Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus released a statement today regarding the decision by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to lift the ban on women in combat in the United States military.
It reads as follows:
"I fully support Secretary Panetta's decision to rescind the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule, which removes barriers preventing women Sailors and Marines from reaching their potential in certain fields.
"I am pleased the Navy has completed an initiative I announced several months ago to open up one of the few areas not currently available to women, that of service on Virginia Class submarines (SSNs). Three years ago we announced a policy change allowing women to serve in guided-missile attack (SSGNs) and ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) and this is a planned continuation of that effort. Newly commissioned female officers have been selected for assignment to Virginia Class submarines upon successful completion of the Naval Nuclear Powered training pipeline. We expect these officers, along with female Supply Corps Officers, to report to their submarines in FY15. We also plan to include female enlisted Sailors in this process. The Navy has a long history of inclusion and integration and I am proud we have achieved another important milestone during my tenure as Secretary.
"Along with the changes already being made in the submarine force, rescinding the Direct Ground Combat and Assignment Rule allows Navy to expand opportunities for women in our riverine forces and in Navy billets that directly support Marine infantry operations like hospital corpsman and chaplains.
"The Marine Corps has already opened officer and staff noncommissioned officer billets in unrestricted mission occupational specialties in ground combat units that were previously closed to women such as artillery, armor, low altitude air defense and combat engineer battalions. We will continue to seek female volunteers to train at the Infantry Officer Course to prepare women to serve in the infantry as part of a comprehensive research plan that will inform the Marine Corps' implementation plan.
"The Marines are dedicated to maintaining the highest levels of combat readiness and capitalizing upon every opportunity to enhance our warfighting capabilities and the contributions of every Marine--it's simply the right thing to do.
"As the Marine Corps moves forward with this process, our focus will remain on combat readiness and generating combat-ready units while simultaneously ensuring maximum success for every Marine.
"Women continue to serve bravely and honorably at sea and ashore. Drawing from their talent in additional assignments increases our ability to maintain readiness.
"We will meet the goals and timeline laid out by Secretary Panetta and we will continue to deploy the finest naval force in the world."