Military Spouse Preference

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Military Spouse Preference (MSP) is a program that was developed by the Department of Defense (DoD) to help lessen the interruption of spouses’ careers when they have to move due to the service member’s receipt of Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders. MSP applies to spouses of active duty service members of the U.S. Armed Forces, Coast Guard, and full time National Guard personnel. MSP provides priority in the employment selection process for relocating military spouses. Spouse preference is not limited to the branch of military of which the sponsor is serving or to only those who have previously worked for the federal government. Preference applies worldwide to most DoD appropriated fund (APF) positions at pay grades S-15 and below (or equivalent wage grade positions). Military spouses must contact a Civilian Hiring Office to register for the MSP program.

For the Army, the Employee Readiness Program; for the Navy, the Spouse Employment Assistance Program; Air Force, Career Focus Program; and Marine Corps, Family Member Employment Assistance Program. Find contact information at your installation employment readiness office on the Military Installations website.

Navigate your way through the federal hiring process with these tips (see Federal Hiring Process).
Spouses of active duty service members may be eligible for preference if the following conditions are met:

  • They were married to the active duty service member prior to the reporting date to the new assignment
  • The relocation was based on a PCS transfer and not separation or retirement
  • The vacant position is within commuting distance of the new PCS location
  • They are among the best-qualified group of candidates for the position

Spouses may begin exercising their preference 30 days before their sponsor reporting date and for the duration of the tour as long as they do not decline a position considered valid for MSP under DoD policy. Spouses relocating overseas must wait until they arrive at the new duty station to begin applying for positions using military spouse preference.
Preference applies to the initial employment at the location. Once the spouse accepts or declines a federal position at the new duty station, eligibility terminates, whether or not the position was obtained through spouse preference. If a spouse indicates an interest in a temporary position and then declines an offer, the spouse loses the preference. Preference is also lost if a temporary position is accepted and the duration of the position is extended and the spouse declines the extension. If the position offered is for less than one year or ends early, the spouse continues to retain preference. . This preference may be used once per PCS move.

*It is important to note that the MSP Program does not give a military spouse competitive status as an applicant.

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