Cover: The Military Spouse Education and Career Opportunities Program

The Military Spouse Education and Career Opportunities Program

Recommendations for an Internal Monitoring System

Published Sep 7, 2016

by Gabriella C. Gonzalez, Laura L. Miller, Thomas E. Trail


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Research Questions

  1. What are the initiatives in the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) program?
  2. What would be the value of an internal monitoring system for SECO?
  3. How would an internal monitoring system for SECO be implemented and operated?

The Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy sought assistance from the RAND Corporation to assess whether and how initiatives under the Department of Defense's Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) program address objectives in supporting the education and employment of military spouses. These initiatives include the My Career Advancement Account Scholarship, career counseling services available through the SECO Call Center, the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, and Department of Defense State Liaison Office efforts. This report recommends a system by which SECO staff can conduct internal monitoring of the portfolio of these efforts as a way to document and track progress of early outcomes, suggest midterm corrections, and lay important groundwork for more in-depth investigations of whether longer-term objectives are being met. It describes the logic of the program, key performance indicators, and the steps in building and utilizing the monitoring system. Internal monitoring is designed to provide constant and continual feedback on the progress of a program, and is typically conducted by program staff. Development of this system involved developing a logic model for the program, using specific criteria to specify structured indicators to measure the goals and objectives outlined in the logic model, detailing guidelines for developing indicator targets and benchmarks, and organizing indicators, targets, and benchmarks into a monitoring matrix. Finally, the report outlines challenges to implementing and maintaining the proposed system and suggests possible solutions.

Key Findings

Background and Structure of the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities Program

  • In 2007, the Department of Defense (DoD)'s Military Community and Family Policy office established a portfolio of initiatives under the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) program.
  • The SECO Call Center at Military OneSource offers career counseling services.
  • Scholarships for testing, education, and training for portable career fields are offered through the My Career Advancement Account Scholarship.
  • The Military Spouse Employment Partnership connects military spouses with potential employers.
  • DoD State Liaison Office efforts aim to improve the portability of occupational licenses and credentials across state lines and to expand unemployment compensation eligibility to military spouses following their service member's permanent change of station moves.

Proposed SECO Internal Monitoring System

RAND suggests five steps to develop and implement the SECO internal monitoring system

  • Step 1. Describe the logic or theory of how SECO's activities are designed to meet the program's goals.
  • Step 2. Develop key indicators that can be used to measure progress toward goals.
  • Step 3. Identify benchmarks and targets. Progress can be compared or measured relative to finite goals or baseline groups.
  • Step 4. Collect, organize, manage, and visualize the data collected into a monitoring matrix. The visualization of the data collected will allow staff to document trends and provide deeper understanding of what is occurring.
  • Step 5. Use data organized in Step 4 to inform decisionmaking for ongoing improvements.


  • To measure progress on all components of the SECO logic model, additional indicators will need to be identified and collected through new or existing data sources.
  • Staff will need to select appropriate benchmarks or targets to adequately measure the progress of each indicator.
  • Internal staff capacity to collect and analyze data, as well as an adequate technological infrastructure, will need to be put in place to ensure that the monitoring matrix is useful and provides information necessary to support decisionmaking.
  • Mileposts or reflection points will need to be built into staff schedules to support the use of the internal monitoring system to assess and manage SECO.

This research was sponsored by the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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