The military branches can request exemptions to continue barring women from certain specialties, with the defense secretary deciding.
Lawmakers made clear yesterday that the military may be pulled from both ends in trying to come up with a fair process.
“I would hope the military does not try to come up with arbitrarily high physical standards to say this is what you need for the job in order to keep women out,” Duckworth said. “I don’t think they’ll do that. I trust in the professionalism of our military.”
Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he is “concerned about the potential impacts of completely ending” the ban on women from ground combat.
“If necessary, we will be able to introduce legislation to stop any changes we believe to be detrimental to our fighting forces and their capabilities,” he said in a statement. “I suspect there will be cases where legislation becomes necessary.”
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., a former Marine who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, said the Pentagon will have to explain how allowing women in ground combat will improve combat effectiveness.
“There’s a difference between incidental combat and the specific combat missions of our advanced and elite ground operators,” Hunter said in a statement.
The policy change is likely to have the most impact on the Army and Marine Corps. While 99 percent of all Air Force jobs already are open to women, that drops to about 78 percent in the Army. About 123,000 infantry, armor and field artillery Army positions remain closed.
“There may be some road bumps, but there is real momentum,” said Laura Browder, a professor of American studies at the University of Richmond in Virginia who has studied women in the military. “The military can’t really function if it denies some of its most talented personnel to do what they’ve been trained to do: to be soldiers.”