MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Civilian personnel officials are trying to spread the word about a Defense Department policy change that gives military spouses at overseas and stateside bases more job opportunities.

Misawa Air Base’s civilian personnel flight recently announced that military spouses no longer will be penalized for accepting temporary, time-limited jobs.

In the past, military spouses who accepted a non-permanent position lasting for more than one year would lose their military spouse preference until their next permanent change of station. This could include, for example, a military spouse filling in for a staffer on maternity leave or working flexible hours at a child development center or base club.

“This is trying to help military spouses have a better chance to get into (permanent) federal positions,” said Edith Presbitero, human resources assistant for 35th Mission Support Squadron civilian personnel flight.

Margo Smiley, human resources specialist with the civilian personnel flight, said base organizations also benefit because, before the policy change, “spouses may have been reluctant to take temporary positions.”

The new policy went into effect Oct. 7, but Presbitero said the word has been slow to trickle down to bases.

The change is based on a two-year trial program in Europe called MSP Choice that ended more than a year ago. U.S. European Command’s final report found military spouses and DOD employing organizations in the European theater gave the program high marks, according to a DOD memorandum.

“In particular, a majority of military spouses stated that MSP Choice increased their employment opportunities for positions in the Federal service,” the report stated.

Military spouse preference gives military spouses a leg up when applying for appropriated- and nonappropriated-fund government jobs. As long as a military spouse is qualified, he or she would be hired over other civilian applicants. Military spouses can exercise this preference one time at each base after a permanent change of station move.

Under the new program, military spouses can use their spouse preference to accept or decline temporary positions until they get a permanent job, also known as a “continuing position.” Spouses now can work in these temporary, or non-continuing positions, and then use their hiring preference to get a new job 60 days before the temporary job expires. Non-continuing positions, as defined by the new program, are those with a time limitation or a flexible work schedule. They include permanent positions with an intermittent work schedule, such as a substitute teacher with Department of Defense Dependents Schools.

“Now you can apply for a permanent position while working a temporary position,” Smiley said.

This means that military spouses won’t have to stay unemployed while waiting to apply for a permanent position. Government service jobs at Misawa are very limited, Presbitero said, noting the civilian personnel office receives on average between eight and 10 applications for a GS clerical position. “For the past couple of weeks, we’ve had no vacancies,” she said.

Also under the new program, military spouses who lost preference on or after Oct. 7 because they accepted or declined a time-limited position in the federal service, including a nonappropriated-funds position, can have preference reinstated, according to the DOD memo.

Military spouses who previously accepted or declined a permanent position would not have their preference reinstated.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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