Commission urges Pentagon to let women serve in combat

U.S. military officials should reverse a long-standing policy and allow women to serve in ground combat units, largely because it will help their uniformed careers, a commission on military diversity said Monday.

In a new 20-point report, the Military Leadership Diversity Commission (MLDC) called for the extermination of the “Combat Exclusion Policy.”

“Current [Department of Defense] and service assignment policies prohibit women from being assigned to units that may be involved in direct ground combat. … This means that, for a given occupation, the policies determine to which units a female servicemember may be assigned to do the job for which she has been trained,” the report states.

“However, given the nature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the commission found, “women are currently engaged in direct combat, even when it is not part of their formally assigned role.”

This finding led all the group’s members to reach a “near-unanimous agreement that this aspect of the combat exclusion policies should be eliminated immediately because, given current practices for employing women in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it seems obsolete,” states the report. “The assignment policies constitute an unnecessary barrier to women’s advancement.”

One women’s group applauded the recommendation.

“The disconnect between what the U.S. government and military says women are allowed to do and what they are actually doing is not only a blatant act of gender discrimination, it fosters a hostile work environment where women’s capabilities are assumed rather than assessed,” Anu Bhagwati, a former Marine Corps officer who now is executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), said in a statement.

The commission, created by Congress in 2009, also concluded DoD’s way of thinking about diversity is outdated and mainly aimed at adhering to equal opportunity laws.

To this end, the group recommends DoD adopt this definition of diversity: “Diversity is all the different characteristics and attributes of individuals that are consistent with Department of Defense core values, integral to overall readiness and mission accomplishment, and reflective of the nation we serve.”