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Thinking Outside the Five-Sided Box: An Analysis of the Department of Defense's Parental Accommodations Open Access

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On January 28, 2016, the Secretary of Defense announced a series of family-friendly initiatives aimed to improve the recruitment and retention of women in the Armed Forces. Included in the initiatives was the standardization of maternity leave across the Military Services, providing for twelve weeks of leave postpartum for all service women. The Secretary also announced that he would seek authorization from Congress to increase paternity leave for service men from ten to fourteen days. This series of initiatives left untouched the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) standing policy providing biological mothers with a minimum of four months deferral of deployments and certain assignments, which the Military Services had expanded over recent years to up to twelve months. This thesis examines and critiques the overall parental accommodations scheme created by the DoD’s current parental leave policies and deferral rules, as implemented by the Military Services. It proposes that the current parental accommodations scheme is based on outdated notions of gender roles. While well intentioned, the DoD’s paternalistic view of military mothers has the likelihood of harming their career advancement, disenfranchising male service members, and ultimately undermining the DoD’s recruiting and retention efforts. This thesis explores the necessity of the Pentagon developing a strategic plan for parental accommodations that is significantly more gender balanced, and outlines workplace flexibility tools it can utilize in developing such a plan.

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