Washington, DC – Arizona Republican Senator and former presidential candidate John McCain welcomed on January 23 the decision of US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to permit women to serve in combat.
In a statement the Senator said, “I respect and support Secretary Panetta’s decision to lift the ban on women serving in combat. The fact is that American women are already serving in harm’s way today all over the world and in every branch of our armed forces. Many have made the ultimate sacrifice, and our nation owes them a deep debt of gratitude.”
McCain emphasized, however, that women would need to meet rigorous criteria to qualify for combat duty, saying, “It is critical that we maintain the same high standards that have made the American military the most feared and admired fighting force in the world – particularly the rigorous physical standards for our elite special forces units.”
Earlier in the day, a senior defense official confirmed the decision to Pentagon journalists, saying that Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were expected to announce the lifting of the direct combat exclusion rule for women in the military.
“I can confirm media reports that the Secretary and the Chairman are expected to announce the lifting of the direct combat exclusion rule for women in the military,” said a senior defense official.
“This policy change will initiate a process whereby the services will develop plans to implement this decision, which was made by the Secretary of Defense upon the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” the official added.
The official provided no further details and did not indicate when the announcement might take place.