GEORGE LITTLE (Department of Defense Press Secretary): Good afternoon.
Following an extensive review, today the Department of Defense is announcing changes to the policies to govern the service of women in the United States armed forces.
As a result of these changes, more than 14,000 additional positions will now be open to women across the force.
Secretary Panetta strongly supports these changes. He recognizes that over the last decade of war, women have contributed in unprecedented ways to the military's mission. They have put their lives on the line to defend the country and demonstrated courage, patriotism and skill. They have proven their ability to serve in an expanding number of roles on and off the battlefield, and these changes will allow them to accomplish even more.
As we make this announcement, I would like to stress that Secretary Panetta believes that this is the beginning, not the end, of a process. The services will continue to review positions and requirements to determine what additional positions may be opened to women. Our goal is to ensure that the mission is met with the best qualified and most capable people, regardless of gender.
To that end, while practical barriers do still exist to removing other restrictions on women serving, we're reviewing those to see if more opportunities can be opened. We need time, experience and careful review to ensure that we do so in a way that maximizes the safety and privacy of all service members.
As a result of today's announcement, the services will gain further experience that will help determine how to implement additional changes down the road. We are also taking new steps, such as developing gender-neutral standards, that will lay the groundwork for other changes in the future.
This remains a priority for Secretary Panetta, and he has directed the services to update him in six months on assignment policy implementation and on the progress made in developing gender-neutral, physical standards.
With that, I'd like to turn it over to the two leaders who guided this review. Joining us here today is Vee Penrod, who is deputy undersecretary [sic -- assistant] of defense for military personnel policy, and Major General Gary Patton, who serves as principal director for military personnel policy. They can detail the specifics of these changes and will be happy to answer your questions.
Ms. Penrod, General Patton, thank you for taking the time to join us here today.
MS. VEE PENROD: Good afternoon. Today, the Department of Defense submitted our report to Congress on the Women in Service Review. The report in its entirety will be made available online following this briefing.
The department, in coordination with the military departments, reviewed laws, policies and regulations as required to determine if any changes were needed to ensure female members have an equitable opportunity to compete and excel in the U.S. armed forces.
While the services have opened additional positions to women over the years, for this report, Congress provided us an opportunity to review all gender-restricted policies from a broad department-wide perspective with all services' senior leaders at the table. The report was anticipated to be delivered to Congress in October. However, the department required additional time to ensure this important issue received the fullest consideration within the Department of Defense, the military departments and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
I will now provide a brief overview of the report which reflects the secretary of defense's vision of removing barriers that prevent service members from rising to the highest level of potential and responsibility that their talents and capabilities warrant.
The report's findings represent the concerted efforts of all the military services and have the highest confidence of both the department's civilian and military leaders. The report recommends changes to current assignment policy and includes the required notification to Congress of our intent to open over 14,000 positions to women. These positions were identified pursuant to two policy- related changes that are each significant in their own right. Opening these positions implements lessons from over a decade at war where women were proven exceptionally capable and indispensable to mission accomplishment.
Let me begin by describing the direct ground combat unit assignment prohibition that was enacted in 1994 by then Secretary of Defense Les Aspin, which is provided here in this chart. It's also referenced in paragraph one of the executive summary. This policy expressly prohibits assigning women to direct ground combat units below the brigade level.
The Army, Marine Corps and the Navy have identified 1,186 positions at the battalion level which should be open to women. These positions are in occupational specialties that are currently open to women, to include intelligence and communications. But women were prohibited from being assigned there because the positions are in direct combat units below the brigade level.
The Secretary of Defense has approved exceptions to this policy, allowing the opening of these positions. And the report contains the required notification to Congress of this change.
The experience gained by assigning women to these select positions will help assess the suitability and relevance of the direct combat unit assignment prohibition and inform potential future policy changes.
The 1994 policy, which remains in force today, also contains four provisions that allow the secretaries of the military departments to restrict certain positions based on gender. The secretary of a military department may restrict a position to women if the cost of berthing and privacy are prohibitive; units or positions are required to colocate and remain with direct combat units; units are engaged in long reconnaissance and special operations forces missions; and job- related physical requirements exclude the vast majority of women service members.
It is the second reason, relating to colocation, shown on the chart in red, which drew considerable attention during our review. As you can see from this chart -- and this is the upper chart here -- the battle space of Operation Desert Storm was generally linear in nature -- and that's the upper part of the chart -- and provided for secure areas where forces could recover and perform general combat support functions such as maintenance.
Since that time, the battle space we have experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan is quite different, as depicted on the bottom of the chart.
The enemy is highly mobile and travels amongst the civilian population. Counterinsurgency and stability operations missions to combat such an enemy require our forces to be distributed across the country in large and small bases. These bases are now the locations where forces recover and general combat support functions occur.
As you can see, there is no rear area that exists in this battle space. Forces of all types and missions are required to be in close proximity and flow between locations. Continuing to restrict positions based solely on being colocated with direct combat units has become irrelevant. As a result, the department determined the colocation provision of the 1994 policy should be eliminated. This change in policy is communicated to Congress is our report.
Eliminating the colocation provision will now expand career opportunities for women, provide a greater pool of qualified members from whom our combatant commanders may draw, reduce the operational tempo by increasing the total number of personnel available for assignments, and provide commanders greater flexibility in meeting combat support mission requirements.
The elimination of this provision will result in over 13,000 Army positions being open to women. These positions were previously closed because they were required to colocate with direct combat units. The Army is the only military service who has identified positions that were closed solely due to the colocation provision.
The department is committed to continuing our efforts to open additional positions by replacing gender-restricted policies with neutral physical standards based on tasks our military members are required to perform in the course of their duties. This is an area of emphasis for us as we move forward beyond the initial steps reported as part of this review.
The department intends to implement the changes discussed today upon the completion of the statutorily required congressional notification period of 30 days of continuous session of Congress, which is expected to occur later this spring.
This concludes the overview of the report. General Patton and I would be happy to take your questions. Thank you.
MR. LITTLE: All right, to start, Ben.
Q: What is -- given your description of the lack of clearly defined front lines in the -- in the past decade of war, what is the reason for not simply lifting the combat exclusion altogether?
MAJ. GEN. PATTON: You know -- well, we have talked about the numbers of positions opened by the elimination of co-location. And then we have the exceptions to policy. The exclusion piece that you're mentioning, that's really addressed in that top -- that top point there that had prevented women from being assigned below the brigade level.
And so what the exceptions to policy do is allow us the opportunity now to place women in specialties that they've already been assigned to, they've been working in, but not working at that level below the brigade. So it allows us to place women in those positions in the Marine Corps, the Navy and the Army. They're generally junior officers, midgrade officers and midgrade noncommissioned officers.
And as the secretary said, this is the beginning, not the end. So what we're going to do is we'll be able to look at the experiences by -- from those women, combine that with the collective experiences from the war and then use that to inform future policy decisions and changes that may occur.
Q: A few months ago the -- I think it's the Military Leadership Diversity Commission came out with this report that said that -- recommended eliminating all the bans and saying that some of these restrictions were limiting women's ability to rise to senior levels in the department. And I'm wondering if -- after the department's internal review, did you find that that was the case, that some of these restrictions are in fact limiting women's ability to be promoted into the senior levels of the department? Or do you, after reviewing, just disagree with that analysis?
MS. PENROD: What we did is we asked RAND to help us review the data, and we found that if you look at promotions in fields where women currently serve or are partially open, that there was no disadvantage in the promotion rate of women. You look at the requirement for general officers in the Army, yes, most come from the combat arms; however, the career fields that women currently serve in, they do very well. And we believe that this is a right step forward as we open these additional positions to women, and that is part of the assessment, is how that will work for women.
MR. LITTLE: Tom.
Q: First of all, do you have any sense when you're going to come up with these gender-neutral physical standards? And if you could discuss, what would they likely look like?
MS. PENROD: We do not have at this time a time frame. However, what the secretary has asked us to do is -- the services will report back in six months and we will continue to have the services report back on their timeline for developing the standards. Again, we've asked RAND to help us gather the data, and we're basing this on physiological standards. We know there's a lot of material out there already. We know that Canada and Australia have looked at this. And the Marines are already stepping out and looking at those standards, as is the Army.
Q: So it would be like running the same pace, carrying the same load, that kind of --
MS. PENROD: No, that's different. It's more for your military occupational specialties. Currently we have standard -- all specialties have standard. If you look at the chart, at the fourth reason for women to be restricted, if you looked at a specialty that -- the predominant reason why a majority of women could not serve in that specialty, then the services close that specialty.
What's happened is, fast-forward 10 years, with the experience of combat, what women have been able to do; also equipment's changed, the -- just like the battle space, warfare has changed.
We also find both men and women are coming back with physical injuries, due to the nature of warfare -- backs, knees -- and the services have decided that you need to look at the standards, both for men and women, and determine what the right standard should be.
Q: And one more thing: If -- could you give us a sense of when you hope to have enough information to at least address the issue of whether women can serve in infantry units and other combat units?
MS. PENROD: We don't have that data at this time.
Q: Is it two years, three years -- any sense?
MS. PENROD: I think the -- with the six-month update, we can provide you more information, but at this time, we can't provide that information.
MR. LITTLE: (Inaudible) --
Q: Can I just ask Anne's (sp) question again and try to get a really clear answer? What is the reason right now that women are not allowed to serve in the infantry? What is the reason you have concluded right now that you didn't change this?
MS. PENROD: Well, actually there's -- if you look at the chart, there's a couple of reasons. One is the direct combat rule performing in?..
Q: But I'm just saying -- the rationale behind it; I don't -- I can understand the rule as written. What is the rationale behind it right now?
MS. PENROD: The current standards that exist for infantry, you -- all men cannot meet those standards. And the decision, if you look at the fourth reason, again, if the majority of women cannot serve in that MOS, the service secretary may restrict that MOS. That is with the Army.
Q: But how do you know if you can't -- if you don't open it up to them? How do you know they can't serve unless you …
MS. PENROD: That's based on experience with the leadership and experience in combat, and I trust that the service leadership understands those standards.
Q: Based on the belief that they can't serve. Is that what you're saying? The experience of -- I don't understand. (Chuckles.) I don't understand the rationale. If you could say that again?
MS. PENROD: OK. If you look at the standards, every MOS or military occupation specialty --
Q: Right, right.
MS. PENROD: -- has a standard and you'd probably count me out with that --
GEN. PATTON: Yeah, well -- another way to --
MS PENROD: -- Army standard for infantry, that there's so much weight --
Q: Right --
GEN. PATTON: Yeah.
Q: -- right, but say if you -- (inaudible) -- a hundred pounds. But if you don't -- but what about opening up and giving women the chance if they -- there wouldn't be that many women, but what if you see -- because that rules out even offering women the opportunity to try to serve if that's --
MS. PENROD: (Inaudible) -- yeah.
Q: -- on the basis that they probably can't; is that what you're saying?
MS. PENROD: No, that's not what we're saying. We're saying that we are opening up positions that they already serve in and assign them to below the brigade level, to infantry battalions. The services will assess that performance and -- which will look to further open up more specialties.
MR. LITTLE: General, do you want to add this? I mean --
Q: Can you clarify something on that?
MR. LITTLE: And General -- General, do you want to --
GEN. PATTON: I'll just add to what Ms. Penrod said. So, you know, that exception to policy there was -- we took the request from the services on that. The Marines came in with a number of military occupational specialties at officer and NCO, and the Army came in with a similar request and made -- so the service secretaries made a request for exception to that policy. They picked positions where women have already been serving.
So now -- and I'll give you an example. One example is a medical NCO. Women have been serving as medical NCOs -- that's -- that has been an open specialty for women for quite some time. So now we're taking a woman who's already experienced in that at the -- at the NCO and the officer level and assigning them according -- this is an exception to policy -- to an infantry battalion. And the experience of that woman -- those women and others in other specialties like that, generally in the support area, will inform future policy changes.
And I think that's the key point the secretary has made, is that this is the beginning, not the end. So, you know, we'll start with women in specialties they've already been serving in. They're already experienced. We put them in an infantry battalion and the experiences that they give us back, their assessments, their feedback and so forth, they're going to help us, I think, down the -- in the long term make decisions that would affect other changes.
MR. LITTLE: Charlie?
Q: I just want to clarify something on that. OK, if I read this correctly -- tell me if I'm wrong -- a woman who's an intelligence officer or an AG officer -- could be like an S-2 or an S-1 in an infantry battalion under the new policy, correct?
GEN. PATTON: Yes.
Q: But not an infantry branch officer?
GEN. PATTON: That's correct.
GEN. PATTON: Yes, so let me just expand on that. So the Army has -- and the Marines, have identified a number of military occupational specialties for officers and NCOs. These are specialties women are already serving in. The example you gave was perfect -- I mean, in the intelligence field.
MS. PENROD: Right.
GEN. PATTON: On the officer side, you take an intelligence officer who's been serving somewhere other than an infantry battalion and assign her as the intelligence officer -- or the S-2, you said -- at the battalion level of an infantry battalion. Women haven't been doing that.
On the NCO side, it could be intel analyst or intel noncommissioned officer of the intel section. And so, you know, they're serving at that battalion staff level where they have not been assigned in the past, but they're -- we're moving women into those positions that have already been trained and have already gained experiences in those specialties in other units.
MR. LITTLE: (Inaudible.)
Q: I'd like to try Elizabeth's questioning -- you know, in Iraq and Afghanistan, one way that the military got around these rules was to have attachments to these units --
MS. PENROD: Right.
Q: -- where women were actually serving alongside combat soldiers every day, just as an attachment rather than under the definition of those you're spelling out today. Why can't that experience be enough of a way to measure whether women can serve in combat now?
GEN. PATTON: Well, I think some of the exceptions we're seeing here we don't -- we probably don't have the full depth and breadth of experiences based on those attachments but -- so that's why the Army asked for an exception of policy in a -- in a number of specialties, along with the Marines: health noncommissioned officer, logistics, supply, administration and those type of -- and intelligence and so forth.
And so the experiences of those women who have been attached in those -- in those units, combined with the ones we're going to be assigning here with this exception of policy -- you know, their collective experience is going to inform the future decisions we're talking about -- future policy changes.
Q: Right, but why -- I mean, it seems to me we're winding down -- we wound down in Iraq; we're winding down in Afghanistan. Wouldn't those be the best metrics in terms of whether women could serve in combat? That is, what is missing in your research that you haven't been able to gain from the attachment units, those who have served alongside combat and those who are already serving in those jobs at the -- at the brigade level?
GEN. PATTON: Well, you know, I think what we're gaining here is the assignment of women in those positions.
And secondly, in the area that we're addressing, the co-location elimination, women have not been serving in those specialties. We have had zero tank mechanics in the Army because that's been a specialty been -- has been excluded to women. And so this is an incremental step in taking experiences of the attachments, the future experiences of women we assign, recruiting, training and then assigning women in these brand-new open specialties that I mentioned that are now open because of the elimination of co-location.
I think all those things combined is why the secretary wants us to come back in six months, have the service chiefs report how we're doing on implementing this, how we're doing on developing standards and how we're doing in terms of identifying new positions at that point that could be open to women.
MR. LITTLE: David.
Q: So when you talk about gender-neutral standards, help me understand that a little. Does that mean essentially that this rule that if 50 percent of females can't pass the standards, then the whole MOS is closed to females -- Essentially, the reference to females would be removed, and you would simply have standards that if anyone could meet, he or she would be -- would be open to go into that field?
MS. PENROD: That's correct.
Q: Am I understanding that --
MS. PENROD: That is correct. And that is the goal.
Q: Why don't you have that already? That seems like something that's intuitive. I guess I don't fully understand why that isn't the case already.
MS. PENROD: Well, if you go back to the -- when the policy was written -- this is 1994 -- and services looked at, what MOSs or specialties may I open, and the decision by the service secretaries, if a specialty at this time where the majority of the women could not be assigned to that specialty, it just remained closed.
And I just want to piggyback on what you said. It's exactly it. What women have been doing in the last 10 years has been very informative. And the services -- realized not only do we need to relook those standards for that reason, but also for the change in training, equipment and how we conduct operations.
So I -- we see that as a very positive move -- step forward.
MR. LITTLE: Craig.
Q: Ms. Penrod, as General Patton said, you were going to -- this is the beginning, not the end. You're going to come back in six months to the secretary. Your report is already 10 months late to Congress. You've been at war for 10 years, over 10 years of women in the field, as a number of people have pointed out. You served in the military.
MS. PENROD: I did.
Q: Are the services dragging their feet on this?
MS. PENROD: I think to make a change this large and while you're at war is difficult. And with the drawdown of Iraq, you've had these experiences from combat leaders come back. You have experiences that -- you know, women have come back, anecdotal stories. And with all that information, and the Congress saying, you know, you need to look at this.
And I'm very pleased about it. I believe that when I came in, it was -- you know, I hate to ace? myself, but in 1971 we were 2 percent of the force. And to apply was considered a radical change for women. And I went to Minot, North Dakota, because women couldn't be assigned to Minot, North Dakota, before; it was too cold.
So when I look at this, it's -- I think it's very exciting for me to see that the -- not the -- we weren't telling the services to do this.
The commanders were coming to us and saying, look, we need to change these policies. And sometimes, right when it's -- we're at war, things -- a lot of things are going on, and it may appear too slow to some. But I see this as a great step forward. And as we've said?, the secretary's committed to removing barriers.
GEN. PATTON: I'd like to just expand on, or add my point on that as well, in addition to what Ms. Penrod said. You know, I'm a career infantryman, and through the lens of 45 months in combat over the last number of years, I think this is the right thing to do.
MS. PENROD: Yeah, I do.
GEN. PATTON: We recognize the expanded role of women in the military. But, you know, the way I look at it, as a former infantry battalion commander, I had -- I wish I had the opportunity to bring women in my battalion. It expands the talent pool.
MS. PENROD: Yeah.
GEN. PATTON: And so these positions of intel officer, intel analyst, you know, supply officer and so forth are -- will now expand the talent pool, where now you have all qualified people, regardless of gender, being able to, you know, compete or be assigned to those key positions in an infantry battalion.
Q: If women could meet the physical requirements, the gender-neutral physical requirements, should they be allowed to serve in an infantry company or something?
GEN. PATTON: I think that's something we have to look at in the -- in the future, in the way ahead. And the secretary is very clear he wants us to come back to him with that feedback.
Q: Well, I'll ask your personal opinion. You had 45 months of these -- as you said-- you've been there --
GEN. PATTON: I've seen -- I've seen women in combat perform in expanded roles. I'm very proud of them. They're brave women along with their male counterparts; and a lot to be said for their contributions and experiences over the last decade of war. And I'm proud of what we're doing here today. It's the right thing to do.
MR. LITTLE: (Inaudible.)
Q: How many positions will still remain closed after today's change -- closed to women? And how many of those are available for attachment, if not assignment -- if that's the correct distinction?
GEN. PATTON: Yeah, I can't break out the attached versus assigned. We'll have to take that question. But in terms of positions remaining closed, about 238,000 across the force, all services. But, you know --
MS. PENROD: The good news is, 14,000 are being opened.
GEN. PATTON: Yeah, we want to focus on the ones that are open. And the Air Force already has 99 percent positions open. The ones excluded are generally in the special ops arena, combat controller and so forth. The Army, with these additions today, will have about 69 percent open. Those that remain closed will be infantry, artillerymen, cavalry, tank crewmen, special forces and so forth. The Marines are a lot like the Army, and then the Navy -- the Navy will have 88 percent positions open, and those that remain closed are in the submarine and special warfare categories.
We can give you more on that breakdown after this if you need that.
Q: Yes, sir.
Q: How soon are we going to see some of these assignments take place? You've got the 30 days, you've got the six-month window here. At the end of 30 days, will we see women immediately going into these roles?
MS. PENROD: The services plan to start immediately, but it will be part of their normal rotation. They're not going to -- if a -- let's say a male is -- or a man is occupying the position, they're not going to move them out to allow a female to take that position. So it will be part of the normal rotation. And that's part of the data that we will request from the services as they open up these positions.
GEN. PATTON: And just two things to add to that. First, 30 days doesn't mean 30 days on the calendar from now. It's 30 days of continuous congressional session, which we don't project to occur until the springtime, later in the spring.
MS. PENROD: Right.
GEN. PATTON: So that's the first point.
The second point is, on the timing, you have some positions which, like Ms. Penrod said, will be open fairly immediately in terms of normal assignment.
And those are the ones for the exception to policy, because there's already women out there in the Army and Marines doing these specialties; they're just in the wrong -- they're in a different place.
On the -- on the co-location, we're opening up new specialties to women. So there are no women tank mechanics out there. So you have to recruit them, you send them to training, and then you assign them. So we're a little bit further down the road in terms of the -- putting women in the positions that -- for the specialties that are eliminated by co-location.
Q: But then are you going to have any real information to give in six months to make further decisions?
GEN. PATTON: For the -- for sure we would in the -- from the training base, you know, for those new positions being recruited and trained, and for sure we would on those positions being occupied -- in accordance with the exception to policy, because a lot of these positions, we'll look for women on the same basis as these units. You know, you'll go to base X; you'll see a woman in a -- in a lateral or adjacent unit performing as an intel officer, and then they'll make that move there locally. So I think probably more data on the latter and less at the six-month point on the former.
MR. LITTLE: We have time for two more questions.
Q: At one point in this report, you talk about the -- eliminating these provisions, especially when it comes to something like special operations, will take significant research, time and effort to achieve, so no change is recommended at this time. Wasn't that part of the point of this -- of this study? As Craig pointed out, it's already been significantly delayed. And you know, when you look at the six months ahead, what exactly are you going to be delving into there? You know, when do you hope to have some kind of answer on things like special operations and infantry positions for women?
MS. PENROD: Well, again, the -- we're opening up over a thousand positions below brigade level.
Individuals will have to, you know -- serve in those assignments and assess how the -- that -- the individual performed and also the process of -- you still have the privacy issues that we need to deal with, safety, welfare of the individuals. So that will take time, and we cannot predict how long and how much data we will need before we can make a decision to move forward.
However, the Army will continue to look at MOSs -- in discussion of the Army that they can continue to open up. So you don't -- we don't have to wait for the six months, that they -- as they start this process and they find that they can move forward, we will just continue to notify Congress because every time we change or add new positions, it requires a notification to Congress.
Q: And what kind of privacy issues and conditions issues, I mean, like you said -- it’s too cold for women to serve--
MS. PENROD: Yeah, but we've come a long -- we've come a long way since then--
But we used to have the berthing issues on ships and, as they retrofit or make new ships, you need to change those. Also -- and I think the experience from the last 10 years to look at, how did that play out? Did we have privacy concerns? Were there issues that we need to address? And that's in the information that we will use to help inform the answer.
MR. LITTLE: Can we just -- have the last questions?
Q: This review was mandated by Congress. If the Congress had not mandated this, what would have happened? Were you already on a track to do this on your own? You keep talking about a decade of war and lessons learned. Were you in a mode to learn from those lessons and proactively do this? Or why did it take time to do this?
MS. PENROD: I believe at the -- the Army leadership, senior leadership and the Army, Marine Corps were already looking at, we need to change policy based on information learned over the last 10 years.
Again, you know, we are at war. Sometimes things take longer than you would like, but there's no doubt in my mind that the senior military leadership would be telling us we need to change these policies.
It's -- it just all came together at the same time.
Q: But it would be fair to say they were resistant opening up more occupations until they study it. Is that fair -- Army and Marine Corps leadership?
MS. PENROD: No, that's not fair, because I think the Army is continuing to look. And this is -- they started this, then --
Q: Sure, but that's also a way of kicking the can down the road and saying, you know --
MS. PENROD: No, I see that as very positive but they're looking -- already looking forward to -- you know, I came -- I have the 755 that really opened it up below brigade level. They've already approached us, said, we may have more. And I think you're going to continue to see progress as this goes along.
Q: And if I could morph that into a question -- I'm sorry, just one point -- well -- I’m sorry -- because you see a lot of us who have been over there covering Iraq and Afghanistan, we've seen women for years out there with infantry troops. I saw a woman who was part of a personal security detail. I saw one with a training team at Kandahar, one doing house-to-house searches in Baghdad. So for us to sit here today and listen to this, it's like, well, wait a minute; what do you say to those women who have actually been doing this stuff, that they have to wait six months, a year or longer? They're already doing it. Are you saying you just don't have enough data to see if every woman could do it? Is that what you're saying?
GEN. PATTON: Well, they're doing it in specialties they've been trained to do. And they're in units have been opened to women. So what we're talking about here is a change where we're now putting women into battalion-level staffs and so forth where they haven't been before.
And so I think what we build in is, you know, we're going to put experienced NCOs and officers in those units. We're going to get their feedback. We're going to continue to assess other things, and the secretary has told the services that -- you know, again, I hate to keep going back to it, but it's the beginning, not the end. And he said he's committed, as are the services, in eliminating barriers to assignment based on gender. So that's where we're going with this.
MR. LITTLE: All right. Let me make one last point, and then we'll exit stage right.
A couple of you have mentioned the delay in the report, and yes, it has been delayed. But let me make the following clear. The process was rigorous and thorough. The secretary and senior military leaders wanted this done right and not done quickly. That's an important -- it's an important point to bear in mind.
They solicited additional views on these issues, and the delay actually resulted in more positions being opened to women than had we submitted this report earlier.