U.S. Military to Let Women Fight in Combat Roles

Contributor:  Mike O'Brien
Posted:  01/23/2013  12:00:00 AM EST
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The ban on women serving in combat is to be lifted in a move that could open up thousands of roles for female personnel in front-line positions.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is expected to quit his post in mid-February, is to make the announcement today (Thursday, January 24) along with Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The move overturns a 1994 ruling that forbid women from combat. The chiefs of the services support the proposed change, USA Today reports. 

But the policy switch will not exactly be a revolutionary, overnight move. The Department of Defense will enter an “assessment phase” once the policy has been changed, whereby the various branches of service will draw up where and when integration can take place, CNN reports.

One senior defense official said: “It will take a while to work out the mechanics in some cases. We expect some jobs to open quickly, by the end of this year. Others, like Special Operations Forces and Infantry, may take longer.”

A deadline of January 2016 has been set by Panetta for all assessments to be carried out.  Congress would have to be notified of the policy change and will have 30 days to consider it. 

If military services believe any positions must remain closed to women, they can apply for special exceptions to the new policy.

The defense official said: “We should open all specialties to the maximum extent possible to women. We know they can do it.”

The move may be the last major policy decision taken by Mr. Panetta. It is not clear at this point what the views of his nominated successor Dick Hagel are on the matter. Women currently make up 14% of the 1.4 million active military personnel.

It comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed by The American Civil Liberties Union against the Department of Defense, which said that combat exclusion is out of date and excludes women from opportunities for promotion.

(Photo: U.S. Army (SFC Larry Johns)

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Mike O'Brien Contributor:   Mike O'Brien

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