Lawmakers approved changing the Defense Department’s service academies policies regarding cadets having children. The Defense Department’s service academies include the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. All cadets and midshipmen receive taxable pay at the rate of 35% of an O1, and receive free room and board, with the exception of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
The CADET Act was introduced in 2021 by Senators Ted Cruz and Kirsten Gillibrand. CADET stands for Candidates Afforded Dignity, Equality, and Training. The bill asked for the DOD to ensure that the cadets and midshipmen in the service academies who become pregnant during their time at the school are provided with options to take leave from the military service academy for up to one year, fully released from the military service academies and any related obligations or enlist in active-duty service. It further added that males who became parents would not be required to give up parental rights and must not acquire any benefits or leave considerations having to do with having a child.
While the CADET Act was not signed into a bill, the wording and idea behind the act were added to the National Defense Authorization Act. This includes not forcing students who quit after the start of their third year to become parents also to have to pay back the military service academy.
The new policy allows a cadet to grant temporary guardianship of her child to another person while they complete their studies at school. The policy does not change that cadets and midshipmen cannot get married while at the academy. Furthermore, people with children are still not allowed to apply to the academies.
While the NDAA was signed in 2021, the Defense Department was given one year from signing to enact the act.