The House Armed Services Committee approved an amendment yesterday that would block women from serving in new positions related to direct ground combat, unless the Army first obtained Congressional approval to place women in those roles. This amendment replaces an amendment passed by the subcommittee on military personnel last week.
In response to the nature of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has attempted to reorganize units for greater flexibility, according to the Washington Post, and some members of Congress argue that in doing so, the Army has violated a 1994 ban on women in “direct ground combat.” Last week’s amendment would have banned women in the Army from serving in “in any company-size unit that provides support to combat battalions or their subordinate companies,” which would have closed at least 21,925 jobs in the Army that are now open to women, the Post reports. This sparked an outcry from Army officials and those currently serving, as well as House Democrats.
The new amendment, which will soon move to the House floor as part of the 2006 defense authorization bill, affects all military branches and would require the Secretary of Defense to report to Congress on women’s positions in the military since 1994. Representative John M. McHugh (R-NY) described the amendment as a way for Congress “to assume more proactive control over assignment policies,” reports the Post, but Democrats said that in trying to control the 1994 policy, Republicans were ignoring the fact that the policy was intended to “expand opportunities for women” and to prevent closing any positions that were open to women in the military.