defence Secretary Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey officially announced Wednesday the Pentagon’s plans to integrate women into previously-closed combat jobs across the country’s defence forces.”This is where we have been heading as a department for more than 10 years,” Panetta told reporters. “It will take leadership and it will take professionalism to implement these changes. Not everyone is going to be able to be a combat soldier, but everyone is entitled to a chance.”
The announcement means women will soon be afforded the opportunity to try for occupational specialties that are currently male-only, such as infantry or special operations forces like Navy SEALs. “I think we all believe there are women who can meet those standards,” said Dempsey.
Panetta stressed that opening up previously-closed opportunities to women would not compromise readiness, morale, or war-fighting capabilities.
“If members of the military can meet qualifications, they should have the right to serve,” Panetta said.
Both Panetta and Dempsey stressed that qualifications needed for direct combat roles would not be reduced. As it stands now, the service branches are to develop specific plans for how the integration will occur, and implement them over the next three years.
There would still be some exclusions, although no specific units or jobs were mentioned. The new policy however, means that the burden is pushed to the service, which would have to provide detailed analysis and explanation of why women are being excluded from a certain specialty.
“There have been some tough challenges along the road, whether they be racial barriers, which we’ve overcome; Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, dealing with women,” said Panetta during further questioning. “All of these issues have not come easy. They’ve required a lot of work, a lot of dedication, a lot of leadership.”
Panetta cited other examples of successful integration with women in previously-closed positions, saying “the fact is, women are now in submarines… women are fighter pilots now.”
“They’ll have to be some adjustments in some situations, based on experiences we’ve already had, [but] I think we can meet those challenges,” he said.
President Obama also released a statement Wednesday expressing strong support for the decision, saying, “every American can be proud that our military will grow even stronger with our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters playing a greater role in protecting this country we love.”
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.