Bill would give military dads, adoptive parents 12 weeks leave

All military parents, regardless of gender or whether their children are adopted, would get 12 weeks of paid parental leave under a bill introduced by Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

“Our military readiness also depends on the strong and resilient families that make up its backbone—families that deserve a 21st century parental leave policy that allows them the time they need to bond with their new children,” Duckworth said in a statement on Monday.

The bill follows Defense Secretary Ash Carter's announcement in January that all women in the military will get 12 weeks maternity leave. That’s double the amount the Army and Air Force offered but three weeks less than what the Navy and Marines had before.

The changes are part of Carter’s “Force of the Future” initiative, which aims to attract and retain recruits by modernizing policies to better compete with the private sector.

In his announcement, Carter said he wants to increase paternity leave from 10 days to 14. He also wants to allow a second parent to take two weeks of adoptive leave on top of the three weeks one parent is allowed now.

But changes to both paternity and adoptive leave require acts of Congress.

Under Duckworth’s bill, fathers, both adoptive parents and service members who take in a foster child would get 12 weeks of leave.

“I applaud Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s recognition that a modern military demands a modern benefits package to continue recruiting and retaining the world’s finest troops, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to help our Armed Forces better compete for talent,” said Duckworth, who is vying for a seat in the Senate. “I hope Congress will step up and pass my Military Parental Leave Modernization Act to secure the rights and protections that all new parents, both in and out of uniform, deserve—doing so will only make our military stronger and more competitive.”

Two leading organization on family leave laws, the National Women’s Law Center and the National Partnership for Women and Families, endorsed Duckworth’s bill.

“Moms and dads need time for family when a new baby is born or adopted,” said Emily J. Martin, the National Women’s Law Center vice president for workplace justice, in the statement. “Your ability to take time to bond with your baby shouldn’t turn on your gender or your marital status or on whether you are a service member or civilian.”

"Military families make enormous sacrifices to keep our country safe, and they need and deserve policies that make it possible to remain economically secure when they need time off to care for their families,” added Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families.