On paper, every service member is now able to take up to 12 weeks of leave following the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child, thanks to federal law. But not all of the military services have carried out the new policy, leaving some parents in limbo.
Within the Defense Department, only the Air Force and Space Force have implemented their service-specific processes for requesting and approving leave, Air Force spokeswoman Laurel Falls confirmed to Military Times on Tuesday. The Air Force and Space Force released their guidance on Jan. 5, the day after the Defense Department published its overarching memo outlining leave policies.
The Army, Navy and Marine Corps are still working on how they will adopt the changes.
“Soldiers cannot exercise authorizations in [the DoD directive] until [Army headquarters] publishes Army policy with appropriately detailed request processes,” according to a service-wide message released earlier this week.
The sea services are in a similar holding pattern.
“Upon receipt of the Department of Navy policy, the Marine Corps will finalize and publish implementing guidance via a Marine Corps Bulletin and Marine Administrative Message, to be followed by incorporation of changes to applicable Marine Corps Orders,” spokesman Maj. Jordan Cochran said Tuesday.
The Coast Guard, under the Homeland Security Department, is also a beneficiary of the new policy. They announced its implementation Jan. 5.
The 12-week policy was more than a year in the making, as President Joe Biden signed it into law with the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act in December 2021. The law gave the Pentagon a year to craft and release its policy, while at the same time, the services prepared their specific guidance, waiting for the go-ahead.
So while DoD had a legal deadline, the services were not obligated to time their policies accordingly, leaving a gap that cuts into what Congress intended to be an improvement to quality of life.
For example, a soldier whose family finalizes an adoption on Jan. 13 is technically entitled to 12 weeks of leave. But because the Army hasn’t enacted its policy yet, they can only put in for the previously allowed 21 days of leave now, then re-visit that bureaucratic process in order to get nine more weeks approved.
Similarly, a Marine whose wife gave birth in March 2022 and took two weeks of the previously allowed leave thus far is technically entitled to put in for 10 more weeks now, but only has until that child’s first birthday to take the time. The deeper he gets into January without that approved leave, the less of that time he’ll be able to take.
While the new leave policy was hotly anticipated across the services, the Army touted it as a key piece of their parental policy overhaul in 2022, one of several measures meant to make parenthood in the service more tenable.
“The Army’s implementation guidance is being finalized and we expect it to be published in the near future,” Army spokeswoman Madison Bonzo told Military Times on Wednesday. “Eligible Soldiers may continue to request leave under the previous Parenthood, Pregnancy, and Post-partum policy and when the new policy is published, they may extend their leave accordingly.”
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.