Military Opening Positions to Women

Air Force Brig. Gen. Gina M. Grosso, right, speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon, Tuesday, June 18, 2013, to discuss women in combat. Air Force Brig. Gen. Gina M. Grosso, right, speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon, Tuesday, June 18, 2013, to discuss women in combat. Charles Dharapak/AP

The Defense Department on Tuesday formally rolled out plans to allow women to enroll in combat jobs, including in special operations forces such as the Army Rangers and Navy SEALS.

Implementation schedules vary by service branch, but overall the military is planning to establish gender-neutral training and standards by September 2015 and fully integrate women according to the new rules by January 2016.

U.S. Special Operations Command head Adm. William McRaven said in a memo that he has contracted with the RAND Corporation to provide “non-biased analysis” by July 2014 on the training standards necessary for integrating women into special operations forces and to determine the “social science” impacts of integrating women into small teams.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel signed off on the plans in May and said in a memo that he was confident the services would “meet the standards required to maintain our warfighting capability” within the new rules.

“The Department remains committed to removing all gender barriers, wherever possible, and meeting our missions with the best qualified and most capable personnel,” Hagel said.

Defense officials intend to implement the new rules carefully, making sure all testing and surveying is done according to the services’ recommendations, Juliet Beyler, director of officer and enlisted personnel management, said during a Pentagon press briefing on Tuesday.

“There is an understanding that doing this might take some time,” Beyler said. “The key is setting it up for success.”

Rear Adm. Tony Kurta said the Navy is planning to allow women to serve on board the Coastal Riverine Force small craft beginning next month, per the service’s implementation plan. Eighty-eight percent of Navy billets are currently open to women, and the service intends to do more to incorporate women in the coming years.

Within the Air Force, less than 1 percent of positions are currently closed to women, according to Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff Brig Gen. Gina Grosso.  She said closed positions are currently marked for special operations forces and that the outcome of the studies done by USSOCOM would determine full implementation of the new plan.

“The Army’s very excited about the implementation of our plan,” Army Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg said. He said the service would rely on past surveying to assess possible tweaks in policy as this process continued.

In January, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey revoked the ban on women’s participation in combat positions. 

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