ShareThis Page
Nation

Family benefits to expand in Army

| Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, 11:00 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced a series of initiatives Thursday designed to make the military a more family-friendly employer, extending maternity leave across the force and expanding access to child care and expensive reproductive technologies.

“As we introduce today's reforms, our calculation is quite simple,” Carter said at the Pentagon. “We want our people to be able to balance two of the most solemn commitments they could ever make: a commitment to serve their country and a commitment to start and support a family.

As part of the new measures, the Pentagon will now provide 12 continuous weeks of paid maternity leave for all uniformed service members. That will be a major jump for many service members, including those in the Army, who now receive only 6 weeks of paid leave. It's likely to be a disappointment to members of the Navy and Marine Corps who, under a change last year, receive 18 weeks of paid maternity leave. Carter said members of those services who are currently pregnant will be granted 18 rather than 12 weeks.

“Twelve weeks is extremely generous … It puts us in the very top tiers of American employers,” Carter said. “But then, you have to balance that against the readiness costs associated with it.”

Paternity leave will increase from 10 to 14 days.

Since he took over almost a year ago, Carter has made personnel and institutional reforms a hallmark issue, vowing to make the Defense Dept. more agile and competitive with the private sector.

In large part, Carter's reforms seek to improve retention of female service members, who leave the military at much higher rates after 10 years of service, a time when women are more likely to start having children.

The cost of the reforms announced on Thursday is around $380 million over five years.

Carter said the Pentagon would expand the hours of child care centers to reflect long working hours. Military children will now get up to 12 hours of subsidized child care a day.

The Pentagon will also install “mothers' rooms” at larger military facilities across the country, which women can use for breastfeeding or pumping purposes.

The reforms also include a pilot program that wold allow some active duty service members to freeze sperm and eggs for later use. “We can help our men and women preserve their ability to start a family, even if they suffer certain combat injuries,” Carter said.

The department will also study ways to expand access to other reproductive technologies like IVF, and will seek legal changes to allow military personnel, in some cases, to put off moves to a new station—in order to allow a child to finish high school, for example, or to remain closer to a sick parent—in exchange for a longer service time.

Carter announced the new steps as an independent commission studying the structure of the Army announced its findings. In its report, the National Commission on the Future of the Army recommended the force — including active duty, the Army National Guard, and Army Reserve — should not drop below 980,000. Together the three components now number 1.07 million but are slated to shrink to 980,000 by the end of fiscal 2018, and further if budget reduction plans do not change.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me