House Drops Limitation on Women in Combat Bill

May 25 17:09 2005 Print This Article

California’s Republican Duncan Hunter and other members of Congress Wednesay decided to drop a bill that would have limited the role of women in combat situations.

The provision, which was included in a defense spending bill, would have solidified a 1994 Pentagon policy that bans women from combat and combat related fields in the armed forces.

“This puts Congress in a position where we have enought time to evaluate a policy change and react to that policy change,” said Hunter, Republican Chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

Hunter’s new proposal allows the Pentagon to continue to decide what positions women can serve in as long as Congress is allowed a 60 day heads up.

Critics from both parties as well as the United States Army had expressed concern that the earlier provision would not only have caused confusion among commanders and soldiers, but would have also hurt recriutment and retainment of women as well as slowed the military’s ability to make battlefield staffing choices.

The only female veteran in Congress, Rep. Heather Wilson, along with bipartisan members of Congrees, was to offer an amendment that would have removed the provision from the bill altogether. However, she dropped her amendment once she spoke with Hunter.

“This was unnecessary and unhelpful,” Wilson said. “There will be no restrictions in statute for how the Army can assign women in the military.”

According to policy, women are not allowed in infantry, armor artilery or special forces units. However, as long as Congress is notified beforehand, armed services can open some positions to women in combat areas.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld openly opposed putting the new policy into law, convincing Hunter to compromise.

The overall bill, which sets the spending and defense policy for the next year, was on the Senate floor Wednesday, however a vote was not expected until Thursday.

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