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DOD Releases Memo Expanding Military Parental Leave Program 

The Defense Department has released guidelines for the expansion of the military parental leave policy. 

The memo — released yesterday — is signed by Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr., the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.  

The memo applies to all service members and is effective as of Jan. 4, 2023. The memo provides details on transition to the new expanded parental leave for Service members who were on leave under the old military parental leave program as of Dec. 27, 2022, and had not used all of their maternity convalescent leave or their caregiver leave.* (See Editor's Note)

A man delivers a meal to a mother lying in bed with her baby next to her.
Mother's Meal
Army Col. Eli Lozano delivers a Mother’s Meal to Hannah Lombardi, wife of Army Staff Sgt. Thomas Lombardi, after the birth of their daughter at Fort Wainwright, Alaska April 5, 2022.
Photo By: Brandy Ostanik-Thornton
VIRIN: 220405-A-HM783-001A

"It is important for the development of military families that members be able to care for their newborn, adopted or placed child or children," Cisneros says in the memo.  

The memo further says that commanders must balance the needs of their units versus the needs of service members to use parental leave.  

The memo specifically says that service members who give birth "will be authorized 12 weeks of parental leave following a period of convalescence to care for the child." Service members who are the non-birth parent will also be authorized 12 weeks of leave to care for the child.  

The memo explains that convalescent leave may be authorized for the recovery of the mother from giving birth if a doctor recommends it to address a specific medical condition and it is approved by the unit commander.   

A newborn at an Army hospital in South Korea.
Sleeping Newborn
A newborn baby sleeps peacefully at 549th Hospital Center, Brian D. Allgood Army Community hospital, South Korea.
Photo By: In Kyeong Yun
VIRIN: 210102-O-DX716-417

Service members who adopt a child or who have long-term foster care children placed with them will also be authorized 12 weeks of parental leave to care for the child.  

Members who were on maternity convalescent leave or who had unused caregiver leave when the new policy went into effect will transition to the new policy without any loss of benefit and will receive the expanded benefit.   

A soldier hugs a child and a woman.
Family Embrace
Family members welcome home Army Capt. Jeremy Brenneman from deployment at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Oct. 18, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Bailee Darbasie
VIRIN: 211018-F-FM571-0006C

The twelve weeks of parental leave may be taken in the first year of the child's life. "Parental leave may not be transferred to create a shared benefit, even between members of a dual military couple," according to the memo.  

"Members will be afforded the opportunity to take full advantage of the Military Parental Leave Program consistent with their desires [and the] operational requirements and training workloads of their unit,"  Cisneros wrote.  

* Editor's Note: An additional sentence has been added to provide context and clarity.

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