The Defense Department is set to introduce a new policy in the coming months aimed at supporting military cadets who unexpectedly become parents. This policy, which was mandated by Congress, will allow cadets at the Air Force Academy, the Naval Academy, and West Point to complete their degree programs, earn their commissions, and retain custody of their children without facing expulsion or punishment.
Previously, cadets had to choose between terminating the pregnancy, relinquishing their parental rights, or dropping out of the academy. The finalized policy is expected to be available in April or May after undergoing three evaluations by the military departments during its creation, though it is running behind schedule and may not meet the December 27, 2022 deadline set by the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act.
According to a statement from Pentagon representative, Army Major Charlie Dietz, while revising the current DoD instruction from 2015 that oversees parenting while enrolled in a service academy:
“Permitting cadets and midshipmen to maintain parental rights while enrolled at a military service academy is a complex issue, requiring legal analysis of several policies and federal statutes… some areas were identified that need further analysis and there is potential for more discoveries as the policy matures.”
Dietz has stated that the completed policy undergoes three distinct evaluations by the military departments during its creation and is anticipated to be released in April or May. The policy originated from the bipartisan CADET Act, which was initially proposed by a group of senators in July 2021, aimed at providing dignity, equality, and training opportunities for candidates.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas weighed in at the time, saying:
“Under our current system, cadets who become pregnant must either sign away the rights to their child, get an abortion, pay devastating financial responsibilities, or leave the academy altogether… This policy is unfair, antiquated, and unacceptable.”
According to Stars and Stripes’ report this month, four Air Force cadets were permitted to continue their studies after becoming parents, in anticipation of the forthcoming policy.
On Monday, Air Force Academy spokesman Dean Miller told the Military Times:
“Understanding the intent of Congress, we worked with [the Air Force Department] and DoD to implement a process in which cadets with natural-born children could remain at USAFA as long as they had an approved family care plan,”
“The details of the family care plan include who will care for the child financially and physically while the cadet remains enrolled at the Academy.”
The upcoming policy for military cadets who become parents is a welcome change that provides much-needed support for those facing unexpected parenthood while pursuing their education and military careers. The policy will allow cadets to maintain custody of their children, complete their degree programs, and earn their commissions without facing punishment or expulsion. Although the policy is running behind schedule, it is expected to be released in April or May after undergoing evaluations by the military departments during its creation. The bipartisan CADET Act, which was proposed in July 2021, aims to provide dignity, equality, and training opportunities for candidates, and this new policy is a step in the right direction.