NPR logo
Pentagon Launches Pilot Program For Military Women
  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/465607189/465607190" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Pentagon Launches Pilot Program For Military Women

National Security

Pentagon Launches Pilot Program For Military Women

Pentagon Launches Pilot Program For Military Women
  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/465607189/465607190" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The Pentagon is launching a pilot program to freeze troops' sperm or eggs as part of widespread reforms to personnel policies across the force. Defense Secretary Ash Carter says he wants the military to be more family friendly and able to compete for the best talent with private sector employers like those in the world of tech.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

There was a time when the Pentagon went to the private sector for the latest technology. Now Defense Secretary Ash Carter is looking to high-tech companies for insights on something else - recruiting and retaining women. NPR's Tom Bowman has more.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Silicon Valley wants to attract and keep the best and brightest women, so companies there have come up with better benefits, more maternity leave, freezing a woman's eggs so she can delay having kids, creating private rooms where a new mother can breastfeed. So Defense Secretary Ash Carter hopes to create 3,600 of those lactation rooms around the country for military women.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ASH CARTER: This is an issue, by the way, that my friend Sheryl Sandberg first illuminated for me.

BOWMAN: That's the Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, and a lactation room is just one of the benefits Secretary Carter grabbed from the high-tech world. He plans to offer 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. That's double the current amount.

MACKENZIE EAGLEN: Well, I think the secretary's visits to Silicon Valley are literally paying off.

BOWMAN: That's MacKenzie Eaglen. She works on military personnel issues at the American Enterprise Institute and says the moves put the Pentagon in the top tier of employers.

EAGLEN: And it certainly will get the attention of current and future enlistees.

BOWMAN: All ground combat jobs are now open to women, but military women tend to leave after just 10 years of service when they're at their peak potential for starting a family. So Carter says the Pentagon will also help active-duty troops who want to delay having a family. The military will pay the cost of freezing sperm or eggs.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CARTER: A benefit that will help provide men and women, especially those deployed in combat, with greater peace of mind.

BOWMAN: Eaglen has her doubts about that plan. She thinks relatively few will opt for freezing their sperm or eggs, and each round of egg retrieval costs about $10,000.

EAGLEN: It is definitely debatable whether or not that is going to be worth, in value terms, of what it's going to cost the department financially.

BOWMAN: Here's why the Pentagon wants more women. They tend to score higher than men on aptitude tests and have fewer brushes with the law. But while women make up half the population, they're just 15 percent of the force. Tom Bowman, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.