Skip to comments.U.S. panel backs off ban on women in combat roles
Posted on 05/19/2005 5:17:36 AM PDT by joesnuffy
May 19, 1:22 AM (ET)
The land crew waits for the arrival of the USS Nimitz into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii May 18, 2005. The... Full Image
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By Vicki Allen
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans on a U.S. House of Representatives committee retreated from a sweeping ban on women in combat support and service units, and instead put into law the Pentagon's policy barring women from direct ground combat operations in a bill passed early on Thursday.
The House Armed Services Committee approved the narrower provision after Democrats, along with the Army, said the amendment rammed through a subcommittee last week would close nearly 22,000 jobs to women, undermine morale, and hamper operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We want women to serve everywhere, except in ground combat," said Rep. John McHugh, a New York Republican. McHugh, chairman of the personnel subcommittee, said the amendment would require Congress to vote before women would be allowed in direct combat units.
The amendment was part of a bill authorizing $441.6 billion in defense programs for next fiscal year that the committee approved 61-1 in a marathon session that ended after midnight.
The bill, expected to be on the House floor next week, also calls for another $49 billion in emergency funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The House and Senate Appropriations committees must act to actually provide the money, which would bring costs of the wars to more than $300 billion.
Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, a California Republican, said the money was needed as a "bridge fund" from the Oct. 1 start of the next fiscal year until March 2006, when Congress would approve another emergency supplemental war bill. Congress last week passed an $82 billion emergency bill largely for Iraq and Afghanistan.
The amendment on women in combat would put into law a policy written 11 years ago by former Defense Secretary Les Aspin that was intended to expand the role of women in the military, but keep them from serving in ground battles.
Democrats said even the narrower amendment sent a demoralizing signal to women, was confusing and unnecessary.
"Women don't deserve the kind of shabby treatment this committee's been giving them the last week," said Rep. Vic Snyder, an Arkansas Democrat.
Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a California Democrat, said Republicans were trying to "fix the terrible language" they put into the bill in the subcommittee.
The measure passed by the full committee was a major step back from the amendment passed last week by the personnel subcommittee that would have imposed a sweeping ban on women in combat support units.
Democrats called that amendment an insult to women serving in Iraq, and the Pentagon quickly raised its opposition.
About 20 percent of the combat support and service units in Iraq are comprised of women, although Army policy keeps women from some support jobs such as repairing tanks or artillery in a fighting situation.
Gen. Richard Cody, the Army Vice Chief of Staff, in a letter to the committee said that amendment would "cause confusion in the ranks and send the wrong signal to the brave young men and women fighting the global war on terrorism."
But Hunter, who pushed the measure, said Congress needed to weigh in on whether women should be in the front battle lines, which he said could happen soon unless it intervened.
He also complained there was "massive confusion" in the Army the policies on women in combat roles, and said it needed to be defined.
The Senate Armed Services Committee's version of the defense bill, which it passed last week, does not address the issue.
So what's the difference, danger-wise, between direct combat and combat support roles these days?
If they're gonna be in the middle of the ****, we may as well train them to be in the middle of the ****.
In a decent society they wouldn't be anywhere near the middle of the ****.
In both cases, that is a matter for military leaders to decide, based solely on the needs of the mission. Political considerations from the left or right should not be part of the calculation.
I agree with you and I'm female.
Are some women just that damn ignorant? Who in their right mind would fight for the RIGHT to be on the battlefield.
Women don't belong in combat.
And woman-hearted male prostitutes shouldn't be elected to political office. The only thing these guys are concerned with is getting re-elected, not aggrevating loud-mouthed leftist political groups, and collecting their pensions and perks. Doinig a decent job and the "right thing" are the furtherest things from their corrupt and cowardly minds.
What craven fellows!!!