U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced a series of novel initiatives aimed at making the military a far more family-friendly employer. Along with extended maternity leave, defense personnel will now have access to more childcare facilities and innovative reproductive technologies.
On Thursday, Carter announced that women across the force will now be able to avail of 12 weeks of fully paid maternity leave which is almost double the time previously allowed to women. He also noted that this was still less than the Navy’s decision last year of instituting 18 weeks of fully-paid maternity leave.
Carter said, “Our calculation is quite simple – we want our people to be able to balance two of the most solemn commitments they can ever make.” He added, “A commitment to serve their country and a commitment to start and support a family.”
The Defense Department will also increase access to child care facilities to 14 hours of the day and provide maternity clothes for expectant mothers. This will better align availability of child care facilities with the work schedules of service members.
The Pentagon will also install “mother’s rooms” at several military facilities across the nation. Women will be able to use these rooms for pumping or breastfeeding.
Carter also announced that since service members on active-duty face tremendous risks to their life and bodies, the military will cover the cost of freezing their eggs or sperm to help with bearing a child later.
Men will also now be able to avail of 14 days of paternity leave as opposed to the 10 days they could take off work previously. This clearly showcases a gender bias where the maximum onus for child care still falls on women.
The Defense Department is also looking at how to provide access to reproductive technologies like IVF to a much wider population. Currently, service members can avail of reduced cost treatments at fix locations.
According to Carter, these initiatives “will strengthen our competitive position in the battle for top talent, in turn guaranteeing our competitive position against potential adversaries.”
Carter said that the goal of implementing these changes is to provide servicemen with greater confidence regarding their future along with a lot more flexibility for starting and maintaining a family.