Corps sets policy for administrative leave
By William H. McMichael - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Jul 30, 2007 14:04:44 EDT

It has taken more than three months since the policy was first announced, but at least three of the four services have finally told the Defense Department how they will implement a policy that awards administrative leave for active and reserve troops who exceed rotation policy goals while serving in the greater Middle East war zone.

And of the four, the Marine Corps has actually published its instructions. Eligible Marines, as of July 27, can now be awarded the extra days off. The Army and Navy are still finalizing their plans, according to Army Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, a Pentagon spokesman. The Air Force is “actively working” to get its plans done and sent over to DoD.

“The Navy is working on it,” said Lt. Ligia Cohen, a Navy spokeswoman. “Guidance will be out soon.”

Now, eligible Marines coming off deployment or mobilization can be credited with the leave — which can be used in lieu of regular earned leave, which can then be saved for later use or “cashed in” when leaving the service. Members of the other services must continue to wait.

When David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, signed off on an April 18 policy memo authorizing the new category of “administrative absence,” as the leave is formally known, he told the services they each had the option of making the policy more generous.

The Marines appear to have done so.

According to the Chu memo, the program awards reservists a free day for each month or fraction of a month served during a 72-month period that began Oct. 7, 2001, beyond 12 months mobilized. It awards two free days for each month beyond 18 months served, and four days a month once 24 months have been served. Active-duty troops earn the free days at the same rate, but their clock goes back only to Jan. 19, 2004.

The DoD policy baseline also only affects troops whose deployments were under way on or began after Jan. 19, 2007. The Marine Corps policy, however, is effective beginning with those earlier dates.

The basis for the calculation, according to MARADMIN 448/07, is that active Marines must be given two periods of “dwell” time for every period deployed. In other words, a typical seven-month deployment earns 14 months of dwell time. For reservists, the ratio is 1 to 5 — 60 months’ dwell time for a 12-month deployment. These ratios equal the Pentagon goals announced in January.

A Marine’s clock starts at the arrival in the war theater area of operations or at the start of a seagoing deployment.

If the dwell-time goal is not achieved, Marines will earn administrative leave during the follow-on deployment as follows: one day per month for months one through five; two days per month for months six through 10; and four days per months for months 11 and beyond. So a follow-on seven-month deployment would earn 15 days of the leave, formally known as “post-deployment/mobilization respite absence.”

For active-duty Marines, the clock starts Jan. 19, 2004, or the end date of the most recent deployment. So, for example, if a Marine broke dwell time during a deployment that began after that date and was subsequently deployed to the war theater for a minimum of four consecutive months, administrative leave is earned at the above rate.

For reserve Marines, creditable time begins Oct. 7, 2001, or the end date of the most recent deployment.

The back-dating has apparently been blessed by DoD. Some officials had raised questions about whether, under federal fiscal law, this form of compensation could be awarded retroactively. The Marine Corps memo states that administrative absence “is a non-monetary compensation.”

One major consideration: The leave is a “use or lose” benefit. It must be used before the end of the term of active service in the Marines, the end of a demobilization, or the transition between components. Once a Marine has separated, demobilized, reported to a new outfit or even begun the transition, the days will be set back to zero.

Other considerations are noted in the MARADMIN, which can be found online.