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Gates reviews military spouse career program

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is grappling with the best way to reopen the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts program to new applicants, concerned that the program has morphed beyond its original intent and cost estimates, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said June 18.

Gates believes the program, commonly known as MyCAA, was designed to provide military spouses portable career skills that would help them find jobs after making permanent change-of-station moves, Morrell said. He offered examples: real estate licenses or home health-care provider accreditations.

But in many cases, Morrell said, the MyCAA program has become an avenue for military spouses to pursue four-year degrees and other, longer-term educational opportunities now provided through the new Post-9/11 GI Bill.

“That is not what MyCAA was designed for,” the press secretary said.

Enrollment in MyCAA skyrocketed in January, overwhelming the system and causing the program to nearly reach its budget threshold. As a result, the Defense Department temporarily halted new enrollments in February, pending a top-to-bottom review.

More than 136,000 spouses who had already established MyCAA accounts continue to receive program benefits.

As the secretary considers the best way to resume the program fully, he is wrestling to determine, “given the sudden groundswell of interest in this program, how do we manage that interest, how do we focus it on what it was meant for (and) how do we handle it from a budgetary perspective?” Morrell said.

Gates must decide: “Do we refine this back to what it was originally intended to be — an opportunity for people to relatively quickly gain a very portable skill that would make them employable wherever they lived, or what it has morphed into — an opportunity for people to pursue a range of educational opportunities?” Morrell said.

Morrell said he expects a decision relatively soon.

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