Female soldiers sue to end combat ban

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The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, names Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army Secretary John McHugh as defendants, among others.

The Pentagon announced in February that it was opening up 14,000 new positions, most in the Army, to women after a review of its policies on women in combat.

But the Defense Department kept in place a ban on women serving in units below the battalion level with primary combat roles and specialties like infantry or special-operations units.

Pentagon officials said at the time that the opening of new positions was the beginning of its review process on gender and combat, and not the end.

The report released by the Pentagon said that there wasn’t an indication that women had “less than equitable opportunities to compete and excel under current assignment.”

But members of Congress have taken issue with the ban, and like the Army reservists, think it should be lifted.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), an Armed Services Committee member, said after the February report that the changes did not go far enough.

“I am very disappointed the Department of Defense has not repealed its direct combat unit assignment prohibition,” Sanchez said in a statement, “instead choosing to open a few positions at the battalion level to basically create a pilot program, which I believe is ridiculous, considering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were a pilot in themselves.”

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) sent a letter in February to Panetta that said “closing these opportunities to women affect [sic] 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.”

Vee Penrod, deputy undersecretary of Defense for military personnel, said in February that 238,000 positions remain closed to women in the military.

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