Posted on February 9, 2012 Issues: Military Workplace

(Washington, D.C.)  The Pentagon is expected to announce today that it is lifting its 1994 rule permitting the military services to prohibit the assignment of women to units that physically collocate—operate side by side—with ground combat units.  However, it is not changing its rule that prohibits women from being assigned to units whose primary mission is direct ground combat. The changes will open up approximately 14,000 positions to women, mostly in the Army and Marine Corps, and will take effect this summer, unless Congress acts to block the changes.

The following is a statement from Nancy Duff Campbell, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center:

“We applaud the Pentagon for this step forward, which recognizes the nature of current conflicts and the active role women are already performing in these conflicts.  Until this change, women could not officially be assigned to serve in positions such as medics or communications officers alongside ground combat units—despite the fact that they were fully qualified for these positions and ably performing them elsewhere.  To get around this rule in Iraq and Afghanistan—where there are effectively no battlefield lines—women have been “attached” rather than “assigned” to these units.

But today’s decision does not go far enough. It is time for the Department of Defense to open all military positions and assignments to women.  The remaining restrictions in DOD policy fail to recognize that there are no longer clear-cut front lines and that women have already been performing superbly in a broad range of vital combat roles.  The Department of Defense should ensure the readiness of the force by establishing once and for all that when the best person for a job is a woman, her gender should not stand in the way.”