Washington (CNN) — The U.S. military is ending its policy of excluding women from combat and will “expeditiously” open combat jobs and direct combat units to female troops, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Thursday.
Women already are on the front lines overseas despite an official ban on combat, “and the time has come for our policies to recognize that reality,” Panetta told reporters at the Pentagon.
“The fact is, they have become an integral part of our ability to perform our mission, and for more than a decade of war they have demonstrated courage and skill and patriotism,” Panetta said.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the decision would be implemented “over time and with careful analysis.” But he said the service chiefs were unanimous in their support for the move.
Officials told CNN on Wednesday that not every position will open all at once. 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 is 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.
And the Pentagon has left itself some wiggle room that 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.”
Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican who spent six years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, said he supports lifting the ban on women serving in combat, pointing out women are already serving in harm’s way. But he said the move should not fundamentally change the military.
“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,” McCain said in a statement.
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America, what are we doing? SMH. Okay what’s next, our daughters having to register for selective service when they apply for Federal jobs or even when they apply for College Financial Aid?
Think about how this dismantles the family…how it will affect family structure and God’s order in the home? We the Church have to be cautious on what the “prince of the air” is influencing our leaders to do. First they lift don’t ask don’t tell, now this? Church, lets stay prayerful and fortify our homes with the Word of God so that our households may stand the test of this time. The devils agenda is always to break up the structure of family and to distort the image of our men and women. To be continued…