Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will lift a longstanding ban on women serving in combat, according to senior defense officials.
The services have until this May to come up with a plan to implement the change, according to a Defense Department official.
That means the changes could come into effect as early as May, though the services will have until January 2016 to complete the implementation of the changes.
"We certainly want to see this executed responsibly but in a reasonable time frame, so I would hope that this doesn't get dragged out," said former Marine Capt. Zoe Bedell, who joined a recent lawsuit aimed at getting women on the battlefield.
The military services also will have until January 2016 to seek waivers for certain jobs -- but those waivers will require a personal approval from the secretary of defense and will have to be based on rationales other than the direct combat exclusion rule.
The move to allow women in combat, first reported by the Associated Press, was not expected this week, although there has been a concerted effort by the Obama administration to further open up the armed forces to women.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously recommended in January to Secretary Panetta that the direct combat exclusion rule should be lifted.
"I can confirm media reports that the secretary and the chairman are expected to announce the lifting of the direct combat exclusion rule for women in the military," said a senior Defense Department official. "This policy change will initiate a process whereby the services will develop plans to implement this decision, which was made by the secretary of defense upon the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey sent Panetta a memo earlier this month entitled, "Women in Service Implementation Plan."
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"The time has come to rescind the direct combat exclusion rule for women and to eliminate all unnecessary gender-based barriers to service," the memo read.
"To implement these initiatives successfully and without sacrificing our warfighting capability or the trust of the American people, we will need time to get it right," he said in the memo, referring to the 2016 horizon.
Women have been officially prohibited from serving in combat since a 1994 rule that barred them from serving in ground combat units. That does not mean they have been immune from danger or from combat.
As Martha Raddatz reported in 2009, women have served in support positions on and off the frontlines in Iraq and Afghanistan, where war is waged on street corners and in markets, putting them at equal risk. Hundreds of thousands of women deployed with the military to those two war zones over the past decade. Hundreds have died.
Fine and dandy equal rights and all and there are questions about strength comparisons for male vs female but when it gets down to the very real possibility of being taken prisoner don't you think the female prisoner wont be brutally raped, tortured, and made examples of ??? I do...
I like the idea of women being equal but I do agree that strength maybe a factor and a horror if they were captured ..I would expect that terrorists would actually focus and prize capturing a woman especially with the way they think and feel about them in the Middle east.. thinking more about that fact I am against it ....
I too think there will be some issues...issues with possibly strength and duration on the front lines (example...would a woman equally be able to lift and carry, say a 240lb injured comrade)?...definitely the issue of being captured...I cannot even THINK about that. That would be a GOAL of the enemy without a doubt...so then, in those cases, does that put the troops in more danger?
Also, you have issues with just men living among women for months at a time in horrible conditions. It just introduces a whole new dynamic...will there be issues with living conditions, bathrooms? What about sexual misconduct? It already happens in the military...now you have soldiers under extreme pressure situations...with people of both sexes. Will the men be afraid to speak their minds? Will the men feel a need to protect the women over the men?
I'm all for equal rights...but this is just not sitting well with me. There are women in all branches of the military, in every ranking position...I just don't get WHY they have to be in hand to hand combat/front line scenarios.
I don’t have a problem with it as long as she signs up for it, can pass the tests, accepts the consequences of what will happen to her if captured, and I don’t have to listen to it every time I turn the News on.
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