U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Senate Armed Services Committee member, announced that the U.S. Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, which includes Gillibrand legislation that encourages the Department of Defense to repeal the Ground Combat Exclusion policy for female members of the Armed Forces -- an outdated policy that does not acknowledge the combat role our service women in Afghanistan and around the world are already filling successfully. Women currently comprise approximately 15 percent of the Armed Forces, many of whom serve in dangerous roles on the frontlines. In fact, of the more than 280,000 women deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan -- approximately 150 were killed in action, and nearly 900 servicewomen have been wounded in action. Despite those numbers, female members are prohibited from formally serving directly in combat.
"Women are already fighting and dying for our country shoulder-to-shoulder with their brothers in uniform on the frontlines, but without the formal recognition that is essential for them to advance and obtain the benefits they have earned," said Senator Gillibrand. "Just like it was wrong to discriminate against service members because of whom they love, it is also wrong to deny combat roles to qualified women solely because of their gender. This is a strong step forward. When all of our best and brightest serve in combat our country is stronger for it."
Gillibrand's legislation would require a report on implementation of policies to increase combat service and career opportunities for qualified female service members of the Armed Forces, and to record and recognize combat-related service performed by female service members. The DOD report should include recommendations from the Secretary of Defense on future steps required to eliminate barriers to service.
The restriction on the ability of women to fight in combat prevents female Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines from advancing up the chain of command, as combat experience is required for certain advancements. This restriction limits the careers of many of female service members.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 will go to Conference with the House of Representatives, pass the full Congress and go to the President for signature.