May 17, 2012

Gillibrand, Sanchez Introduce Bills in Both Houses of Congress Encouraging Pentagon to Repeal Policy Restricting Women from Combat

Legislation Would Require a Report on Repealing 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

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and U.S. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (CA-47) today announced their new legislation introduced in both chambers of Congress 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the Department of Defense to repeal the Ground Combat Exclusion policy for female members of the Armed Forces – an outdated policy that does not acknowledge the combat role our service women in Afghanistan and around the world are already filling successfully.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 - 130 were killed in action, and over 800 servicewomen have been wounded in action.  Despite those numbers, female members are prohibited from formally serving directly in combat. 

The bill, S. 3182/ H.R. 5792 would require a report on implementation of a termination of the Ground Combat Exclusion Policy for qualified female service members of the Armed Forces.  This report must include a proposed effective date for repeal of the policy, a schedule for implementation, an identification of the funds required and an assessment of the impact of the termination on military readiness. 

The restriction on the ability of women to fight in combat prevents female soldiers from advancing up the chain of command, as combat experience is required for certain advancements.  This restriction cuts short the careers of many of female soldiers before they even have a chance to get off the ground. 

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 who they love, it is also wrong to deny combat roles to qualified women solely because of their gender. It is time to pass this common-sense legislation and I am thankful to Congresswoman Sanchez for her leadership.” 

Rep. Sanchez said, “I’m proud to introduce this common-sense legislation alongside my colleague Senator Gillibrand.  Though the Pentagon has taken some small steps to remove restrictions on female service, they have not yet made a real commitment to a formal repeal.  It’s time to do what is right and recognize these women for what they do every day in Afghanistan and around the world.  They have amazing potential and its time we develop their talents and contributions with the same training and opportunities as we give our servicemen.”