The Coast Guard is extending a policy instituted last year that lets service members who have a baby defer orders overseas or assignments to deployable ships.
In a service-wide message released Monday, Capt. Monique Roebuck, the service's acting director for military personnel, said the benefit will be extended through March 5, 2024, as part of the service's "commitment to providing workplace flexibility" for members and their families.
"Postpartum Active Duty members will not be deployed for up to 12 months from the date of a birth event unless the member elects such orders," Roebuck wrote in the message, ALCOAST 091/23.
Under the policy, Reserve members also will not be involuntarily mobilized for up to 12 months after giving birth, but they also can elect voluntary mobilization if they receive approval from a Coast Guard medical officer and first 0-6 or GS-15 in their chain of command, according to the message.
The Air Force has had a similar policy in place since 2015, and the Navy, since 2018. The Army instituted its policy last year that allows soldiers who give birth up to one year after the event for deployments, mobilization and field training. The Marine Corps' policy, instituted in 2020, allows Marines to defer deployments up to 12 months after discharge from a facility for childbirth.
According to the Coast Guard, roughly 300 to 350 members give birth each year. While the numbers are small, the relative size of the service -- slightly more than 40,000 members -- means absences and assignment restrictions affect the operational demands of the entire workforce.
Data compiled by the Coast Guard showed that at roughly the eight- to 10-year point of service, women tended to leave at significantly higher rates than their male counterparts, with many citing work-life balance and the demands of starting a family.
By 2019, largely as a result of new policies that made it easier for a female member to have children and continue serving, such as weight exemptions for pregnancy and the post-partum period, extended leave and the option for Reserve members to backfill positions temporarily left vacant by a member following childbirth, the difference between the rate of male and female service members leaving the Coast Guard at 15 years had dropped to 3%, down from 10% just two years before.
The 12-month postpartum policy doesn't require members to remain at their current assignments. Those who want to take a sea duty or overseas assignment within a year can waive the deferment in writing, provided they have been cleared medically and get approval from the first captain in their chain of command.
The policy is just one of several initiatives instituted by Coast Guard leaders in the past several years to attract recruits and retain members. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Linda Fagan has said her top priority her first year in office was to improve human resources management for the service.
Fagan said that while retention remains high in the Coast Guard, the service has fallen short of its recruiting goals by roughly 20% annually since 2019.
Fagan is expected to give an update on her personnel initiatives as well as the operational and administrative progress of the service in the past year in her first annual "State of The Coast Guard Address," to be delivered Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.