Breaking News: Pentagon to Lift Rule Excluding Women From Combat (Updates)

UPDATE II:

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will conduct a news conference on “defense-related topics” starting at 1:30 p.m. EST.on the Pentagon Channel.

UPDATE I:

While details on this groundbreaking decision are not yet available from the Pentagon, the New York Times provides the following information:

The implementation of this change does not require Congressional approval and has been “in large part driven by the military itself.”

But, “By law Mr. Panetta is able to lift the ban as a regulatory decision, although he must give Congress a 30-day notice of his intent. Congress does not need to approve the decision before it goes into effect. If Congress disagrees with the action, members would have to pass new legislation prohibiting the change, which appeared highly unlikely.”

And,

Mr. Panetta’s decision came after he received a Jan. 9 letter from Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who stated in strong terms that the armed service chiefs all agreed that “the time has come to rescind the direct combat exclusion rule for women and to eliminate all unnecessary gender-based barriers to service.”

A military official said the change would be implemented “as quickly as possible,” although the Pentagon is allowing three years, until January 2016, for final decisions from the services.

Each branch of the military will have to come up with an implementation plan in the next several months, the official said. If a branch of the military decides that a specific job should not be opened to a woman, representatives of that branch will have to ask the defense secretary for an exception.

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Public opinion polls show that Americans generally agree with lifting the ban. A nationwide Quinnipiac University poll conducted a year ago found that three-quarters of voters surveyed favored allowing military women to serve in units that engaged in close combat, if the women wanted to.

Policy experts who have pushed the military to lift the ban said that it was striking that much of the impetus appeared to come from Joint Chiefs, indicating that the top military leadership saw that the time had come to open up to women.

Finally:

Under current rules, a number of military positions are closed to women — and to open them, the services have to change the rules.

Under Mr. Panetta’s new initiative, the situation is the opposite: Those combat positions would be open to women, and they could only be closed through specific action.

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Original Post:

I have written about it — and we had a healthy discussion about it — here.

Now it appears that it is going to happen. I am talking about allowing women in combat .

According to the Department Of Defense,

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are expected to announce the lifting of the direct combat exclusion rule for women in the military, a senior defense official said today.

The policy change will begin a process in which the services will develop plans to implement the decision, which was made by Panetta upon the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the official said.

The official provided no further details and did not indicate when the announcement might take place.

The Washington Post also reports that:

Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has decided to allow women to serve in combat roles, a watershed policy decision that follows years of calls for a fully inclusive military, defense officials said Wednesday.

Panetta and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, are expected to formally announce the change Thursday, the officials said. The Army, Marines and other services will then develop plans to open jobs in ground combat units, such as the infantry, to women.

The decision comes after a decade during which women — fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan — have been pushed closer to the front lines than ever before. It also comes less than a year and half after the formal end of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell policy,” which banned gay men and women from serving openly.

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Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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