Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced on Thursday that the U.S. military will open all combat jobs to women, in a historic decision slated to go into effect in April 2016. The armed services have 30 days to submit their plans to accommodate this change.
In a press conference at the Pentagon, Carter stated, "Our force of the future must continue to benefit from the best people America has to offer in the 21st century. That requires drawing strength from the strongest pool of talent — this includes women, because they make up 50% of our population. We can't afford to cut ourselves off from half of the country's talents and skills."
Carter noted the armed services have been making incremental steps toward this goal since the '70s, when women were allowed to attend military service academies. Recently, two women became the first to graduate from Army Ranger School.
"Today I'm announcing my decision not to make continued exceptions," Carter said. "That is, to proceed with opening all remaining occupations and positions to women. There will be no exceptions."
He noted that all branches of the armed services are united on this decision, with the exception of the the Marine Corps, which expressed some concerns.
"While the Marine Corps asked for a partial exception in infantry ... we're a joint force, and I've decided to make a decision that applies to the entire force," Carter said.
Nonetheless, after a number of surveys and studies which he cited in his statement, Carter reiterated that all units must adopt this new policy.
"That's why we have the finest fighting force the world has ever known," he said. "This is one other way to ensure that the force of the future remains so. Today we take another step toward that continued excellence."