DOD’s New Maternity, Paternity Policy

The Defense Department will standardize maternity leave for new mothers at 12 weeks, doubling what was previously standard but just two-thirds of what the Navy had approved and what Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said she wanted to implement. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Jan. 28 announced the move as part of his “Force of the Future” initiative, saying the policy will put the Defense Department in the “top tier of institutions nationwide.” The move is “imperative for attracting and retaining talent,” he said. However, the Department of the Navy had set its maternity leave at 18 weeks for female sailors and marines. In December, James said she wanted the Air Force to follow in the Navy’s footsteps, but the service will now stay at the 12 week standard. “I applaud Secretary Carter and welcome these announcements as a positive step forward for our airmen and their families,” said James in a statement released following the announcement. “This is the right thing to do.” In addition, the Pentagon is pushing to increase paternity leave from 10 days to 14, Carter said. The military also will extend adoption leave from three weeks for one parent by adding two weeks of leave for the second parent. (See also: USAF Looks to Keep New Moms in the Service.)