By Jeremy Herb
Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Wednesday urging him to allow women to serve in front-line combat positions.
“I believe women should be able to serve in frontline positions if they desire,” he wrote. “Closing these opportunities to women affect their ability to develop a career path in the military and advance to higher ranks ... Doing so in my view would improve military effectiveness, not detract from it.”
That report opened up 14,000 new jobs to women, allowing them to serve formally in combat battalions under specialties already available to women. Previously, women had served in these positions in Iraq and Afghanistan by being “attached” informally to the combat units.
But the review did not end the U.S. military ban on women serving in infantry, armor or special operations forces.
Brown, a member of the Massachusetts Army National Guard, praised Panetta in his letter for opening up the new positions to women but said he wanted the Pentagon to "go further" and allow women to serve in front-line positions.
Some Republicans were less supportive of the idea. GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum said earlier this month he was concerned that emotions would play too great a role if women served on the front lines in combat.
“I do have concerns about women in front-line combat,” he said. “I think that could be a very compromising situation where people naturally, you know, may do things that may not be in the interests of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved."
Santorum the next day clarified his remarks to say that he was concerned about the emotions of men in combat, not women.
The Pentagon has said it will continue to study the issue and may make additional positions open to women in the future. Brown wrote that the department should “not waste time endlessly studying this issue and getting bogged down in bureaucratic red tape.”