January 29, 2016
Two months after his first wave of changes, Defense Secretary Ash Carter's Force of the Future Initiative aims to make military service more family friendly.
Maternity and paternity leave, childcare services, and reproductive medical services are among changing benefits.
Active duty female members of all services will now have 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. Last year, the Navy began authorizing 18 weeks of paid maternity leave, while the Army and Air Force offered only 6 weeks.
Carter's new policy, aimed at providing consistency among the services, will split the difference - increasing 6 weeks for the Air Force and Army, while cutting 6 weeks from the Navy and Marine Corps programs. Carter also increased paternity leave to 14 days of non-continuous leave from the previous 10.
Currently, three weeks of adoptive leave is granted to one parent of a dual military couple. DoD is seeking congressional approval to provide two weeks of leave for the other parent.
Childcare Development Center (CDC) operation hours will be extended to overlap typical work shifts and accommodate military work schedules. CDCs will be required to provide a minimum of 14 hours of continuous coverage.
DoD will also expand reproductive services to active duty servicemembers. Egg and sperm cryopreservation will be available through a pilot program within TRICARE. These are important steps for many wounded warriors, male and female.
The stress of military service on families is cited as one of the biggest reasons servicemembers leave the military. Secretary Carter's latest announcement aims to help retain the best and the brightest by instituting uniform, family-friendly policies.
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