By Chris Lawrence, with reporting from Barbara Starr
[Updated at 9:30 p.m. ET] The U.S. military is ending its policy of excluding women from combat and will open combat jobs and direct combat units to female troops, multiple officials told CNN on Wednesday.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will make the announcement Thursday and notify Congress of the planned change in policy, the officials said.
“We will eliminate the policy of ‘no women in units that are tasked with direct combat,'” a senior defense official said.
The officials cautioned, however, that “not every position will open all at once on Thursday.” Once the policy is changed, the Department of Defense will enter what is being called an “assessment phase,” in which each branch of service will examine all its jobs and units not currently integrated and then produce a timetable for integrating them.
The Army and Marine Corps, especially, will be examining physical standards and gender-neutral accommodations within combat units. Every 90 days, the service chiefs will have to report on their progress.
The move will be one of the last significant policy decisions made by Panetta, who is expected to leave in mid-February. It is not clear where former Sen. Chuck Hagel, the nominated replacement, stands, but officials say he has been apprised of Panetta’s coming announcement.
“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 senior defense official explained. Panetta is setting the goal of January 2016 for all assessments to be complete and women to be integrated as much as possible.
The Pentagon has left itself some wiggle room, however, which may ultimately lead to some jobs being designated as closed to women. A senior defense official said if, after the assessment, a branch finds that “a specific job or unit should not be open, they can go back to the secretary and ask for an exemption to the policy, to designate the job or unit as closed.”
The official said the goal remains to open as many jobs as possible. “We should open all specialties to the maximum extent possible to women. We know they can do it.”
I recommend extreme caution in determining which military roles are suitable for women.
I posted this comment on SOFREP:
I’m a woman of (ahem) advanced age and small stature. Many decades ago, I was into weightlifting and other forms of exercise. Somehow I got to the point where I had about as much upper body strength as many of the males who went to the same gym. But I had to put in a much higher level of effort to get and stay at that level. I was also into cycling and swimming, but my speed and endurance was never anywhere near comparable to what an average male could do without much trouble. For that reason, I never had any illusions that I or any other woman should attempt to compete with men, either in sports or in any other arena that requires speed and strength.
That is not to say that women and girls shouldn’t participate in sports, do hard work, acquire the skills to defend themselves and others, and cultivate the virtue of courage. They should do all those things. Men and women are of equal worth in the sight of God, but that does not mean that men and women are the same or that they can fulfill the same functions in the same ways.
And this one:
I am female, waaaaay older than dirt, not very big, not very strong, though physically active. I’ve never been in the military though many of my relatives have served in combat and I honor their service. I’m a huge Second Amendment defender. As long as I’m still able to move around and shoot, I’d take up arms if the US were invaded and there was a genuine need. Same if family members and friends were endangered. Nothing wrong with training women, in the military and elsewhere, to keep fit and to shoot well.
That said. the evidence has shown, over and over, that women are not physically capable of serving in infantry combat or special forces on foreign soil.
The armed services should, in my opinion, be more careful to screen out and not accept women for service unless the women have the physical capabilities to go through training without becoming injured. It is already the case that too many women enlist and then wash out because they just don’t have the innate physical endowments to cope with the level of physical stress. They may WANT to succeed, and wholeheartedly try, but accepting recruits who simply don’t have what it takes into the armed services does no favors either for the recruits or for the service. I would most likely have joined if I had what it takes but I knew full well that I just didn’t. To imagine that one is some sort of a superman or superwoman is pride that goeth before a fall.
In any case, even if there hypothetically were enough women who have the strength and endurance to serve in infantry or special ops roles, putting armed women and men together in close quarters in harm’s way under intense stress with no privacy and limited (or no) availability of personal hygiene is such a stupid idea that nobody should even consider it any further. It’s a recipe for explosive interpersonal conflicts, unintended pregnancies, and the rapid spread of diseases. I think Panetta is flat-out insane and I can only hope that cooler heads will prevail in the Senate and Congress to put a stop to this.
I would recommend you read The Challenges of Women in Combat Roles -and specifically link to the reports Majrod mentioned, listed below.
- “Gender-Diverse” Army Ranger School? – Part II
- Get Over It! We Are Not All Created Equal
- Defense Department “Diversity” Push for Women In Land Combat
These will give some good insight.