Approximately 200 Air Force male and female volunteers will undergo physical evaluations as part of the final stage of assessing whether to open to female airmen the remaining careers fields closed to them, announced service officials. “This testing and evaluation phase will develop the final physical test components that best predict operational success for these specific career fields,” said Brig. Gen. Brian Kelly, the Air Force’s director of military force management policy, in the April 21 release. “This effort marks the most stringent process yet by which we are developing occupationally specific physical standards, scientifically measured against operational requirements to match mission needs,” he added. The Air Force has already conducted observational studies and discussions to judge what would be required to open the final 4,300 combat billets to women, in compliance with the Pentagon’s 2013 directive. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James will consult with US Special Operations Command officials following the evaluation, before making her recommendation to the Pentagon. The Defense Department plans to announce around early 2016 which of the remaining closed careers across the services will become open to women applicants, states the release. The Marine Corps earlier this month concluded a two-and-a-half-year trial period with a gender-integrated infantry officer course; no female candidates successfully completed it, reported USA Today. (See also James Seeks Better Retention of Female Airmen.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.