Biden Makes It Harder For Military Spouses To Stay Employed In Government

( Two senators are investigating a little-noticed State Department policy change that makes it more difficult for federal employees to keep their jobs if they travel overseas with their military spouses.

Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) say a recent change to the US State Department’s telework employment policies has made it nearly impossible for federal workers who accompany their military spouse overseas to maintain their positions while abroad. The policy change also applies to federal workers whose spouses are civilian employees posted overseas.

According to the Senators, the Biden State Department is effectively denying telework requests from federal workers “assigned to or near military installations.” While the policy change was issued with little notice, it remains unclear why the State Department tightened restrictions on those looking to work overseas.

In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Blackburn and Hassan argued that the change has had a “negative impact on federally employed spouses” who travel overseas. The lawmakers say they have been in contact with federal workers who have been told their agreements to work abroad are “at risk of being revoked” because of the policy. Others have been placed on extended paid leave pending a review of their requests while some have already been denied approval despite having gained approval for telework.

The Domestic Employees Teleworking Overseas (DETO) program has historically accommodated those who have to travel overseas but want to maintain their job, something that is particularly important for federal workers whose spouses are in the military.

Preventing these workers from continuing to work while overseas will doubtless have an impact on both recruiting and retention in the US military at a time when the military is already facing significant staffing issues, particularly over the COVID vaccine mandates.

While teleworking agreements are rare in the federal government, Senators Blackburn and Hassan want to know why the program has been scaled back, especially in light of the continued effects of COVID-19.

The Senators asked Secretary Blinken to provide information on how many federal employees are currently on leave or leave without pay due to a pending telework agreement request, as well as the number of applicants that have been denied outright.