Readers Oppose Hiring Preferences for Spouses of Military Personnel

President Bush proposed a preferential hiring program for spouses of military personnel in his State of the Union address. We asked readers about their opinion on such a program. A majority are opposed to the proposal and many gave their rationale for their opposition.

As we noted in an article last week, President Bush proposed in his State of the Union address creating hiring preferences in federal employment for spouses of military personnel.

In our recent survey asking readers if this proposal was a good idea, there was a wide range of responses. A number of readers pointed out that such a program already exists within the Department of Defense.

The responses to the survey often reflected the experience of the person responding. Some who were in favor of the proposal were spouses of military personnel. A number of human resources specialists responded, often with concerns about being able to hire the best person to meet job requirements being hampered because of a spousal preference policy. Several readers thought that spouses of all federal employees should be given preference in federal hiring. Still others were in favor of such a policy but only if the policy applied to two people who were same-sex partners.

Many people sending in comments were in favor of the policy as it reflected a benefit to a family member for a family that has made sacrifices during a time our armed forces are engaged in combat operations around the world.

Obviously, the policy gets complicated and bogged down by a number of issues. That complexity is undoubtedly one reason that a clear majority of readers responding were opposed to such a policy.

Overall, the results were as follows:

Are you in favor of creating hiring preferences in federal employment for spouses of military personnel?

Yes: 31%

No: 61%

Undecided: 8%


Here is a representative sample of the hundreds of comments submitted by readers.

A geologist with the Bureau of Land Management in Anchorage, Alaska commented: "As long as the applicant is qualified for the job, it’s the least we can do for the sacrifices endured by our military men and women."

A soil conservationist with USDA in Iowa thinks the proposal should be expanded beyond military personnel: "It makes sense to provide a stable career for someone who is the spouse of a FEDERAL EMPLOYEE. The military members are federal employees too."

A human resources specialist with the Department of the Army at Ft. Belvoir, VA pointed out that such a program already exists within the Dept. of Defense: "There is already a military spouse employment preference program in place within DoD. The Regulation is DoD 1400.25-M, Subchapter 315."

A recreation specialist with Homeland Security in Brunswick, GA has had a negative experience with a spousal preference program: "I am not in favor of giving spouses preference. I worked for the DOD for many years in the NAF system where spouses did have hiring preference. It did not work well; many unquallified people were hired just because they had spouse preference. The work load still had to be completed even though these folks who at best barely met the position standards were put in jobs they were not not capable of nor did not want to do, in addition if the active duty of the spouse happened to be of elevated rank then management decisions became based on politics."

A human resources specialist with the Census in Suitland, Maryland sees an opportunity in such a program: "As a military spouse, I am 110% in favor for the hiring practice to be changed. It’s long over due."

A human resources specialist with the Air Force in Texas thinks such a program is a bad idea: "The ability to hire the best individual suited for the vacant position is already hindered by vet preference. Too many times supervisors are forced to take a less experienced veteran candidate."

An editor with DoD in Alexandria, VA thinks it is a good idea but with limitations: "I would say yes, but with a caveat. The military spouse should possess the minimum qualifications necessary to perform the job. I was once "beat out" of a job by someone with military spousal preference, but she wasn’t really qualified for the position."

A program support specialist with the VA in Poplar Bluff, MO wrote: "Actually, I think there should be an incentive in place for all employers to hire spouses of ACTIVE military."

A logistics manager with the Navy in Washington, DC commented: "’I am only in favor if persons are otherwise qualified. I’m pretty sick and tired of preferences based solely on racial, religious, sexual, or other criteria; knowledge, skills, experience be damned. Even as a veteran with a 10-point preference, I’m not in favor of "workfare." "

A secretary with the Air Force at Minot AFB, North Dakota says such a program would have been a help: "As a former military spouse, we moved 11 times in 20 years and I could not get into civil service. We moved to Iceland and I was able to break in there. It is so hard to find jobs at some of these assignments – I bartended, waitressed, etc – anything I could do to help the family. There is a military spouse preference program in place now, but you have to get into the system first which is very difficult. It is hard for spouses to get their college degree with moving so much – the internet has helped that and most jobs require a degree."

A program manager with the Air Force in San Antonio, TX agrees: "I have been with the Air Force in one way or another for 50 years. I highly agree they deserve preference. They can’t get seniority anywhere due to the nature of moving. Life is very tough, though a choice. Some federal civil service jobs are the same way. My husband has had to keep finding new jobs every move. Many jobs (career fields) are mixtures of military and civilian. The civilian workforce is essential to the military mission getting done."

A VA employee in Philadelphia is in favor of such a program but thinks it may be too limited: "Only in favor of it only IF it includes partners/domestic partners of military personnel which will open a whole new can of worms! "

A human resources specialist with the National Archives and Records Administration in Overland, MO had these concerns: "On the one hand, OPM is always talking about hiring flexibilities and hiring the best and the brightest. With due respect to military families and their sacrifice, expanding veterans preference to spouses would further limit management’s ability to appropriately choose from applicants ranked on job-related criteria. I can also see vast quantities of paper required with each application to show that the spouse is still married to the military person, that the military person is still serving on active duty, etc. etc."

An analyst with the Dept. of Labor in San Francisco sees other problems with such a program: "So, in addition to not being able to hire bright, computer-literate,recent college graduates, we would need to hire someone who married a vet just to get a preference — what happens when the spouse is no longer married to the vet….FYI, I am a combat vet."

And the director of information systems with the Navy commented: "With the rules already in place I am frequently required to hire applicants who are not the best qualified. This will only make things worse."

A loan specialist with the USDA in Kentucky is opposed to the program: "I do not favor this. We have enough poor employees through the good buddy system. If the spouses are the best choice, they should be able to get a job on their own."

Thanks to those readers who took the time to send in their views on the President’s proposal and a special thanks to the hundreds of readers who also sent in their written comments.