Military Spouse Preference Program


Military Spouse Preference (MSP) derives from Public Law 99-145, "DoD Authorization Act of 1986", Section 806, "Employment Opportunities for Military Spouses". This section implemented measures to increase employment opportunities for spouses of members of the Armed Forces. The intent is to lessen the employment and career interruptions of spouses who relocate with their military sponsors. Military spouse preference provides worldwide employment preference for spouses of active duty military members of the U.S. Armed Forces who are relocating to accompany their military sponsor on a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move to an active duty assignment. The Military Spouse Preference Program . . .

  • applies to eligible spouses of active duty military members of the U.S. Armed Forces, including the U.S. Coast Guard and full-time National Guard, who are applying and referred for certain positions at DOD activities in the U.S., its territories and possessions, and in overseas areas;

  • applies only within the commuting area of the permanent duty station of the sponsor;

  • applies only if the spouse entered into the marriage with the military sponsor prior to the reporting date to the new duty assignment.

  • does not apply when the sponsor is separating or retiring.

What recruitment actions are subject to the provisions of military spouse preference?

Spouse preference applies when management wants to fill a position from a competitive list of applicants. A spouse preference eligible who is ranked among the "best qualified" on a competitive list must be selected for the position. If more than one spouse is determined to be best qualified among the candidates, management may select any one of them.

Preference applies to DoD appropriated fund positions at grades GS-15 and below, equivalent broad and pay band, and wage grade positions in the competitive or excepted service. Positions that require mandatory mobility agreements and positions in intelligence-related activities are excluded. Preference also applies to positions in nonappropriated fund instrumentalities at grades NF-03 and below (or equivalent grade levels).

If management chooses to select from a list of noncompetitive candidates or select an individual from one of the alternative recruitment sources, spouse preference does not apply. The alternative recruitment sources are: appointment of a 30% disabled veteran; VRA appointment; transfer at the same or lower grade, reassignment or change to lower grade; placement to correct an EEO deficiency; placement of a handicapped individual; or placement of an employee returning from an overseas tour or duty with return rights.

Military spouses who are immediately appointable to a competitive service position in the continental United States exercise their preference through registration in Program S of the DoD Priority Placement Program (PPP). To meet the appointability requirement, the spouse must be in one of the following categories: a current Federal career/career-conditional employee; serving under a VRA or Schedule A handicapped appointment; have reinstatement eligibility; have eligibility under E.O. 12721; or have competitive service eligibility based on employment under other merit systems.

Program S registrants may be referred for positions being filled through noncompetitive sources. In such cases, they are considered in the same manner as other Priority 3 registrants.

Military spouses shall be given preference when filling actions in overseas/foreign areas in accordance with local hiring procedures.

When does spouse preference apply?

Spouse preference eligibility begins 30 days prior to the sponsor's reporting date to the new duty station and continues throughout the tour until the spouse accepts or declines a continuing (permanent) appropriated or nonappropriated fund position from any Federal agency in the commuting area.

There is no limit to the number of times spouse preference may be exercised when applying for non-continuing positions, i.e., temporary, time limited, or positions without a fixed work schedule.

Spouses may be simultaneously referred for permanent and temporary positions until they accept or decline a continuing position.However, if the military spouse is placed into a non-continuing position, MSP eligibility for other non-continuing positions will be suspended until 60 days prior to the expiration of the non-continuing position.

In overseas areas, spouses do not receive preference until they actually arrive at the overseas location.

Effective October 7, 2004, DOD implemented a change to the Military Spouse Preference Policy DOD-wide, based on the sucessfully tested Military Spouse Preference (MSP) Choice in Europe. The information above reflects the policy change. In the test, the definition of "continuing" position was modified to exclude all time limited positions.

Are there grade level restrictions applicable to individuals exercising spouse preference?

Spouses may register at grades no higher than that previously held on a permanent basis. If the spouse's only Federal service was overseas under time-limited appointment, he/she may register for the highest grade held if the spouse has appointment eligibility under Executive Order 12721. Spouses who are not current Federal employees who have E.O. 12721 and reinstatement eligibility may register under either option, whichever is more beneficial. Spouses who have no prior Federal employment exercise preference at the grade for which certified on an employment register.

Spouses may register for the lowest grade for which qualified and available.

How do spouses register to exercise preference?

Referral through Program S of the PPP is the only means by which eligible, immediately appointable spouses will receive preference for competitive service positions in the continental United States. Employment preference for military spouses in overseas areas is subject to local hiring procedures. Army has recently launched its automated delegated examining authorities staffing tool for applicants, including military spouses. Human resources offices also maintain systems for spouses who are applying through OPM certificates, or applying for excepted service positions.

Spouses should ensure that they have the following documents with them to register for preference:

  • Application resume
  • Copy of an SF-50 documenting current or previous appointment(s)
  • Copy of last performance appraisal if currently working for the Federal government
  • Executive Order 12721 paperwork showing eligibility (if returning from the overseas area)
  • DD 214, Member 4 copy
  • SF 15, if claiming 10 point preference and letter from the Veterans Administration dated within the last year showing the percentage of disability
  • Transcripts (may be necessary if education is relevant to qualifications for the position. Original transcripts are required if applying for Health Care Provider Positions)
  • Licenses/certifications (if applicable)
  • PCS orders documenting sponsor's assignment

Additional Information

DOD policies on the Military Spouse Preference Program are in DoD Instruction 1404.12, "Employment of Spouses of Active Duty Military Members Stationed Worldwide", January 12, 1989.

Army policies pertinent to the Military Spouse Preference Program are found in the Army Civilian Personnel Policy and Guidance Library. Click on "Staffing & Recruitment", then "Staffing Memos," and scroll to Sections 3 & 4.

Content last reviewed: 6/8/2006-DLC