The Pentagon has announced that it will make assignment policy changes that will result in 14,325 more positions being opened to women this spring.
Following a report mandated by the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, the Pentagon informed Congress Thursday that it will be making two policy changes to the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule regarding female military service.
The changes include opening to women positions co-located with combat troops and certain battalion-level positions in particular ground combat units.
“Women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military’s mission. Through their courage, sacrifice, patriotism and great skill, women have proven their ability to serve in an expanding number of roles on and off the battlefield,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a statement.
“We will continue to open as many positions as possible to women so that anyone qualified to serve can have the opportunity to do so,” he said.
The Washington Times reported Thursday that two years ago — when Congress mandated the report — some in the Defense Department feared that the administration would open the infantry and special operations to women. This week’s report, however, rejected the Military Leadership Diversity Commission’s recommendation — which stoked some of those concerns — to lift all barriers to women in uniform.
The Defense Department further noted that there remain “practical barriers” to allowing women access to all positions, but said the department is working on gender-neutral physical standards.
“Gender-neutral physical standards ensure all members can meet the physical demands of the duties they are assigned,” said acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Jo Ann Rooney, “ultimately contributing to higher states of readiness through an increased understanding of the demands we place upon our members and by preventing injuries.”
The service branches are expected to report to Panetta within six months “on assignment policy implementation and the progress made developing gender-neutral physical standards.”
Women comprise nearly 15 percent of the military. The changes are expected to take effect in the spring.
“The services will continue to review positions and requirements to determine what additional positions may be opened, ensuring the mission is met with the best qualified and most capable, regardless of gender,” Panetta added.