The Pentagon has yet to issue a formal policy that would allow cadets at America's service academies to continue their education if they have kids while enrolled, reversing existing rules that could lead them to get kicked out of school for doing so.
The Candidates Afforded Dignity, Equality, and Training, or CADET, Act, spearheaded by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., in 2021 helped push the policy change in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. The Pentagon was given until Dec. 27, 2022, a year after it was signed, to make the changes to service academy policies.
But more than two months past that deadline, the Pentagon has not provided any public updates or said when the formal policy will be issued.
Charlie Dietz, a spokesman for the Pentagon, did not immediately respond to questions Friday from Military.com asking about the status of the policy and when it will be enacted.
The Department of Defense Instruction pertaining to service academies which says that “any person for whom an individual has a legally recognized obligation to provide support” can be separated from their school had not been amended as of March 3.
Representatives from West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy told Military.com that they are awaiting the Pentagon's formal guidance to issue and enact their own policies. They are still relying on their old policies, meaning that cadets are not allowed to have children and can face expulsion if they become parents.
The U.S. Coast Guard Academy and the Merchant Marine Academy did not immediately answer phone calls seeking comment on their policies.
The U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, however, told Military.com that it has implemented its own plan, working with the Department of the Air Force and the Department of Defense, despite the final Pentagon policy not yet being authorized.
"While we are still waiting for final guidance from DoD, members of USAFA have been actively involved in the OSD Working Group on implementing the language from the NDAA,” Dean Miller, a spokesman for the Air Force Academy, said in an emailed statement. "Understanding the intent of Congress, we worked with DAF 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.”
Miller said that four Air Force Academy cadets have submitted family care plans to leadership which detail “who will care for the child financially and physically while the cadet remains enrolled at the Academy."
He added that those cadets are "not given any special treatment nor privileges" related to their parental obligations and that they're subject to the same academic obligations and off-campus rules as their fellow cadets.
Historically, cadets admitting to either procreating or giving birth to children would be in violation of their service academy's rules, could be kicked out, and might be on the hook to pay back the cost of their education.
Other options included terminating a pregnancy or relinquishing custody of the child entirely, alternatives that affected women far more than men.
According to the text of the CADET Act, which inspired the policy revision in the 2022 NDAA, cadets would be able to create a family care plan and appoint a temporary guardian for the child to continue their studies -- a move that can be reversed following graduation from the academy.
The text of the CADET Act also allows women to take leave from their military service academy for up to one year, while granting men leave only to attend the birth of the child.
-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.