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Biden heads to North Carolina to push clean energy agenda and promote order aiding military spouses

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Friday will sign an executive order that aims to bolster job opportunities for military and veteran spouses whose careers are often disrupted by their loved ones’ deployments.

Biden is using a visit to the recently renamed Fort Liberty in North Carolina to highlight the order. The order directs agencies to develop a federal government-wide strategic plan on hiring and job retention for military spouses; bolster child care options; improve the collection of data on military and veteran spouses, caregivers and survivors in the federal workforce; and more than a dozen additional actions.

First lady Jill Biden, in a call with reporters to preview the action, said the order was largely framed by conversations through the White House’s Joining Forces initiative, which looks to support families, caregivers and survivors of members of the U.S. military. The Democratic president is expected to sign the order during his visit to the base.

With nearly one in five military families citing challenges with spousal employment as a reason for considering leaving active-duty service, the issue is no small matter for the military’s recruitment and training efforts, according to the White House. More than 16,000 military spouses work within the federal government.

“We’re asking agencies to make it easier for spouses employed by the federal government to take administrative leave, telework and move offices,” the first lady said. “We’re creating resources to support entrepreneurs. And the executive order helps agencies and companies retain military spouses through telework or when they move abroad.”

The president is unveiling the order at the Army’s recently renamed Fort Liberty. His visit comes a week after military officials at the base, formerly known as Fort Bragg, held a ceremony at which it officially shed its Confederate name.

The base was originally named in 1918 for Gen. Braxton Bragg, a Confederate general from Warrenton, North Carolina, who was known for owning slaves and losing key Civil War battles that contributed to the Confederacy’s downfall.

The recent renaming of the installation — the largest U.S. Army base by population, with roughly 47,000 active-duty soldiers — didn’t play a role in selecting the base to serve as a backdrop for Biden to announce his executive order, according to an administration official who was not authorized to comment and spoke on the condition of anonymity. It was unclear if Biden would address the base renaming during his visit.

Before their visit to Fort Liberty, the Bidens will meet with students at Nash Community College in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. The historically black community college received $23.7 million to train students for clean energy jobs from Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

The Biden administration has put an emphasis on funding programs that help prepare workers for jobs that require some post-secondary education but not necessarily a four-year degree.

Biden’s trip to North Carolina comes as some of the Republican Party’s top presidential contenders gather to address delegates at the state convention in Greensboro, less than 100 miles (160 kilometers) from his stop at Fort Liberty. On Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is headlining a dinner, fresh off his campaign tour to a trio of early voting states, where thousands gathered to hear him castigate Biden and pledge to reverse the Democratic incumbent’s “disastrous economic policies” if elected.

On Saturday, former Vice President Mike Pence and former President Donald Trump, the current GOP front-runner, will speak to delegates in separate appearances. Earlier Saturday, Trump, who has been indicted on charges of mishandling classified documents at his Florida estate, is to address the Georgia Republican Party’s convention in Columbus, Georgia.

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Associated Pres writer Meg Kinnard in Columbia, S.C., contributed to this report.

Aamer Madhani, The Associated Press


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