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GAO: DoD can't tell if spouse job programs work

Dec. 13, 2012 - 06:52PM   |   Last Updated: Dec. 13, 2012 - 06:52PM  |  
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Defense officials are unable to measure the effectiveness of programs that aim to increase spouse employment and make their wages more equal to civilian spouses, according to a report.

For example, the Defense Department's data on the Military Spouse Employment Partnership "are of questionable reliability" because the data is gathered in an informal way, according to the report issued Thursday by the Government Accountability Office.

Defense officials say that since the program was launched in June 2011, more than 32,323 military spouses have been hired by MSEP employer partners, and more than 815,777 jobs have been posted on the MSEP career portal at Military OneSource.

However, the GAO found that the data on spouses who have been hired by MSEP employers is collected primarily by Army program managers through informal contacts with spouses. "These informal methods create the potential that DoD is not obtaining reliable data," GAO reported.

The GAO noted that DoD is taking steps to track and monitor the programs, and to improve coordination so that programs aren't duplicated and don't cause confusion for military spouses.

In a response to the report, DoD said it is developing a data collection process to get the information directly from employers, to be completed sometime next year. However, when officials launched the program 1½ years ago, they said the program would require data from employers on the number of spouses they hire, the kinds of jobs they fill, salary ranges offered, and spouses' job status after they relocate.

DoD officials said they also have separated the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities Program's Career Center from other Military OneSource services so they can clearly identify how to collect data and measure performance. They have developed a mechanism to collect data directly from spouses who receive services from the career center, which they also plan to implement next year.

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