In his planning guide to the force, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger called the service's parental/maternity leave policies "inadequate," and said they "have failed to keep pace with societal norms and modern talent management practices."
"We should never ask our Marines to choose between being the best parent possible and the best Marine possible," said Berger, who assumed the role of commandant last week.
The Defense Department provides a standard 12-week maternity policy -- the same amount of time mandated by the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which requires employers to provide "unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons." But the U.S. is one of only a handful of countries that doesn't mandate paid leave.
Even some of the most generous private sector maternity leave policies do not allow a full year of time off.
"We fully support the growth of our Marine families, and will do everything possible to provide parents with opportunities to remain with their newborns for extended periods of time," Berger said. "In the future, we will consider up to one year leaves-of-absence for mothers to remain with their children before returning to full duty to complete their service obligations."
Compared to the Army, Navy, and Air Force, the Marine Corps has the smallest force and the lowest percentage of women in the ranks.