Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has announced officially that women will no longer be banned from front-line combat. On paper, women have been excluded since a 1994 Pentagon rule, but in practice tens of thousands have served in conflict. That fact sparked lawsuits by service women who were precluded from promotion without accredited combat experience.
This move was recommended by the military itself - the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It also appears to have bipartisan support in Washington. However, there are soldiers - from ranks high and low - that worry it could weaken unit cohesion and that it ignores gender differences.
How will this change affect the war-fighting capability of U.S. Forces? How have women been serving the military until now? What exclusions might have to be made, such as Navy SEALs and similar Special Forces units? What exceptions will be made for military families - could both spouses go to the front lines? How long could it take to integrate these changes? How could this affect unit cohesion in infantries and other teams that don't currently have female involvement?
In recent times, we've learned of more sexual assaults of service women - what's being done to fix that? Legal scholars are saying women will no longer be excluded from selective service - what does that mean? And what about if conscription ever returned?
Hal Kempfer, retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel and CEO of KIPP (Knowledge and Intelligence Program Professionals)
Ariela Migdal, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project
Mr. Kingsley Browne, Professor of Law at Wayne State University Law School, author of “Co-ed Combat: The New Evidence That Women Shouldn’t Fight the Nation’s Wars”