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WASHINGTON — Defense officials this week offered mixed opinions on a legislative proposal to give family leave to troops who adopt a child, similar to the time off given to new parents.

Last month Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., introduced legislation which would mandate 21 days of leave after a servicemember adopts a child to allow “everything possible to bring them into a happy home.” On Tuesday, he petitioned Defense Department representatives testifying before the Senate to support the plan.

Representatives from the Army and Marines said they approved of the idea, saying it sends a positive message about the importance of family. Air Force Lt. Gen. Roger Brady, the father of two adopted children, joked that he would like to see the bill’s provisions made retroactive.

Brady noted that “in terms of care [newborns and new adoptees] are identical” and praised Nelson for recognizing the issue.

However, Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness David Chu said the military “is already quite generous with its leave” and that adding further time off might harm force readiness.

He said the Defense Department is reviewing the issue, but he believes other flexible leave time options may already provide enough time for those adoptive parents.

Servicemembers already receive 30 days leave a year, and may roll over some of that vacation into subsequent years.

Vice Adm. Gerald Hoewing, chief of naval personnel, echoed those concerns. He said granting more leave while combat operations are at a high level could create problematic gaps in force strength.

All four services offer maternity leave for new mothers, though the actual days off vary. Sailors and Marines can take up to 42 days after a child’s birth, soldiers can take 30 days, and airmen can have almost two months off.

Fathers are permitted to take leave as well, though it is counted against their accrued vacation.

Under Nelson’s legislation, if two active-duty troops are married and adopt a child, only one would be eligible for the time off.


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