WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate approved the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes a provision authored by U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) to help military spouses, who face a 24 percent unemployment rate, obtain professional licensing. The bill now awaits President Trump’s signature.


“Our military spouses sacrifice so much and face unique challenges in their support of our country,” Booker said. “The last thing we should do is make their frequent moves and job searches harder than they already are. This legislation seeks to help military spouses find the jobs they want and deserve. Ensuring military spouses can continue to grow and pursue their career ambitions is vital for retention and recruitment initiatives at military installations in New Jersey and across the country.”  


The U.S. Department of Defense currently provides a scholarship of up to $4,000 to help spouses get professional certifications if they are required to move to a new state. However, spouses lose eligibility if the service member gets promoted out of a certain rank. The NDAA’s spousal licensing provision that Booker authored grants $5 million to expand eligibility to all service members.


This legislation was borne out of conversations with military leaders at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JBMDL) during a congressional briefing hosted by Booker’s office in March. As the state’s second largest employer, JBMDL employs over 42,000 airmen, soldiers, sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, civilians, and family members. Picatinny Arsenal, one of the largest employers in Morris county with over 6,000 employees, too provides vial support to the men and women of our Armed Forces. Just as JBMDL and Picatinny are vital partners in our national defense, it is crucial that we continue to serve as advocates and partners for our service members and their families. 


The defense authorization bill passed by the Senate today also includes a provision mandating three additional “Black-Start” exercises on joint military installations, such as JBMDL. These exercises simulate the impact of an event that cuts electrical power to a joint base, such as a natural disaster, to better prepare base personnel. And the defense bill includes a 3.1 percent pay raise for members of the armed services, as well as an amendment mandating 12 weeks of paid parental leave for all federal employees who have worked in the government for at least a year.