DOD Working Group Grapples with Constraints on Spouse Businesses Operated On-Base

Pentagon officials have formed a working group to consider ways to loosen restrictions preventing military spouses from operating a broad range of businesses out of on-base housing.

The primary barrier limiting spouses’ entrepreneurial options is the requirement that an installation’s morale, welfare and recreation services and local exchanges review prospective businesses that would operate out of any government-owned buildings, including on-base housing. If a business would conflict with any of those organizations, the application likely would be denied, reported

Regulations allow exchanges to reject businesses that fall under 18 separate categories, including retail stores; mail order, catalog and ecommerce services; barber and beauty shops; and photo studios.

Individual installations also may have additional restrictions on the kinds of businesses allowed to operate on base. For example, Fort Campbell bars animal breeding businesses.

Those limitations could squelch military spouses’ inclination to launch their own businesses, said Rosemary Williams, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy.

“We have to figure out how to enable military spouses to be the entrepreneurs we know they are. In this age of Etsy and Pinterest, now more than ever, we need to remove barriers to the American spirit called entrepreneurship,” Williams told

Officials with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) said they are participating in the working group and will comply with any new policies it yields.

“The exchange is participating in a Department of Defense working group that pertains to non-federal entity business operating on military installations,” said AAFES spokesman Conner Hammett. “The exchange sets its policies in accordance with DOD regulations; as a result, the exchange will align with any future policy changes enacted by DOD regarding non-federal entity businesses or any other matter,” Hammett said in a statement.


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