Cryptologist Technician 1st Class Roger Lilley kisses his wife after returning to Naval Station Norfolk aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey. (MC2 Sabrina Fine / U.S. Navy)
The Office of Personnel Management wants to change the rules to make it easier for spouses of military service members to get career tenure as federal civilian employees.
Currently, federal workers must spend three years in “substantially continuous” service to qualify for tenure, which can make it easier for them to return to government work should they ever leave, according to the proposed regulation published in Monday’s Federal Register.
Under the proposed change, employees would only need a total of three years service — continuous or not — to attain tenured status. In addition, OPM is seeking to drop a related requirement that the three-year timeline restart for career conditional employees who leave federal service for more than 30 days.
The proposal was prompted by the Army, which sees the status quo as tilted against military spouses who must relocate when the active-duty member permanently transfers to another assignment. However, it would apply to all federal employees.
The change would be a “great boon,” said Kathleen Moakler, government relations director for the National Military Family Association. Even though spouses may have often already worked for the federal government, Moakler said, “they are unable to get a job right away” at their new locations.
At the National Federation of Federal Employees, a union whose ranks include Defense Department employees, “our initial feelings are positive, but we haven’t really had a chance to fully review the language to make sure it works for everyone,” spokesman Drew Halunen said Monday. The union plans to weigh in during the proposed regulation’s public comment period, which runs until March 7.
Still weighing whether to comment formally is the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal union with a substantial number of DoD members.
In a statement, AFGE President J. David Cox called the proposal “sensible” to the extent that it is geared to help military spouses. But Cox voiced concern that it could also grease the revolving door between government service and government contracting work. AFGE “would caution,” he said, “against applying the new rule to those whose commitment to federal service is only to ‘case the joint’ for contracting opportunities.”