WASHINGTON, April 28, 2015 – Following the 2013 reversal of a policy that prevented women from serving in direct ground combat roles, the Defense Department’s unwavering position has been “the right standards and policies” must exist to support it, a senior Pentagon personnel official said here today.
Juliet Beyler, director of officer and enlisted personnel management in the office of the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy, addressed the policy angle of the reversal in a discussion of women in combat at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“The experience gained in Iraq and Afghanistan and DoD discussions in 2010, ’11 and ’12 led the [Joint Chiefs of Staff] to the unanimous conclusion the time had come for us to change our thinking,” Beyler said. “The tipping point had been reached.”
Now, the presumption is that every specialty should be open to women unless a case can be made to keep it closed, said Beyler, who served in the Marine Corps for 23 years. “That was a big [DoD] decision on assignment policy.”
Then-Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey rescinded the direct combat definition and assignment rule in January 2013.
How the Policy Was Changed
“They directed the development of plans, describing how each service and Special Operations Command intends to integrate women into those jobs previously closed jobs [to them],” she said. They also looked at how to review and validate their occupational standards to ensure they’re up-to-date, operationally relevant and applied gender neutrally.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter is expected to announce final decisions early next year on integration of remaining closed occupations and any approved exceptions to policy.
“Since early 2013, DoD, services and Socom have been thoughtfully and thoroughly implementing this policy change,” Beyler explained.
Congress has since been notified by the services that 91,000 jobs once closed to women are now open to them, she said.
Training, Education Paths Opening
“One of the chairman’s guiding principles was to ensure service members are set up for success with viable career paths,” Beyler said. “So, not only are we opening the occupations, we’re identifying and opening all the schools, the skill identifiers and the professional development path. It’s a holistic effort.”
Of the 240,000 positions that are still closed, most are in infantry, armor, artillery and special operations, which Beyler said she knew would be the most difficult to review.
“Through this we expect to learn a lot — possibly more about our existing forces and training pipelines as we will about gender integration, validating the standards regardless of the service member performing them, [and it] will only enhance the quality, readiness and the overall effectiveness of our force,” Beyler said.