As reported in the Martine Corps Times yesterday, Pentagon officials have submitted a proposal to Congress to extend military sabbatical leave to Reservists and Guardsmen on full-time active duty. Through the Navy’s Career Intermission Pilot Program, or CIPP, service members can take a penalty-free break of one to three years in a military career for personal or professional reasons. During the break, service members receive a small monthly stipend (1/15th of their monthly basic pay) and are covered by the military’s health care system. When service members return to active service, they are restored to their same pay grade as if there had been no gap in service. They also retain eligibility for promotion and assignments. However, sabbatical entitlement is offset by two additional months on active duty for every month they were on leave. In addition, no more than forty officers and forty enlisted members may be given new sabbatical opportunities each year.
While initially, the proposed extension stands to leave a minimal footprint, the potential benefits for Guardsmen and Reservists should not be overlooked. As tough economic conditions persist, Reserve unemployment numbers yield a rate consistently one and a half times higher than the national average. Even more disturbing, trends of hiring discrimination against Reservists have been reported as employers are reluctant to take on a hire representing a guaranteed absence 1 out of every 5 years. In some cases, Reservists have even been advised to omit their Reserve and Guard status on their resumes. As recently reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s article Reservist status can be liability for job seekers, a veteran representative from Pennsylvania Career Links, a state-sponsored work force initiative, was quoted as citing direct guidance to avoid mention of Reserve service during the application process. "I don't recommend they put [their Guard and Reserve status] on their resumes anymore…I advise my Reservists to put only the date of discharge on their resume, and when they do, their hiring outcomes improve."
Expansion of the sabbatical program represents a potential source of relief for reservists struggling with improving their outlook for civilian employment. Reservists could use this time to receive a higher education degree, again without the threat of being called for duty. Finally, defense officials argued that the sabbatical leave would give “greater flexibility to test and evaluate alternative career retention options in specialties and skills in which monetary incentives alone have not produced required long-term retention results.” It is conceivable that use and possible expansion of the sabbatical program would ultimately make for a stronger Reserve Component with greater retention and expanded skill sets maintained at lower cost.
The Department of Defense’s proposal does not change the December 31, 2015 termination date for the program, and it does not change the rule for a limited number of officers and enlisted personnel to receive new sabbatical opportunities each year.
What do you think about the sabbatical for Reservists and Guardsmen on full-time active duty?