The Air Force on Friday announced an expansion of parental leave for fathers, same-sex couples, and adoptive and surrogate parents.

Female airmen who give birth were previously allowed to take 12 consecutive weeks of maternity convalescent leave, according to a release Friday. Airmen whose spouse gave birth also were previously allowed to take 10 days of non-chargeable leave.

Now, the release said, the Air Force will offer three forms of non-chargeable leave: Six weeks of maternity leave, six weeks of primary caregiver leave, and three weeks of secondary caregiver leave.

But caregiver leave is given in addition to convalescent leave, meaning that the total amount of leave birth mothers can take won’t change.

Covered service members who are having a child through birth, adoption or surrogacy will decide which parent is the primary caregiver and which is the secondary caregiver.

The Air Force said airmen should decide which parent is primary and which is secondary as early as possible. Parents cannot transfer their leave to one another.

The allotted time off can be taken any time within the first year after a child’s birth or adoption, the Air Force said, but it has to be taken at once and cannot be split up.

The Air Force in 2016 doubled the amount of maternity leave from six weeks to 12. In 2015, when the Navy tripled its leave to 18 weeks, former Secretary Deborah Lee James said she hoped to do the same.

Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.

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