Pentagon lifts ban on front line combat for women

Jan 24, 2013

First Female Unrestricted Line Officers Qualify In Submarines

In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Navy, Lt. j.g. Luke Leveque, assigned to the Gold crew of the ballistic missile submarine USS Maryland, pins the submarine officer warfare device on his wife, Lt. j.g. Marquette Leveque, assigned to the Gold crew of the ballistic missile submarine USS Wyoming, at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay on December 5, 2012 in Kings Bay, Georgia. Leveque is one of three Sailors to become the first female unrestricted line officers to qualify in submarines. Credit: U.S. Navy/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has announced officially that women will no longer be banned from front-line combat. On paper, women have been excluded since a 1994 Pentagon rule, but in practice tens of thousands have served in conflict. That fact sparked lawsuits by service women who were precluded from promotion without accredited combat experience.

This  move was recommended by the military itself – the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It also appears to have bipartisan support in Washington. However, there are soldiers – from ranks high and low – that worry it could weaken unit cohesion and that it ignores gender differences.

How will this change affect the war-fighting capability of U.S. Forces? How have women been serving the military until now? What exclusions might have to be made, such as Navy SEALs and similar Special Forces units? What exceptions will be made for military families – could both spouses go to the front lines? How long could it take to integrate these changes? How could this affect unit cohesion in infantries and other teams that don’t currently have female involvement?

In recent times, we’ve learned of more sexual assaults of service women – what’s being done to fix that? Legal scholars are saying women will no longer be excluded from selective service – what does that mean? And what about if conscription ever returned?


Hal Kempfer, retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel and CEO of KIPP (Knowledge and Intelligence Program Professionals)

Ariela Migdal, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project

Mr. Kingsley Browne, Professor of Law at Wayne State University Law School, author of “Co-ed Combat: The New Evidence That Women Shouldn’t Fight the Nation’s Wars”

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