Congressional Commission Studies Women in Combat
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 2011 The Defense Department will review the recommendations of a congressional commission studying the role of women in combat when the group’s report is complete, a DOD official said today.
Congress established the Military Leadership Diversity Commission as part of the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act. The commission’s task is to evaluate and assess policies that provide opportunities for promotion and advancement of minority members of the armed forces.
The commission’s report, expected in March, will include the findings and conclusions of the commission as well as its recommendations for improving diversity within the armed forces.
“DOD will look at the recommendation and go from there,” Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan said. “We’ll see what the nature of the report is when it’s done.”
Congress repealed the combat exclusion laws in the January 1994 National Defense Authorization Act, but requires the services to submit proposed changes to existing assignment policy to Congress for review, Lapan said.
“For example, when the Navy recently changed its policy to enable women to serve on submarines, that would go through that process,” he said. “So the Navy would have to inform Congress it was going to make a change.”
The Marine Corps also triggered congressional review when it opened some intelligence positions to women, Lapan said, but female Marines serving on engagement teams in Afghanistan are in line with department policy on women’s assignments.
Lapan said the U.S. military currently prohibits women from serving in combat units below the brigade level. The Marine women on engagement teams are not assigned to combat units, but are augmenting them for a specific mission, he said.
“Part of the reason to do that was because the infantry battalions that were out there didn’t have any women, because they couldn’t,” he explained.
Women make up 14.6 percent of the active duty military. By service, the percentage ranges from 7.5 percent in the Marine Corps to 19.2 percent in the Air Force, according to statistics compiled by the Women in Military Service for America Foundation.