Carter to Decide in January on Whether to Open Combat Jobs to Women

First Lt. Anja Nelson, a team leader with a female engagement team assigned to the 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, engages with women and children during a census in southern Kandahar province, Afghanistan. (Photo by Spc. Crystal Davis)

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Wednesday he has all the reports from the services on whether to open up all military jobs to women but that he won't be making any decisions until January.

Between now and then, Carter said he plans to seek more input from the service chiefs and service secretaries on the matter.

Carter said he also wanted the input of Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford in his new role as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, rather than as commandant of the Marine Corps. Last week, Dunford stepped down as commandant and was succeeded by Marine Gen. Robert Neller.

At a Pentagon briefing, Carter renewed his stance that that the services would have to make a good case to convince him that the directive from then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in 2013 that all military occupational specialties must be open to women shouldn't apply.

Panetta gave the military until the end of 2015 to reach decisions on opening up previously closed billets, mostly in the infantry, armor and artillery.

Carter said he'll be reviewing the reports from the services based in the coming months, but he added, "I'm less interested in who said what than in why they're saying it."

As secretary of defense, "I'm committed to seeing this through because attracting the best and staying the best means that wherever possible we must open ourselves to the talents and strengths of all Americans who can contribute with excellence to our force," Carter said.

"As I said before, everyone who is able and willing to serve and can meet the standards we require should have the full opportunity to do so," he said.

Carter said that no specific recommendations have been made to him as yet by the services, and he declined to characterize what was in the reports he received.

"What they owe to, first, the chairman, and ultimately to me by the end of the year, is their analysis, their studies, and their thoughts, both about which specialties, if any, should be left closed to women," he said, "and importantly, how they intend to make any adaptations that are required."

While Carter declined comment on the service reports, other defense officials on background earlier this week noted what has been widely reported -- that the Marine Corps has been the most resistant of the services to opening up all billets to women.

--Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com.

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