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The Army Lawyer


The Military Spouse Attorney Hiring Program



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Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper and the Chief of Staff of the Army General James C. McConville recently emphasized their prioritization of stabilizing the Army Family. One of the initiatives discussed to achieve stabilization of the Army Family was quickening the pace for hiring spouses to Army civilian jobs.

Since 2014, The Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps has led the stabilization of the Army Family through military spouse employment. Five years ago, Lieutenant General (LTG) Flora Darpino, then-The Judge Advocate General (TJAG), and Ms. Diane Nugent, then-Director, Civilian Personnel, Labor, and Employment Law, created the Military Spouse Attorney Hiring Program.

The Military Spouse Attorney Hiring Program utilizes flexibilities in federal hiring authorities for excepted service employees to place qualified military spouse attorneys into vacant positions throughout the JAG Corps on an accelerated timeline. The Program accepts military spouse attorneys from all branches of the military and the Coast Guard. Currently, the Program boasts sixty spouse attorneys in positions throughout the world. Overall, spouse attorneys in the Program have contributed over 187 years of collective work to the JAG Corps. The JAG Corps has paid over $18 million in salaries to military spouse attorneys, putting that money in the pocket of military Families.

The success of the Program is found in what it has done for the Army lawyers running legal offices; the Army Families searching for stability; and Army spouses continuously seeking employment at each new duty location. I will use myself as a case study. Since August 2014, I have moved four times. I would not be writing this article but for the Military Spouse Attorney Hiring Program. My current position, as the Assistant Chief, Career Program 56 (Legal) and the Military Spouse Attorney Hiring Program Manager, is my fourth placement. Transitioning from a traditional career path to the uncertainty of life as a military spouse with a professional license was a daunting experience. However, this program’s impact on my life has been substantial in that it has given me a profound understanding of the Army, my husband’s career and passion. Employment as an Army attorney has also provided me with a community, an identity beyond myself, and an ease to the ever-gnawing burden of “what will I do next?” In my previous JAG Corps positions, the Military Spouse Attorney Hiring Program’s flexibilities accelerated the timeline for my entrance on duty (besting the times for competitive actions), therefore providing necessary continuity, agility, and hard work. But I am only a small piece of the success of this Program. The evidence of the Program’s impact was truly felt two months ago.

On 28 May 2019, Lieutenant General Charles N. Pede, TJAG, hosted the inaugural Military Spouse Attorney Day at the Pentagon. Approximately eighty attendees converged at the Vietnam Memorial Corridor to honor the Program, its impact, and standout military spouse attorneys, who have improved the quality of our Corps through their outstanding work. Ms. Alexandra McNeal, Ms. Ashley Stewart, and Ms. Nancy Sanchez were all recognized, in absentia, for their achievements. Ms. Christy Rogers, Ms. Heidi Moyer, and Ms. Heather Ingrum Gipson were present to accept the Certificates of Appreciation from TJAG. Each of these spouse attorneys exemplifies the qualities of a person committed to their community and to mission success. Lieutenant General Pede addressed an audience of forty military spouse attorneys and their service member spouses; TJAG for the Air Force; the Chairman of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals; the Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims; staff judge advocates; and other JAG Corps leaders, and he espoused the ongoing need for the Program and attention on military spouse employment. Lieutenant General Pede’s speech underscored the resounding success of the Program and his ongoing commitment to an initiative that has supported the Army and the JAG Corps’s readiness and retention. It is imperative we maintain this momentum with military spouse attorney hires and the positive impacts it brings to readiness, the JAG Corps, and to stabilizing the Army Family.

Ultimately, the Program’s impact is driven by the spouse attorneys. Any spouse attorneys interested in the program or updating their information, should contact me by email at sarah.p.ford3.civ@mail.mil or by phone at (571) 256-2868. TAL


Ms. Ford is the Assistant Chief, Career Program 56 (Legal) and the Military Spouse Attorney Hiring Program Manager at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.