- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 3, 2015

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced Thursday that the military will open all combat jobs to women, saying the military cannot afford to shut out half of the U.S. population from fighting on the battlefield.

“There will be no exemptions,” Mr. Carter told reporters at a press conference. “To succeed in our mission of national defense, we cannot afford to cut ourselves off from half the country’s talents and skills. We have to take full advantage of every individual who can meet our standards.”

All of the armed services will have 30 days to submit a plan to implement the historic change.

Women had been prohibited from 220,000 positions, roughly 10 percent of military roles, Mr. Carter said, adding that women seeking combat jobs would continue to be held to vigorous physical standards.

“Like our outstanding force of today, our force of the future must continue to benefit from the best people America has to offer,” he said. “In the 21st century, that requires drawing strength from the broadest possible pool of talent. This includes women, because they make up over 50 percent of America’s population.”

The decision to open all combat roles rejects arguments from the Joint Chiefs of Staff that women soldiers should not be allowed to perform certain front-line combat jobs in the Marine Corps. Critics have cited studies showing that mixed-gender units perform worse in combat scenarios than all-male units.

Mr. Carter said the findings of that report were “not definitive, not determinative.”

Two women made history in August by becoming the first women to graduate from the Army’s grueling Ranger School but they could not couldn’t apply to join the 75th Ranger Regiment, an elite special operations force.

Mr. Carter said jobs within the Ranger Regiment and all other previously all-male roles will now be “available” to women.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had been highly critical of the possibility of allowing women to perform military combat roles and had requested that the Marine Corps be largely exempt from the change.

Mr. Carter did not say whether the general was on board with the change but said “he will be a full part of implementation.”

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