'It's something whose time has come ... a logical outcome of what women have been doing'
WASHINGTON — A military advisory commission is recommending that the Pentagon do away with a policy that bans women from serving in combat units, breathing new life into a long-simmering debate.
Though thousands of women have been involved in the fights in Iraq and Afghanistan, they have done so while serving in combat support roles — as medics, logistics officers and so on — because defense policy prohibits women from being assigned to any unit smaller than a brigade whose primary mission is direct combat on the ground. On Friday, a special panel was meeting to polish the final draft of a report that recommends the policy be eliminated "to create a level playing field for all qualified service members."
If it were approved by the Defense Department, it would be yet another sizeable social change in a force that in the past year has seen policy changes to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly for the first time in the military and to allow Navy women to serve on submarines for the first time.
The suspected gunman in the Arizona mass shooting had photos developed, bought bullets at a Walmart and posted "Goodbye friends" on the Internet before he went on his rampage, authorities said Friday.
The newest move is being recommended by the Military Leadership Diversity Commission, established by Congress two years ago, and expected to send its report to Congress and President Barack Obama in the spring. The Army is doing its own internal study of the question as well.
The new report by a panel of retired and current military officers says that keeping women out of combat units prohibits them from serving in roughly 10 percent of Marine Corps and Army occupational specialties and thus is a barrier to promotions and advancement.