Combat, Special Ops Roles Opened to Women

The Pentagon will open all military jobs to women, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Dec. 3. “To succeed in our mission of national defense, we cannot afford to cut ourselves off from half the country’s talents and skills,” Carter said in a press conference at the Pentagon. “We have to take full advantage of every individual who can meet our standards.” The policy excluding women from combat roles was rescinded by then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in 2013, who directed that all positions be opened to women by Jan. 1, 2016. However, the Secretaries of the Air Force, Army, and Navy, and the commander of US Special Operations Command were given three years to request exceptions, Carter said, noting about 10 percent of military jobs remain closed to women. The Marine Corps asked to keep some jobs closed to women, but Carter said he chose to make a decision that applies across the joint force. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the USMC leader who made the recommendation, was noticeably absent from the briefing. “In the wake of the Secretary’s decision, my responsibility is to ensure his decision is properly implemented,” said Dunford in a statement released Thursday afternoon. Carter said, “There will be no exceptions,” as long as women “qualify and meet the standards.” The services will have 30 days to open all military occupational specialties, and to provide updated integration plans, Carter said. (See also: Memo from Secretary Carter and DOD Fact Sheet on the Women in Service Review)