This is great news — NPR is reporting that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will lift the ban on women serving in combat roles with an announcement probably tomorrow. This ban has been a longstanding source of contention, especially since contemporary warfare doesn’t provide a bright line between combat and non-combat roles anymore.
But the officials caution that “not every position will open all at once on Thursday.” Once the policy is changed, the Department of Defense will enter what is being called an “assessment phase,” in which each branch of service will examine all of its jobs and units not currently integrated and then produce a timetable in which it can integrate them.
The Army and Marine Corps, especially, will be examining physical standards and gender-neutral accommodations within combat units. Every 90 days, the service chiefs will have to report back on their progress.
And they’ve given themselves a way to exempt some positions if they choose. Still, you’ll remember that the ACLU is supporting four servicewomen in a lawsuit against the Pentagon for their discriminatory practices. This is a good note for Panetta to leave the Pentagon on.