Congress Reacts to Women in Combat Decision

Several members of Congress on Thursday applauded Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s decision to open all military positions to women, while the chairmen of the armed services committees said they will carefully review the implementation plans and documentation. “Letting combat-qualified women serve their country to the fullest of their ability is a smart move that strengthens our nation,” said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a former Army Ranger. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the decision is a critical step. “Men and women can, and should, be held to the same standard in the military,” he said. Rep. Martha McSally, a retired Air Force colonel who was the first woman to fly in combat and the first woman to command a fighter squadron, said the decision “finally recognizes that our military is strongest when it prioritizes merit and capability, not gender—and it’s about damn time.” In a joint statement, SASC Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and HASC Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said the move will “have a consequential impact on our service members and our military’s war fighting capabilities.” They noted that Congress has 30 days to review the implications of the decision, and said they look forward to input from the Pentagon about any changes to the Selective Service Act that might be required. Carter said that issue is “a matter of legal dispute right now,” so he could not comment on whether women will have to sign up for it.