Military Council Says Women Should Be Allowed in Combat

January 31, 2011 Updated: January 31, 2011

Allowing women to serve in direct combat roles may remove barriers that prevent women from progressing in military rank, according to a draft report from the Military Leadership Diversity Commission (MLDC).

“Increasing the racial, ethnic, and gender diversity of senior leadership requires eliminating barriers that disproportionately affect the advancement of women and minorities,” the report states.

Two points are recommended: better education on career promotion, and the removal of barriers related to assignments.

“An important step in this direction, recommended by the commission, is to remove the restrictions that prevent women from engaging in direct ground combat,” states the report.

In 1948, then President Harry S. Truman called for “equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services,” which the report takes as its premise. “Despite undeniable successes, however, the Armed Forces have not yet succeeded in developing leaders who are as diverse as the nation they serve,” it states. “Minorities and women still lag behind white men in terms of number of military leadership positions.”

The issue caught the attention of Congress, which ordered the creation of the MLDC in 2009, which then began to look into policies that affect promotion of minorities and women in the armed services. The draft report contains their findings.

The 32-member commission behind the report agreed “unanimously” that “the understanding of diversity must and can change throughout DOD. The commission acknowledges that the services have been leaders in providing opportunities for all service members, regardless of their racial and ethnic background.”

Although the U.S. military is becoming more diverse, the commission is pushing for more changes. It says there are two main issues “that need immediate response.”

The first is that the "racial, ethnic, and cultural makeup of the United States is changing” and while minorities are increasing, the non-Hispanic white population is decreasing. The second point is that while new threats emerge, the United States needs broader ranges of skill.

“The ability to work collaboratively with many stakeholders, including international partners, will be critical, requiring greater foreign language, regional, and cultural skills,” the report states.

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