Washington: The United States military is ending its policy of excluding women from combat and will open combat jobs and direct combat units to female troops, officials said on Wednesday, in a move that could open thousands of fighting jobs to female service members.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will make the announcement tomorrow and notify Congress of the planned change in policy.
“We will eliminate the policy of ‘no women in units that are tasked with direct combat,’” a senior defense official says.
But the officials caution that “not every position will open all at once on Thursday.” 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 of its jobs and units not currently integrated and then produce a timetable in which it can integrate them.
The decision comes nearly a year after the Pentagon unveiled a policy that opened 14,000 new jobs to women but still prohibited them from serving in infantry, armor and special operations units whose main function was to engage in front-line combat.
The decision by outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to be formally announced on Thursday and comes after 11 years of non-stop war that has seen dozens of women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They have represented around 2 percent of the casualties of those unpopular, costly wars, and some 12 percent of those deployed for the war effort, in which there were often no clearly defined front lines, and where deadly guerrilla tactics have included roadside bombs that kill and maim indiscriminately.