House lawmakers want clearer rules on breastfeeding in the ranks, a few weeks after the issue of public nursing caused an uproar at an Idaho Air Force Base.
In an amendment to the House Armed Services Committee's defense authorization bill draft, lawmakers required the Secretary of the Army to "develop a comprehensive policy regarding breastfeeding" for female soldiers that addresses the availability of facilities and allows for work breaks for pumping milk.
The measure — sponsored by Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass. — also specifies that areas with "adequate privacy and cleanliness" for breastfeeding should include electrical outlets to allow use of breast pumps. "Restrooms should not be considered an appropriate location."
The move comes just days after the commander of the 366th Fighter Wing at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho was forced to rescind a policy requiring mothers breastfeeding in public areas on base relocate to a private room, use a nursing cover or leave the premises.
The policy applied to civilians and off-duty civil service employees, but not to active-duty service members or on-duty civilian employees. But it caused a public uproar, and a promise from officials to look for ways to better accommodate those mothers.
The Army is the only of the four services not to have a specific, service-wide breastfeeding policy.
The authorization bill will have to survive months more of House and Senate debate and be signed by the president before the Army breastfeeding requirement would become law.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.