Today, U.S. Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and 32-year member of the Army National Guard, wrote Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to express his support for women who seek to serve in combat positions in the military. Senator Brown asked Secretary Panetta to consider the sacrifices made by women in Iraq and Afghanistan and urged him to "go further" in opening more service opportunities to women. The letter is as follows:
February 22, 2012
The Honorable Leon E. Panetta
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310-1000
Dear Secretary Panetta,
I am writing to you today regarding the service provided by women in the armed forces. I commend your decision to implement changes to the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule, which would offer additional opportunities to women in uniform and allow them to serve closer to the front lines. This proposal, however, stops short of allowing women to compete for positions in combat arms units like infantry, armor, and special operations. I encourage you to go further with respect to these disciplines.
As a 32-year member of the Massachusetts Army National Guard, I believe women should be able to serve in front line positions if they desire. I am mindful of the fact that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have claimed the lives of 140 women serving as Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen. Their service was honorable and reflective of the day-to-day reality of modern warfare and the contributions made by female service members.
Closing these opportunities to women affect their ability to develop a career path in the military and advance to higher ranks. We have an obligation to expand the professional opportunities available to women, especially considering their sacrifices. Doing so in my view would improve military effectiveness, not detract from it.
You recently said, "We will continue to open as many positions as possible to women so that anyone qualified to serve can have the opportunity to do so." Also, Chief of Staff of the Army General Ray Odierno said, "To me, it's about talent management. It's about using our best talent in the best positions and I don't ever want to limit our ability and hinder the talent that we have in our Army."
We should not waste time endlessly studying this issue and getting bogged down in bureaucratic red tape. Those deployed to Afghanistan serving on Female Engagement Teams in support of special operations forces illustrates that the Department can take a more aggressive approach to offering additional opportunities to our women in uniform.
Thank you again for your continued leadership and service. I look forward to continuing the dialogue about this very important issue.
SCOTT P. BROWN
United States Senator