USA — Congressional Commission Studies Women in Combat

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 2011 — The Defense Depart­ment will review the rec­om­men­da­tions of a con­gres­sion­al com­mis­sion study­ing the role of women in com­bat when the group’s report is com­plete, a DOD offi­cial said today.

Con­gress estab­lished the Mil­i­tary Lead­er­ship Diver­si­ty Com­mis­sion as part of the 2009 Nation­al Defense Autho­riza­tion Act. The commission’s task is to eval­u­ate and assess poli­cies that pro­vide oppor­tu­ni­ties for pro­mo­tion and advance­ment of minor­i­ty mem­bers of the armed forces. 

The commission’s report, expect­ed in March, will include the find­ings and con­clu­sions of the com­mis­sion as well as its rec­om­men­da­tions for improv­ing diver­si­ty with­in the armed forces. 

DOD will look at the rec­om­men­da­tion and go from there,” Pen­ta­gon spokesman Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan said. “We’ll see what the nature of the report is when it’s done.” 

Con­gress repealed the com­bat exclu­sion laws in the Jan­u­ary 1994 Nation­al Defense Autho­riza­tion Act, but requires the ser­vices to sub­mit pro­posed changes to exist­ing assign­ment pol­i­cy to Con­gress for review, Lapan said. 

“For exam­ple, when the Navy recent­ly changed its pol­i­cy to enable women to serve on sub­marines, that would go through that process,” he said. “So the Navy would have to inform Con­gress it was going to make a change.” 

The Marine Corps also trig­gered con­gres­sion­al review when it opened some intel­li­gence posi­tions to women, Lapan said, but female Marines serv­ing on engage­ment teams in Afghanistan are in line with depart­ment pol­i­cy on women’s assignments. 

Lapan said the U.S. mil­i­tary cur­rent­ly pro­hibits women from serv­ing in com­bat units below the brigade lev­el. The Marine women on engage­ment teams are not assigned to com­bat units, but are aug­ment­ing them for a spe­cif­ic mis­sion, he said. 

“Part of the rea­son to do that was because the infantry bat­tal­ions that were out there did­n’t have any women, because they could­n’t,” he explained. 

Women make up 14.6 per­cent of the active duty mil­i­tary. By ser­vice, the per­cent­age ranges from 7.5 per­cent in the Marine Corps to 19.2 per­cent in the Air Force, accord­ing to sta­tis­tics com­piled by the Women in Mil­i­tary Ser­vice for Amer­i­ca Foundation. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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