The defense authorization bill just passed by the Senate includes a requirement for the Pentagon to prepare a report to Congress on how it plans to open combat roles to women.
Women currently comprise approximately 15 percent of the Armed Forces, many of whom serve in dangerous roles on the frontlines, argued Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). In Iraq and Afghanistan, about 150 women were killed and nearly 900 wounded out of the more than 280,000 women deployed.
“Women are already fighting and dying for our country shoulder-to-shoulder with their brothers in uniform on the frontlines, but without the formal recognition that is essential for them to advance and obtain the benefits they have earned,” said Gillibrand. “Just like it was wrong to discriminate against service members because of whom they love, it is also wrong to deny combat roles to qualified women solely because of their gender. This is a strong step forward. When all of our best and brightest serve in combat our country is stronger for it.”
The legislation comes on the heels of two lawsuits filed this year by female service members challenging the Defense Department’s ban on women in combat. The plaintiffs note that combat experience is required for certain advancements up the chain of command.
Gillibrand’s amendment, which is now in the bill headed to the House for approval, would require a report on implementation of policies to increase combat service and career opportunities for qualified female service members of the Armed Forces, and to record and recognize combat-related service performed by female service members. The Pentagon report should include recommendations from the secretary of Defense on future steps required to eliminate barriers to service.