Senators urge Defense Dept. to review deployment policies for new moms
Baucus, Tester, Say Military Needs To Make Sure Female Soldiers Receive Support They Need, Deserve
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Following recent news reports that some female soldiers are being deployed just four months after childbirth, Montana's U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester today urged the Department of Defense to review its maternity leave policies to ensure that female soldiers and their families are receiving the support they need and deserve.
Baucus and Tester spearheaded a letter to the Defense Dept. calling for a review of its maternity leave policies. The senators said that demands of returning to combat shortly after giving birth are growing more and more. With the ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, female soldiers are being called back to duty more quickly than they previously had. Many new mothers are faced with the tough decision between leaving their new child or leaving their jobs to take care of them.
"We are writing to express our deep concern over the Defense Department's policy that provides for a four month deployment deferment for female service members following childbirth," wrote Baucus and Tester. "This policy—as highlighted by a recent article in the Washington Post– can result in female service members being deployed to a combat zone or on unaccompanied tours in as few as four months after giving birth. Given the many challenges that new mothers face and the importance of that time following birth that is so critical to laying the positive foundations for a family, the minimum deferment time appears deficient. Certainly, the scope and pace of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has exponentially heightened the stress on new mothers who are also soldiers."
Baucus, Tester also noted that different branches of the Armed Forces have different maternity leave lengths and called on the military to review why some branches are extending leave and others are shortening it. The senators submitted a list of questions that they would like answered by the military including:
· What are the assumptions made by the Defense Department that have led to the conclusion that the minimum deferment period for deployment of female soldiers to various locations, including combat zones, should be no less than four months following the birth of a child?
· What are the assumptions made by each of the various military services that have resulted in implementation of significantly different time period deferments?
· Has the department reviewed sensitivity, or other analysis, that describes the impact on force readiness that could result from various deferments time periods?
"We strongly believe that we owe it to our men and women in uniform serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hazardous regions to provide them with the best possible support as they balance their duties to their country and their families. Without sufficient flexibility offered for maternity leave, valuable military personnel may choose to leave the service. Replacing trained, experienced personnel who leave is expensive. The military spends thousands of dollars teaching new recruits the basic skills required by military service. Increased retention would help retain the critical skills a soldier has learned during her service in the military."
Baucus and Tester said they are committed to making sure female soldiers in Montana and across the country receive the support they need and deserve and that the answers to their outstanding questions are answered sooner rather than later.
Baucus and Tester were joined by Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) in urging the Defense Dept. to review its maternity leave policies.