The Foreign Service Journal, November 2023

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | NOVEMBER 2023 17 SPEAKING OUT Adam R. Pearlman, a State Department eligible family member (EFM), is a senior attorney and the managing director of Lexpat Global Services, LLC, a firm he founded with another EFM. He is also a former civil servant whose prior government service includes both the State Department and Defense Department. The opinions and characterizations in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the U.S. government. W hen President Biden signed Executive Order (E.O.) 14100 on June 9, 2023, it could have been a landmark initiative by the chief executive and head of state to benefit the families of all U.S. public servants who sacrifice so much while serving our country overseas. But it wasn’t. Instead, the well-intentioned initiative “to advance economic opportunity for military spouses” once again formally recognized the sacrifices of military families to the exclusion of all others. It must be said up front and unambiguously: Noting and advocating for the needs of nonmilitary families—including those in the foreign affairs, intelligence, and law enforcement communities—who experience similar hardships to those of military families, is not to detract from the consideration military service members and their families receive from the White House and Congress. Members of the military and their families earn the benefits and thanks they receive, and there is still more work to be done to support them. It is simply past time to inculcate the same gratitude for nonmilitary sacrifices in policy, law, and high-level rhetoric as well. From Rhetoric to Policy Since President Biden took office, this White House has repeatedly taken special notice of military spouses and families, including in no fewer than 24 presidential proclamations in addition to several other important policy measures such as the National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, and the Military Parental Leave Program. The June executive order, “Advancing Economic Security for Military and Veteran Spouses, Military Caregivers, and Survivors,” gives tangible form to several elements of the administration’s oft-stated support for military families in a document that carries the force and effect of law within the executive branch. The E.O. recognizes “that military spouses are an underserved community” and prescribes a wide range of initiatives to benefit military spouses and families, including: • Directing the development of a governmentwide Strategic Plan on Hiring and Retention for Military and Veteran Spouses, Caregivers, and Survivors; • Increasing federal job postings utilizing the Military Spouse Non-competitive Appointing Authority; • Expanding training on the employment of military and veteran spouses, caregivers, and survivors across federal agencies; • Setting governmentwide standards to improve the domestic employee teleworking overseas (DETO) program; • Directing the Office of Personnel Management to issue guidance to agencies outlining telework and remote work flexibility for military spouses and caregivers; • Encouraging federal agencies to collaborate to place a military spouse or caregiver in another position following changes to support continuity of care or relocation due to a permanent change of station (PCS) that makes it untenable for them to continue in their existing position; • Reinforcing the importance of considering remote work options for military spouses when reevaluating or entering agreements with host nations; • Developing tailored resources for military and veteran spouse entrepreneurs, including additional Small Business Administration consideration to support them “in starting and sustaining their businesses”; • Bolstering military families’ access to child care; • Encouraging federal agencies to grant administrative leave for military spouses in conjunction with PCS moves; • Amending legal assistance instructions across the military departments to allow families to receive advice related to employment under status of forces agreements or other host nation agreements; and • Improving the collection of data on military and veteran spouses, caregivers, and survivors in the federal workforce. And . . . What About Everyone Else? The near-monthly recognition of the bona fide hardships endured by military The Quest for Reasonable Civ-Mil Parity BY ADAM R. PEARLMAN