Services will submit plans in May outlining how they will accomplish the integration of women in these new capacities, Panetta noted.
“In this country, as the president himself pointed out in his inaugural speech, we’ve been on a long journey. A long journey toward achieving equality and there have been some tough challenges along the road in facing every barrier,” Panetta said, citing racial, sexual orientation and gender barriers as examples.
“I feel very confident we can make this work,” he added.
President Barack Obama praised the move, calling it “another step toward fulfilling our nation’s founding ideals of fairness and equality.”
“As Commander in Chief, I am absolutely confident that — as with the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ — the professionalism of our armed forces will ensure a smooth transition and keep our military the very best in the world. Today, every American can be proud that our military will grow even stronger with our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters playing a greater role in protecting this country we love,” Obama said in a statement released shortly after the official announcement.