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Coast Guard Increases Maternity Leave to 12 Weeks

Photo by U.S. Coast Guard

Female Coasties will be given 12 weeks of maternity leave effective immediately under a new policy announced this week by the Department of Homeland Security.

"Our service members' success cannot depend on a choice between their children and their mission," Jeh Johnson, head of the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement. "Ensuring new mothers have the flexibility they need to care for their families reflects our deep commitment to our workforce and strengthens this Department as a whole."

A similar policy change was announced late last month for the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. That change, which is likely to go into effect this spring, will not impact currently pregnant sailors and Marines. Those service members will still be permitted to take 18 weeks of leave under a now-defunct maternity policy announced by Navy officials in August.

Carter also announced a series of other family friendly policy changes as part of his "Force of the Future" initiative, including expanding childcare hours at DoD care centers, making breastfeeding easier by opening "mothers rooms" in every facility with more than 50 women, extending paternity leave from 10 to 14 days and paying to freeze some troops' sperm and eggs prior to deployment.

The DoD announcements are meant to bring consistency to those policies across the DoD. Over the last year, the individual services have announced their own breastfeeding and maternity policy changes, often with wide discrepancies. For example, the Navy last August increased maternity leave to 18 weeks for sailors and Marines, while the Army's maternity leave remained at six weeks.

DHS officials said in a statement that they are looking at implementing the other Force of the Future initiatives as well.

"In addition to the maternity leave policy, the U.S. Coast Guard is continuing to examine the other Force of the Future workforce initiatives ... to further enhance readiness as well as personal and family well-being," they said. "No specific timelines for additional policy changes are available at this time."

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

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