- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Tuesday that women who can meet the rigorous physical standards should be allowed to serve in front-line combat roles in the Marine Corps infantry and special operations. 

As the deadline looms for military officials to decide whether or not women should be allowed to serve in combat roles, Mr. Mabus, the civilian secretary who leads the Navy Department — including the Marine Corps — made clear that he would have the final say on the decision and that his mind is made up. 

“That’s still my call, and I’ve been very public,” Mr. Mabus told the Navy Times. “I do not see a reason for an exemption.” 

All of the services have until Oct. 1 to submit their requests to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter asking for any exemptions to opening all jobs to women. 

The Marine Corps has not indicated whether it intends to seek an exemption. 

Mr. Mabus said both the Navy and Marine Corps should open all jobs to women, but they should keep physical standards the same. 

“My understanding of how the process works is that I’m the one that asks [the Defense Department] for the exemption,” Mr. Mabus said, Navy Times reported. “Now, other voices will be heard. The way [former Defense Secretary Leon] Panetta lined it up — I think, the way I read it — is that if the [Navy] Department doesn’t ask for an exemption, they will open.”

His call for opening all military occupation specialties to women follows Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert’s assertion in late August that the Navy would not seek an exemption for its legendary SEAL teams.

While Mr. Mabus will have the final say on the Marine Corps‘ own billets, U.S. Special Operations Command must also sign off on the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command troops it oversees, as well as the Navy SEALs. If SOCOM does not seek an exemption, MARSOC and SEAL teams will open to women on Jan. 1, 2016.

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