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The Pentagon’s New Family Policies Are an Important Step

Peter W. Singer and Brigid Schulte wrote for TIME about the Pentagon's new announcement placing higher priority on work life balance: 

There was historic news out of the Pentagon last week, but it wasn’t about new weapons or an operation against ISIS. Instead it was Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s plan to remake the US military by placing “a higher priority on work/life balance,” rewiring how it handles the changing ways we think of parenting in the 21st century.

The “Force of the Future” plan aims to remake the increasingly millennial military into a competitive employment alternative to places like Google and Facebook. However, one of the key challenges for that goal has been that retention rates for military women, few in number to begin with (14.8% of enlisted personnel and 17.4% of the officer corps), are 30% lower than for men, with Carter noting that “work and family conflict is one of the primary reasons they report leaving.”

The new policy has a series of changes that would leave officers of just a few generations ago awestruck, if they weren’t already dazed by a military in which women fly fighter planes and attend Ranger school. It will double the paid maternity leave available to women service members to 12 weeks, expand adoption leave, extend daycare hours, provide breastfeeding rooms and pay for egg and sperm freezing. And, reflecting that a new generation of male officers also think differently about their role as parents, it increases paid paternity leave to two weeks.