US Military Opening All Combat Jobs To Women
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has revealed plans to open all combat jobs to women in the US military.
In a historic policy shift, the Pentagon boss said the integration will take place in a “deliberate and methodical manner” following a 30-day wait period required by law.
The landmark decision means women can for the first time compete for the military’s most elite units, including the Navy SEALs and other special operations forces.
“As long as they qualify and meet the standards, women will now be able to contribute to our mission in ways they could not before,” Mr Carter told a news conference.
He added that women will be allowed to “drive tanks, fire mortars, and lead infantry soldiers into combat”.
Mr Carter will give the armed services until 1 January to submit their plans on implementing the change, a senior defence official told the AP news agency.
The official, who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity, said finalised plans will be required to be in place by 1 April.
The new policy will also impact the Marine Corps infantry, which Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford had argued should be allowed to exclude women from certain front-line combat roles.
The Marine Corps general, the highest ranking officer in the US military, cited studies that showed mixed-gender units are not as capable as all-male units.
Mr Carter said he had decided the Marine Corps’ concerns could be addressed with careful implementation of the decision.
In a joint statement, the chairmen of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees said Mr Carter’s decision will have a “consequential impact on our service members and our military’s warfighting capabilities”.
Sen John McCain and Rep Mac Thornberry said their respective committees will “carefully and thoroughly review all relevant documentation related to today’s decision”.
Mr Carter’s announcement comes nearly three years after the Defense Department dropped a total ban on women serving in combat.
That decision, recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and backed by President Barack Obama, overturned a 1994 rule prohibiting women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units.
Women comprise 14% of the 1.4 million active US military personnel.
In August, two American women made history by becoming the first female soldiers to complete the Army’s Ranger Course.
Captain Kristen Griest and 1st Lieutenant Shaye Haver graduated from the gruelling combat leadership course along with 94 men.
But despite passing the two-month programme they were not permitted to join the elite force, known as the 75th Ranger Regiment, because it was not open to women.