1986 executive order gives preference in hiring in
                             DOD nonappropriated fund activities to spouses of servicemembers stationed in the same
                             geographical area as the activity. MSP may be used for nonappropriated fund positions in
                             pay band level NF-3 and below (equivalent to GS-8 positions and below) and positions
                             paid at hourly rates.




                             Page 20                                 GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
based on job-related criteria.35 The characteristics of the job opening
(location, type, level) must also match the criteria indicated by the spouse
when he or she registered for MSP.36 In addition, the spouse must be
among the best qualified applicants for the job. Furthermore, according to
DOD officials, the agency also uses hiring preferences for other
populations who may have a higher priority than the spouse, such as
DOD employees whose positions were recently eliminated. If the
registered MSP spouse is determined to be among the best qualified
applicants, and if there are no other best qualified candidates with a
higher priority preference, the hiring manager must select the military
spouse for the job.37 For nonappropriated fund jobs, the MSP program
only applies to jobs below a certain pay level. A DOD official said that
these positions generally have relatively high turnover rates, so spouses
often do not need to use the MSP to obtain the job.

DOD’s civilian personnel office oversees the MSP and other preference
programs, and officials said that they have found no irregularities in MSP
use. DOD’s civilian personnel office also tracks the number of spouses
who register for MSP and are placed into jobs on a monthly basis. While
these are useful measures of program activity, DOD officials said that
they do not provide information on whether the agency is making
sufficient use of MSP. Examining sufficiency of MSP use would require a
study that takes into account the many complex factors that affect MSP,
including how many vacancies DOD had at spouses’ locations, how many
vacancies matched the types of jobs spouses identified in their
registration as being qualified for, how the qualifications of spouses who
applied compared to those of other candidates, and whether other
candidates for the position were eligible for special hiring mechanisms as


 MSP does not apply if the hiring manager chooses to fill the job from a list of
35

noncompetitive candidates. Additionally, MSP does not apply in certain situations, such as
when MSP would violate requirements regarding veteran’s preference or adversely affect
programs for the achievement of minority and gender equality, programs for persons with
disabilities, or programs for the affirmative employment of veterans. Defense Civilian
Personnel Advisory Service, Department of Defense Priority Placement Program (PPP)
Handbook (Arlington, VA: July 2011).
36
 In discussions with DOD officials about whether they may use MSP to fill mission-critical
positions, DOD officials said that DOD would want to hire spouses for mission-critical
positions (e.g., electronics engineer, contract specialist), but whether they can do so
depends upon the spouses’ qualifications.
37
 If more than one spouse is among the best qualified, the hiring manager can select
among the spouses.




Page 21                                  GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
              well, such as noncompetitive appointments. DOD officials indicated that
              such an analysis would be challenging to conduct, and DOD has not
              attempted a comprehensive study. Nonetheless, DOD officials we spoke
              with felt that the MSP program had helped a large number of spouses
              obtain jobs.

              Over the 10-year period of fiscal years 2002 to 2011, a total of about
              12,500 military spouses were placed in civil service jobs through the
              MSP, according to DOD’s data. This number includes both new hires and
              conversions of DOD employees.38 The numbers have fluctuated from
              year to year in this time period, from a low of 890 to a high of 1,722. DOD
              officials said that the fluctuations likely correspond with overall DOD hiring
              levels. With regard to nonappropriated fund jobs, DOD does not
              consistently track the number of spouses hired through the MSP, but
              overall, about 26,000 military spouses were employed by DOD in
              nonappropriated fund jobs as of June 2012. This represented 19 percent
              of all employees in these jobs.


              While DOD is at an early stage of implementing its new spouse
Conclusions   employment programs, it has an opportunity to ensure that a well-
              coordinated structure is in place to deliver employment services to
              spouses, and that its system for monitoring performance is well-designed.
              Specifically, through its advisory group, DOD has the potential to include
              program stakeholders in a meaningful effort to support spouses and
              military families, while also ensuring effective delivery of services and
              addressing potential areas of duplication. As its advisory group moves
              forward with developing guidance on spouse employment programs,
              DOD has an opportunity to incorporate practices that can enhance and
              sustain coordination, including agreeing on roles and responsibilities for
              both SECO and the military services to provide employment assistance to
              spouses. Without guidance that incorporates key collaboration practices,
              DOD may miss opportunities to ensure all spouses consistently receive
              high quality employment assistance from SECO and the military services
              and can navigate smoothly from program to program, while avoiding
              duplication of efforts.




              38
               DOD was not able to provide us with breakdowns of their MSP numbers into new hires
              and conversions.




              Page 22                                GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
                      With regard to its performance monitoring, DOD has taken steps in the
                      right direction by exploring options to collect outcome data and planning
                      for a long-term evaluation. However, as DOD works to identify the
                      performance measures it will use to conduct ongoing monitoring of its
                      programs and report its progress to policymakers, DOD can benefit by
                      considering attributes of successful performance measures. These
                      include ensuring that it uses reliable data and that its performance
                      measures enable it to monitor all of its key program activities and their
                      planned outcomes. Without integrating successful elements of
                      performance measurement into its evaluation efforts, DOD runs the risk
                      that it will not collect sufficient and accurate information to determine if
                      DOD funds are being used in the most effective way to help military
                      spouses obtain employment.


                      To enhance collaboration among the various entities involved in
Recommendations for   delivering employment services to military spouses and to better monitor
Executive Action      the effectiveness of these services, we recommend that the Secretary of
                      Defense take the following actions:

                      •   consider incorporating key practices to sustain and enhance
                          collaboration when developing and finalizing its spouse employment
                          guidance, such as agreeing on roles and responsibilities and
                          developing compatible policies and procedures.

                      •   consider incorporating key attributes of successful performance
                          measures when developing and finalizing performance measures,
                          such as ensuring reliability of the data used in the measures and
                          covering key program activities.




                      Page 23                            GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
                     We provided a draft of this report to the Secretary of Defense and the
Agency Comments      Director of OPM for review and comment. In DOD’s written comments,
and Our Evaluation   which are reproduced in appendix III, DOD partially concurred with our
                     recommendations. DOD said that in general, our report correctly
                     addresses the issues concerning collaboration and performance measure
                     development. DOD also provided technical comments, which we
                     incorporated as appropriate. OPM had no comments.

                     DOD partially concurred with our recommendation to consider
                     incorporating key collaboration practices to sustain and enhance
                     collaboration when developing and finalizing its spouse employment
                     guidance. While DOD said it looked forward to incorporating collaboration
                     practices as the SECO program matures, DOD stated that it has already
                     taken initial action in this area. For example, DOD cited the advisory
                     group it created, as well as partnerships developed with various
                     organizations. Our report recognizes DOD’s efforts. However, these initial
                     actions do not directly address the particular area highlighted in our
                     recommendation—developing and finalizing guidance for its spouse
                     employment programs. As we state in our report, the programs under the
                     SECO initiative are new and there are some gaps in coordination. Thus,
                     we continue to believe that incorporating key collaboration practices into
                     the guidance that DOD is developing, such as agreeing on roles and
                     responsibilities, would be beneficial. This could help ensure that the
                     various entities involved in DOD’s multiple spouse employment programs
                     work cohesively and avoid duplicating efforts while helping military
                     spouses seamlessly navigate across the programs.

                     DOD also partially concurred with our recommendation to consider
                     incorporating key attributes of successful performance measures when
                     developing and finalizing its performance measures. DOD said that it
                     looks forward to improving performance measurement but that it has
                     already taken steps to incorporate key attributes of successful
                     performance measures. For example, DOD said it is developing
                     employment data collection for military spouses directly from MSEP
                     partners and anticipates completion by winter of 2013. We recognize
                     DOD’s efforts to collect additional data. However, because DOD is in the
                     early stages of this process, we continue to believe that it can benefit
                     from incorporating attributes of successful performance measures as it
                     further develops its performance monitoring system.




                     Page 24                           GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
We are sending copies of this report to the appropriate congressional
committees, the Secretary of Defense, the Director of OPM, and other
interested parties. The report is also available at no charge on the GAO
website at www.gao.gov.

If you or your staff members have any questions about this report, please
contact me at (202) 512-7215 or at sherrilla@gao.gov. Contact points for
our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found
on the last page of this report. Staff members who made key contributions
in this report are listed in appendix IV.




Andrew Sherrill
Director
Education, Workforce,
  and Income Security




Page 25                           GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
List of Committees

The Honorable Carl Levin
Chairman
The Honorable John McCain
Ranking Member
Committee on Armed Services
United States Senate

The Honorable Daniel Inouye
Chairman
The Honorable Thad Cochran
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Defense
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate

The Honorable Howard P. “Buck” McKeon
Chairman
The Honorable Adam Smith
Ranking Member
Committee on Armed Services
House of Representatives

The Honorable C. W. Bill Young
Chairman
The Honorable Norman D. Dicks
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Defense
Committee on Appropriations
House of Representatives




Page 26                          GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
                           Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
                           Methodology



Methodology

                           We addressed the following research objectives in this study:

                           1. What efforts has DOD recently made to help military spouses prepare
                              for and obtain employment?

                           2. What steps has DOD taken to assess the effectiveness of these
                              programs?

                           3. What hiring mechanisms exist to help military spouses obtain federal
                              jobs?


Objective 1: Identifying   We identified DOD’s recent efforts to help military spouses prepare for
DOD Efforts                and obtain employment by interviewing DOD officials and reviewing
                           literature and documents, including DOD websites, reports, program
                           descriptions, strategic planning documents, and guidance. We focused on
                           identifying programs that would be a primary resource for military
                           spouses to enhance their job skills and increase their employability,
                           identify job opportunities, and/or help them obtain employment. We did
                           not include in our review programs that may have an employment focus
                           but generally did not serve spouses of active duty servicemembers, nor
                           did we include programs that may target military spouses but had a
                           primary focus other than employment. We developed a preliminary list of
                           programs that included the three programs under DOD’s Spouse
                           Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) initiative, as well as the
                           employment assistance programs that the military services have long
                           operated. We shared our list with DOD officials, who agreed with our
                           assessment that these are the primary programs that provide
                           employment services to spouses. Our first objective is focused primarily
                           on the three new SECO programs, but we note that spouses can also use
                           the military services’ employment assistance programs, and we discuss
                           coordination across the SECO and military services’ programs.

                           As we identified the programs to examine, we conducted further
                           interviews with officials involved in each of DOD’s spouse employment
                           programs, both at DOD headquarters and with each of the military
                           services (Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Navy). We requested more
                           detailed information, such as on the programs’ purposes, budgets,
                           services they provide, and coordination. In examining coordination among




                           Page 27                              GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
                           Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
                           Methodology




                           the programs, we consulted GAO’s prior work that identified practices that
                           can help federal agencies enhance and sustain collaboration.1

                           To obtain additional perspectives, we interviewed two advocacy groups
                           who support military families, and we visited employment assistance
                           programs at three military installations in the Washington-D.C. area.
                           These installations are: Fort Meade (Army and Navy programs), Joint
                           Base Andrews (Air Force), and Henderson Hall (Marine Corps). During
                           our visits to these installations, we spoke with local program officials, and
                           we spoke to military spouses in three of the four services. The information
                           we obtained from these installations is not generalizable.


Objective 2: Identifying   To identify the steps DOD has taken to assess the effectiveness of its
DOD’s Steps to Assess      spouse employment programs, we interviewed DOD officials to obtain
Effectiveness              information on how DOD is currently measuring effectiveness, as well as
                           its plans to conduct evaluations or collect data on performance. We also
                           reviewed documents DOD provided, including internal and external
                           reports, strategic planning documents, and descriptions of existing and
                           potential performance measures. In assessing DOD’s performance
                           measures, we consulted with GAO’s prior work that identified attributes of
                           successful performance measures and described requirements for
                           reporting on performance under the Government Performance and
                           Results Act, as amended.2 We also assessed the reliability of the data
                           used for DOD’s performance measures by interviewing officials
                           knowledgeable about the data and reviewing relevant documents. Based
                           on our work, we determined that the data used for the performance
                           measure on the Military Spouse Employment Program are of
                           questionable reliability, and we discuss this in our report.


Objective 3: Identifying   We identified the hiring mechanisms intended to help military spouses
Federal Hiring             obtain federal employment by interviewing officials at OPM and DOD and
Mechanisms                 reviewing relevant federal laws, regulations, executive orders, and



                           1
                            GAO, Results-Oriented Government: Practices That Can Help Enhance and Sustain
                           Collaboration among Federal Agencies, GAO-06-15 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 21, 2005).
                           2
                            GAO, Tax Administration: IRS Needs to Further Refine Its Tax Filing Season
                           Performance Measures, GAO-03-143 (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 22, 2002); Managing for
                           Results: Opportunities for Congress to Address Government Performance Issues,
                           GAO-12-215R (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 9, 2011).




                           Page 28                                GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology




guidance. Our interviews and the documents also provided information on
the processes for how these mechanisms can be used.

To obtain data on the number of spouses hired through one of these
mechanisms, the noncompetitive authority, we analyzed data from OPM’s
Central Personnel Data File (CPDF), a database of federal employees.3
We present data for fiscal years 2010 and 2011, since the authority was
implemented in late fiscal year 2009. We reviewed the reliability of the
data by interviewing OPM officials, conducting electronic testing, and
reviewing relevant documents. We determined that the data were
sufficiently reliable for our purposes. The information we present from our
analysis of the CPDF is on the number of individuals hired under the
noncompetitive authority for military spouses. It does not include military
spouses hired by federal agencies without using this authority, and as
such does not represent the total number of military spouses hired by
federal agencies. Data are not available in the CPDF to identify the total
number of military spouses hired by federal agencies.

On the other hiring mechanism that we examined, the Military Spouse
Preference (MSP) program, DOD’s civilian personnel office provided us
with data on the number of spouses placed into civil service positions,
including both hires and conversions. We assessed the reliability of this
data by reviewing relevant documents and interviewing DOD officials on
the processes through which the data are input and validated. We
determined that the data were sufficiently reliable for our purposes. With
regard to the number of spouses hired into nonappropriated fund positions
using the MSP, DOD officials noted that such data are not collected in a
consistent manner by the military services’ nonappropriated fund offices so
we do not present these data. DOD’s Defense Manpower Data Center
provided us with data on the number of spouses in nonappropriated fund
positions overall, and we present this information in our report for context.




3
 The CPDF contains individual records for most federal employees and is the primary
governmentwide source for information on federal employees. The CPDF includes all
executive branch agencies except the U.S. Postal Service, the Postal Rate Commission,
the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security
Agency, the Defense Imagery and Mapping Agency, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the
White House, the Office of the Vice President, the Board of Governors of the Federal
Reserve System, and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Judicial branch employees and
most legislative branch employees are also excluded from the CPDF.




Page 29                                   GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
Appendix II: DOD’s Spending on Military
              Appendix II: DOD’s Spending on Military
              Spouse Employment Programs



Spouse Employment Programs

              Table 2 provides information on DOD’s expenditures on the two military
              spouse employment programs for which data were available—MyCAA
              and MSEP. Data were not available on how much was spent on the
              Career Center because the center was included in DOD’s broader
              contract for Military OneSource. According to a DOD official, DOD intends
              to have an overall SECO budget that encompasses the three spouse
              employment programs for fiscal year 2013. Data were also unavailable on
              how much DOD spends on spouse employment activities on local
              installations because the resources used for military services’
              employment programs are embedded in broader budget categories, such
              as base operations and support.

              Table 2: Expenditures on Selected DOD Employment Programs for Military
              Spouses, Fiscal Years 2009 to 2011

              (In millions)
                                                                                          Fiscal Year
                  Program                                                            2009        2010   2011
                  Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA)                $64.8    $186.8    $54.8
                  Programa
                  Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP)/Army                  $0.7       $0.7    $1.2
                                                b
                  Spouse Employment Partnership
              Source: GAO analysis of DOD documents.
              a
              MyCAA expenditures include tuition assistance funds and the web-based portal.
              b
              The Army Spouse Employment Partnership transitioned to MSEP in fiscal year 2011.




              Page 30                                     GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
Appendix III: Comments from the
              Appendix III: Comments from the Department
              of Defense



Department of Defense




              Page 31                                 GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
Appendix III: Comments from the Department
of Defense




Page 32                                 GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
Appendix III: Comments from the Department
of Defense




Page 33                                 GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
Appendix III: Comments from the Department
of Defense




Page 34                                 GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
Appendix IV: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Appendix IV: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Acknowledgments



Acknowledgments

                  Andrew Sherrill, (202) 512-7215, sherrilla@gao.gov
GAO Contact
                  In addition to the contact named above, Lori Rectanus (Assistant
Staff             Director), Keira Dembowski, and Yunsian Tai made significant
Acknowledgments   contributions to this report. Also contributing to this report were James
                  Bennett, David Chrisinger, Brenda Farrell, Cynthia Grant, Joel Green,
                  Yvonne Jones, Kirsten Lauber, Kathy Leslie, Benjamin Licht, Trina Lewis,
                  James Rebbe, Sarah Veale, and Gregory Wilmoth.




(131155)
                  Page 35                              GAO-13-60 Military Spouse Employment Programs
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