Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Senate Armed Services Committee member, announced that Senate-House conference committee report of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2013 includes a provision that requires the Defense Secretary to issue a feasibility report on opening more combat service and career opportunities for qualified female service members. Now that the measure has cleared the bipartisan conference committee, it is expected to pass both houses of Congress this week and will head to the President’s desk for his signature.
Gillibrand led the charge in the Senate encouraging the Department of Defense to repeal the Ground Combat Exclusion policy for female members of the Armed Forces – an outdated policy that does not acknowledge the combat role our service women in Afghanistan and around the world are already filling successfully.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 – approximately 150 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.
“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 Senator 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 one step forward and I will continue the push to increase opportunities for women in the military. When all of our best and brightest serve in combat our country is stronger for it.”
The limitation on the ability of qualified women to serve in more combat positions 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 female service members.