- As of August 2020 -
What You Need to Know About the Career Intermission Program
Military service members who want to take time off to pursue academic achievements, start a family, support an ailing family member, work for private industry, or just take a sabbatical from military service can leave active service for up to three years under a lesser-known DoD program. The Career Intermission Program allows selected service members in all DoD branches to take a 1-3 year sabbatical before returning back to Active Duty service.
If you’ve never heard of the program, you’re not alone. What is the Career Intermission Program, or CIP? Who is eligible for CIP? And where can you find out more? We hope to answer your first questions here.
What is the Career Intermission Program?
The CIP isn’t new, but it is under-marketed and so often stays unknown. In 2009, Congress approved the Career Intermission Pilot Program (CIPP) to increase retention rates by allowing service members to step away from active duty for a brief time to pursue other personal or professional goals. However, it wasn’t offered in all branches of the military until 2014, when the Army and Air Force became the last services to offer CIP to their members. The good news is that the 2019 NDAA authorized CIP as a permanent program.
Under the program, approved service members that have applied are able to take at least one year off of Active Duty, but no more than three years. At the end of the intermission, members return to Active Duty with no penalties in rank. However, the member will owe two months of Active Duty service for every one month of CIP time (2-1 owe back).
What am I authorized while on the program?
During the Career Intermission, participants move from Active Duty service to Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). The member still retains medical and dental benefits and access to base services. However, pay will be 2/30th of your Active Duty Basic Pay. The military will pay for 2 relocation household good moves, one to a CONUS location upon starting the program and one back to active service to where you receive orders. You can carry leave over you had saved while on active time for when you return on active service. You can also use any earned GI Bill benefits, which is a great way to get a housing allowance back into your pocket. Finally, since you do separate you get a DD-214 which allows you to receive VA Disability. If you feel you do or should qualify for VA Disability, ensure that you have already built your case with medical prior to separating.
What am I NOT authorized while on the program?
Consideration for Promotion
Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH)/Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS)
As of 2019, only 160 service members may access the program each year, 40 from each branch. But fewer than 10% of eligible members take advantage of CIP benefits. A DoD report found that between 2009-2016, only 192 Officers and Enlisted service members participated in the program. Of those, 56% were female, and 44% male. Most used the program to pursue higher education.
How Can I Apply for the Career Intermission Program?
Each military branch handles CIP applications differently. While nearly all Active Duty members from all DoD branches can apply, some also extend program eligibility to Reserve members. Personnel leadership must approve the request.
For the most detailed and up-to-date information about the program, contact your unit’s leadership or personnel office.
Any Active Duty Officer or Enlisted Airman may apply for CIP. Applications must be received within designated application windows. However, immediate-need applications are considered out of the window on a case-by-case basis. For more information, visit the AFPC’s CIP page.
We also recommend the "USAF CIP" Facebook group
The Army has offered CIP to both Officer and Enlisted Soldiers since 2014. Applicants must contact their unit’s leadership and apply through Human Resources Command (click here for more information).
Marines interested in applying for CIP must contact their chain of command. Director of Manpower Management makes final approval. Marines must apply within six months of their scheduled rotation date. For eligibility requirements and more information, visit the official Marines CIPP page.
The Navy was the first military branch to institute the CIP. Sailors interested in the CIP must apply at least 12 months in advance of their next rotation to the CIP Manager at their installation. The Naval Personnel Commander makes a final approval decision. For more information, visit the Navy’s CIP website.
Other Considerations Before Applying for CIP
Before you apply, consider the long-term implications of the CIP. While you will be able to return to Active Duty without any penalties, you will have significant time added to your service commitment. In fact, you’ll owe double the time you used through the program. For example, if you took an 18-month sabbatical, your service commitment increases by 36 months.
Furthermore, there are financial implications. You will no longer be Active Duty military while under CIP. While you will still have medical benefits and access to base agencies, you will not receive full pay. You’ll receive only a small monthly stipend (a few hundred dollars per month or less). Therefore, make sure you have adequate savings and a financial plan in place for your time out of Active Duty.
*Written in Coordination with Becca, Air Force Key Spouse*
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