Beginning January 2016, the U.S. Department of Defense will open “all military occupations and positions to women, without exception.” Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter made the announcement Thursday. This landmark decision will for the first time allow female service members to join the country’s most elite military forces, including the Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces and other Special Operations Units. It also opens the Marine Corps infantry.
“There will be no exceptions,” Carter said. “This means that, as long as they qualify and meet the standards, women will now be able to contribute to our mission in ways they could not before.”
“Last month I received their recommendations [and] the data, studies and surveys on which they were based regarding whether any of those remaining positions warrant a continued exemption from being opened to women,” Carter said, noting that the Army, Navy, Air Force and Socom said none of the positions warranted exemptions.
President Barack Obama said of the news: “One of the qualities that makes America’s armed forces the best in the world is that we draw on the talents and skills of our people. When we desegregated our military, it became stronger. In recent years, we ended ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and allowed gay and lesbian Americans to serve openly – and it’s made our military stronger. Over recent decades, we’ve opened about 90 percent of military positions to women who time and again have proven that they, too, are qualified, ready and up to the task. In the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, our courageous women in uniform have served with honor, on the front lines – and some have given their very lives.”
Obama added, “Today, the Defense Department is taking another historic step forward by opening up the remaining 10 percent of military positions, including combat roles, to women. As Commander in Chief, I know that this change, like others before it, will again make our military even stronger. Our armed forces will draw on an even wider pool of talent. Women who can meet the high standards required will have new opportunities to serve. I know that, under the leadership of Secretary Carter and Chairman Dunford, our men and women in uniform will implement this transition – as they have others – in a responsible manner that maintains military readiness and the unparalleled professionalism and strength of our armed forces. Together, we’re going to make sure our military remains the finest fighting force in the history of the world, worthy of all our patriots who serve – men and women.”
Women will be fully integrated into combat roles deliberately and methodically, the secretary said, using seven guidelines.
1. Implementation will be pursued with the objective of improved force effectiveness.
2. Leaders must assign tasks and jobs throughout the force based on ability, not gender.
3. Equal opportunity likely will not mean equal participation by men and women in all specialties, and there will be no quotas.
4. Studies conducted by the services and SOCOM indicate that on average there are physical and other differences between men and women, and implementation will take this into account.
5. The department will address the fact that some surveys suggest that some service members, men and women, will perceive that integration could damage combat effectiveness.
6. Particularly in the specialties that are newly open to women, survey data and the judgment of service leaders indicate that the performance of small teams is important.
7. The United States and some of its closest friends and allies are committed to having militaries that include men and women, but not all nations share this perspective.
The Military Times reported that “Carter’s move opens up a total of about 220,000 jobs that were previously closed to women. They include some of the most demanding roles, including special operations forces.”