With an important deadline just a few days away, the debate over whether all military combat positions should be opened to women is intensifying.
The Pentagon has set a goal of opening every job and unit to women serving in the military by January 2016. Wednesday is the deadline by which the armed forces have to submit recommendations and supporting evidence to the Secretary of Defense on what combat positions or units should remain closed to women.
Currently, the Air Force, Army, and Navy are not expected to ask for exemptions from the plan to fully integrate the military.
According to military officials speaking on condition of anonymity, Special Operations Command is also expected to allow women to compete for the most demanding military commando jobs.
On the other hand, the Marine Corps is expected to request an exemption from the requirement. An exemption request by the Marine Corp will be the latest indication that, despite the recent graduation of two women from the Army Ranger School, not all combat roles will be fully open to women.
A Marine Corps study released earlier this month showed that women perform worse than men in combat training, and mixed-gender units do not perform as well as all-male units.
According to a summary of the study, women were worse shooters than men, they got injured more frequently than men, and would be a detriment to unit cohesiveness.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the study prompted a backlash from women’s groups, who said it was biased and poorly conducted.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, the commandant of the Marine Corps, who takes over next week as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recommended that women should not be allowed to compete for certain frontline jobs.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Dunford’s direct civilian superior, opposes the proposal and said that he does not want to prevent women from any type of military service.
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter will make the final decision about which jobs will be opened to women.
“I’m not going to ask for an exemption for the Marines,” Mabus said Sept. 14 in a speech at the City Club of Cleveland. “It’s not going to make them any less fighting effective. In fact, I think they will be a stronger force because a more diverse force is a stronger force. And it will not make them any less lethal.