Obama: Opening combat roles to women will make military stronger

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President Obama on Thursday touted his administration’s decision to open all combat roles to women as a change that will strengthen the nation’s armed forces.

“As commander in chief, I know that this change, like others before it, will again make our military even stronger,” Obama said in a statement.

The president likened the historic shift to ending racial segregation in the military and repealing the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that barred openly gay and lesbian individuals from serving.

Women have “time and again have proven that they, too, are qualified, ready and up to the task,” the president said, adding that “in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, our courageous women in uniform have served with honor, on the front lines — and some have given their very lives.”

The move, announced Thursday by Defense Secretary Ash Carter, means that women are eligible to serve in the most elite combat units, including the Army Rangers, Green Berets and Navy SEALs. 

The decision comes after a review of recommendations from service leaders and military officials submitted earlier this year.

But the move was highly controversial, sparking an internal dispute between the Navy and Marine Corps, as well as scrutiny from Republican members of Congress.

Absent from Carter’s announcement was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, who recommended that Marine infantry remain closed to women while serving as Marine commandant.

Dunford’s advice was based on a study his branch conducted this year showing mixed-gender teams were less effective at combat tasks than units that only contained men.

But Navy Secretary Ray Mabus dismissed that study as “flawed.”

Echoing Carter’s remarks earlier Thursday, Obama expressed confidence both Dunford and he would “implement this transition — as they have others — in a responsible manner that maintains military readiness and the unparalleled professionalism and strength of our armed forces.”

The House and Senate Armed Services committees announced they would review the Pentagon’s new policy, citing their “essential constitutional role” overseeing the armed forces.

Carter’s “decision to open combat positions to women will have a consequential impact on our service members and our military’s warfighting capabilities,” committee chairmen Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said in a joint statement Thursday.

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