Remarks by the First Lady on New Efforts to Strengthen Employment Opportunities for Military Spouses

April 17, 2024

[As prepared for delivery.]

Thank you, Julie.

When we first asked Julie about this, we thought she would be joining us on one of these screens – on a video call from Germany.

But your husband knew that you had to be here, because you've worked too hard on this issue to miss this. And I agree – I think we all do.

And I heard you met your boss, Daniel, in person for the first time!

Bosses like Daniel, who support military spouses on their teams, are critical to making sure spouses can continue in their careers no matter where they may move.

Julie, you've fought to make this moment possible – and you've helped so many other spouses through the process…as their best advocate, as their expert, as their lifeline. Thank you and your family for your service.

Welcome to the White House!

It's great to see so many old friends here – to celebrate this moment with people who have been with Joining Forces since the beginning.

Today is only possible because of you and the many others who have been working for decades to make sure military and veteran families, caregivers, and survivors have what they need to thrive.

I'm grateful for your ideas, your hard work, and your collaboration.

Congresswoman Crockett – thank you for your leadership and your tireless support of military spouses.

And a special thank you to Deputy Secretary Verma and Deputy Secretary Hicks for all the work your departments have done to bring us to this milestone.

After an Executive Order is signed and the excitement has faded, the work begins – the implementation. That's where lives change. And that's what we're seeing today. Thank you both.

For just a moment, I want all of you to picture a mom of three kids on a base overseas.

She seems to have it all under control.

Her hair is tied back, so that little hands have nothing to grab, and she seamlessly moves between distracting her toddler and keeping her eight-year-old from stealing another cookie from the snack table.

She smiles when she tells you how proud she is of her husband's service. What an extraordinary opportunity it is to be able to travel the world and live in another country. How her kids are adjusting to their lives abroad so well.

It's not until you turn the conversation to her that you see those tiny cracks in her wall of strength.

How is she doing?

Well, she does miss her work. She couldn't take it with her when she moved overseas. Yes, she's applied to other jobs, but with no luck.

Application after application, she feels like her degrees and experience are going to waste.

After months of trying to find a job, she's ready to take anything – after all, there are bills to pay – but it won't be the job she loved.

It won't be the career she's worked so hard to build.

I can't tell you her name, because I've met her more times than I can count.

Since we launched Joining Forces more than 10 years ago, I meet her and spouses like her everywhere I go.

And I meet their service members too.

They're stressed about how difficult it is to make ends meet on one income, questioning how long they can serve their country when their spouse is unhappy or unfulfilled.

We can't allow our military families to meet these challenges alone.

When I brought these stories back to my husband, President Biden, he listened.

And then he took action. That's what Joe does, he sees a problem and then he gets to work fixing it. He doesn't waste any time.

So, last June, Joe signed an historic Executive Order to address the barriers that military spouses face when trying to find work – by making it easier for the federal government to hire them, encouraging federal employers to give spouses time off when they have to move, and reducing child care costs for military families.

A critical part of the Executive Order is allowing military spouses who work for the federal government to take those jobs with them if they have to PCS overseas. With today's agreement, we're making that a reality.

It's common-sense. It's simple. And it's long overdue.

We know that the work doesn't end today.

Child care, jobs with private employers, being able to start your own business, or transfer your professional license to different states – we won't stop until these are solved.

Our military spouses – so many of you here – may not wear a uniform, but you serve our country too, and it's our responsibility to support you.

This isn't just a moral obligation, it's a national security imperative.

For more than 50 years, our military has been made up entirely of volunteers. We don't demand service of our citizens – you step forward.

But we put that principle at risk when we force our service members to choose between their love of country and their love of the families who serve alongside them. We must give them the support they need to choose both.

That's what today is all about.

Our service members deserve nothing less. And neither do all the spouses like Julie, on every base around the world, who are looking to carve out a life while supporting the people they love most.

With all my heart: thank you for your service and your sacrifice.

And now, I'd like to invite the Deputy Secretaries over to the signing table.

Jill Biden, Remarks by the First Lady on New Efforts to Strengthen Employment Opportunities for Military Spouses Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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