In the 2000s, the United States Navy commissioned studies intended to address retention issues. One finding of these studies was that military life afforded few opportunities to address family and personal issues. In 2009 Congress approved a pilot program intended to fix this.
The Career Intermission Pilot Program was intended to improve retention by offering service members the chance to take up to three years off from military duty to work on personal goals or professional development.
In ages past, there were different options for those who wanted to attend college to earn a degree with an eye toward an officer commission. These programs, commonly referred to as “bootstrap programs” were specifically for educational purposes but often served the same ends–the military member is temporarily and non-punitively relieved of duty to attend the classes needed.
But with the advent of the Career Intermission Program, which moved out of the pilot program stage and eventually became a more permanent part of military career options, education isn’t always the driving force for the requests, and doesn’t need to be.
Some who write about this program claim it is “undermarketed” or otherwise not pushed to the troops for reasons unknown. The fact of the matter is the military provides this option as one of many career choices and sometimes details just get lost in the shuffle. In some cases a branch of service might choose not to promote one retention program in favor of another, but we can’t speculate on which ones might choose not to talk up CIP options.
Career Intermission Programs One Branch Of Service At A Time?
Not all branches of the military adopted the Career Intermission Program right away–the Air Force and the Army held out until 2014 to offer the program, which was formally codified and made permanent by the 2019 NDAA.
Career intermission in general means getting a minimum of one year, but no more than three years relieved of active duty. Once the program has ended for the servicemember, they return to full-time duty with no change in rank. The tradeoff for these career intermissions? The service member has to agree to serve longer in exchange for the time off.
Basics Of The Career Intermission Program
Keep in mind that all DoD programs, policies, rules, and regulations are subject to change through congressional law, executive order, changes in DoD policy, etc. What applies today may be modified tomorrow which is why it’s always a good idea to discuss these military career options with your First Sergeant, Command Sergeant Major, Navy Detailer, assignments officer, or someone from the base personnel office.
When you are accepted into the Career Intermission Program, the following generally applies:
- Military duty status is changed from Active Duty service to the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR)
- While in the program you still have access to medical and dental benefits
Military pay while in the program is “2/30th Active Duty Basic Pay”
- You may be authorized to be paid relocation expenses for household goods moved as a result of entering the program
- GI Bill benefits can be used during the career intermission
You read the above correctly–service members do not draw full active duty pay when they are participating in the Career Intermission Program. And there are other things a servicemember participating in the Career Intermission Program is not eligible for during the program:
- Bonus pay
- Promotion consideration
- Military life insurance (SGLI)
- BAH and BAS
- Military tuition assistance
The Career Intermission Program is not an open-ended call–there are limits to how many from each branch of military service may apply. In 2019, that number was 40 applicants from each military service. The numbers are subject to change from year to year, but those interested in the program should not worry; multiple sources report that this program is not terribly competitive. Why?
Because fewer than 10 percent of the eligible military members who could apply do so. Many report wanting to use the program to complete some form of higher education.
Applying for the Career Intermission Program
The specific procedures, dates you can be part of the program, and dates of application will definitely vary depending on branch of service. Check with your orderly room to learn more about service-specific procedures, and keep in mind that some branches of service may offer options others do not including the ability for members of the Guard and Reserve to apply.
At one time, Air Force Career Intermission Program (AF CIP) information was available to the general public, but links provided via the Air Force Personnel Center (AFPC) on its official site that are meant to lead to the AF CIP page now only refer back to the AFPC Career Management Page and there are no links to a Career Intermission Program page. Airmen and officers must sign up via myPers.
In the past, Air Force application windows to sign up included:
Cycle A: April 1 to May 13
Cycle B: Aug. 1 to Sept. 12
Cycle C: Dec. 1 to Jan. 12
The Air Force Personnel Center official site may accept applications from those who have a humanitarian need regardless of when the application is submitted.
The United States Army offers Career Intermission Program opportunities to both officers and enlisted as well as qualifying members of the Guard and Reserve.
Application for the Army version of CIP is done via your unit orderly room, First Individual, or as dictated by unit policy. Under the original pilot program there was a limited number of slots approved. Later revisions of the Army Career Intermission Program removed those restrictions, but it’s always best to ask ahead of time about such issues as they are subject to change.
Any Marine interested in applying for the Career Intermission Program are required to first contact the unit chain of command. Like the Navy, there is a system of application and routing of those applications up the chain for approval. That process includes:
Submission of a complete application package to the Deputy Commandant, Manpower and Reserve affairs, Manpower Management and other “stakeholders”. The submission process is complete with final approval by the Director of Manpower Management.
Marines interested in applying for CIP must contact their chain of command. Director of Manpower Management makes final approval. In the past, Marine Corps policy has been to require an application within six months of the Marine’s rotation date.
The Navy Career Intermission Program offers officers and enlisted sailors alike to transfer out of active service and into the Individual Ready Reserve for up to three years with full base privileges and healthcare coverage.
Applications for Navy CIP must be submitted electronically “to PERS-9 Career Intermission Program Manager for consideration”. Navy literature suggests that a sailor’s Detailer is involved in this process and sailors should be discussing this option as far in advance with their detailers as possible for best results. Applications are reviewed by the detailer before they are sent for a final review by Navy Personnel Command. How far in advance should a sailor plan in these cases? In the past sailors were required to plan on giving 12 months in advance of projected rotation date (PRD).
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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