Kirsten Gillibrand United States Senator for New York

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Key Senate Committee Passes Legislation Requiring a Report on Defense Department Plans to Open Combat Roles to Women

Legislation Would Require a Report on Changing Current Policy That Officially Bars Qualified Servicewomen from Combat Roles, Women Already Serving On The Frontlines to Defend the Country, More Than 15% of Active Duty Military Forces Are Women

May 25, 2012

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Senate Armed Services Committee member, announced today that a key Senate panel passed legislation which encourages the Department of Defense to repeal the Ground Combat Exclusion policy for female members of the Armed Forces – an outdated policy that does not acknowledge the combat role our service women in Afghanistan and around the world are already filling successfully. Women currently comprise approximately 15 percent of the Armed Forces, many of whom serve in dangerous roles on the frontlines. In fact, of the more than 280,000 women deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan - 144 were killed in action, and nearly 900 servicewomen have been wounded in action.  Despite those numbers, female members are prohibited from formally serving directly in combat. 

Senator Gillibrand said, “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. 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 and I am pleased that the Senate Armed Services Committee included this reporting requirement in their version of the National Defense Authorization Act.” 

U.S. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (CA-47) said, “I’m glad to see the inclusion of this legislation in the Senate’s NDAA. By requiring this report, the Senate Armed Services Committee is continuing to build the momentum that will one day make repeal of the combat exclusion policy possible.” 

The legislation 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 DOD report should include recommendations from the Secretary of Defense on future steps required to eliminate barriers to service. 

The restriction on the ability of women to fight in combat prevents female Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines from advancing up the chain of command, as combat experience is required for certain advancements.  This restriction limits the careers of many of female service members.