A senior defense official announced this week: “We will eliminate the policy of no women units that are tasked with direct combat.” Although this integration will not happen immediately, this announcement represents a monumental step towards gender equality in the military.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta set the goal of January 2016 for women to be integrated “as much as possible.” Every 90 days, service chiefs will examine the physical standards and accommodations within combat units. This evaluation will be especially important in the Army and Marine Corps.
Although a victory for women’s rights, there are some limitations regarding how the policy is implemented. If it is determined that a certain job should not be open to women, a branch can go back to the Secretary and ask to designate that job as closed. Furthermore, the Pentagon has to alert Congress when the jobs are sent to the Secretary to be opened to women. The Defense Department then has to wait while Congress is in session before the change can be solidified.
Many had positive comments regarding this change in policy. Senator John McCain supports lifting the ban because in his view women are already in harm’s way. However, he cautioned that there would not be any fundamental change to military policy: “As this new rule is implemented, it is critical that we maintain the same high standards that have made the American military the most feared and admired fighting force in the world—particularly the rigorous physical standards for our elite special forces units.”
Ariela Migdal, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project said: “But we welcome this statement with cautious optimism, as we hope that it will be implemented fairly and quickly so that servicewomen can receive the same recognition for their service as their male counterparts.” The ACLU sued the Department of Defense recently, alleging that combat exclusion prevents women from receiving recognition of their work.
What is your opinion on this new policy? Do you think that the limitations discussed above will prevent true integration?