The DoD highlighted reforms to its Force of the Future program that are designed to improve the quality of life for military personnel with or planning families. Female members of the military will now receive up to 12 weeks paid maternity leave in 2016, regardless of the military branch. Previously each of the services had established different policies, ranging from 18 weeks in the Navy and Marines to just 6 weeks in the Army.
During a briefing at the Pentagon on January 28, Defense Secretary Ash Carter noted that the goal of this action was increase the support provided to military families while also improving retention.
"Our calculation is quite simple, we want our people to be able to balance two of the most solemn commitments they can ever make: a commitment to serve their country and a commitment to start and support a family," Carter said. "This puts DoD in the top tier of institutions nationwide and will have significant influence on decision-making for our military family members."
Some of the other reforms highlighted by Carter during his briefing include:
- Increased hours of military child care to 14 hours of the day across the force;
- The option for military personnel to remain at their current location in exchange for additional service obligations; and
- Coverage for family planning benefits, such as the cost of freezing sperm or eggs, as well as reproductive technologies that include in vitro fertilization.
"By providing our troops with child care they can rely on from before reveille until after taps, we provide one more reason for them to stay on board," he said. "We show them that supporting a family and serving our country are by no means incompatible goals."