Army Affirms Ban on Women in Combat

Army affirms its ban on women in combat (Rowan Scarborough, Washington Times, p. 1)

Army Secretary Francis Harvey has told Congress that the service will keep the Pentagon’s ban against female soldiers in ground combat, including no assignments to units that routinely embed with war fighters. The Army had been reviewing the 1994 ban to see whether changes should be made to coincide with a sweeping transformation plan for combat brigades. Some officers at the Pentagon advocate lifting the ban on embedding, or collocating, sex-integrated support units with infantry, armor and other combat units.


Mr. Harvey sent a memo to four senior members of Congress on Thursday, a day after The Washington Times reported that the president had said in an interview that he opposes any move to change the ground combat prohibition. The president was emphatic: “No women in combat.” The Army, for months, has been reviewing the role of female soldiers. Confidential briefing papers obtained by The Times showed that senior officers advocate lifting the so-called “collocation rule.” This would have allowed women to serve in support units, such as Forward Support Companies, that normally embed with combat units such as armor or infantry and are in fact combat troops.


Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, is spearheading a major transformation of Army brigades by turning them into “units of action” that train and deploy as one. To fully achieve these rapid deployment brigades, some inside the Pentagon have advocated changing the collocation rule so that mixed-sex FSCs can be embedded with them.


Advocates of lifting the collocation cite a need for deploy-as-one brigades, and note that in Iraq there are no clear lines of battle. Islamist terrorists attack support units about as often as they strike all-male units that are clearly combat units.

There’s the rub, of course. Modern combat has no “front lines.” In stabilization operations such as the one currently underway in Iraq–which has been the modal form of U.S. military deployment for more than a decade, a fact that appears not to be changing soon–the difference between an infantryman, a military policeman, or a transportation support soldier is minimal. Excluding women from combat requires keeping them out of war zones, which would logically lead to banning them from the Army. That’s not going to happen, for reasons political and practical.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Zed says:

    As egregious as it is, I’m all for taking women out of service, we have too few women in this country as it is to be sending them off to war. I know the census stats project no real issues but I am still concerned.

    And yes, I might just continue to comment on every other post,

    and yes, I have better things I should be doing, but I’m feelin’ chatty.

  2. Jazz Shaw says:

    I’m opposed to having women serve in combat areas. I don’t even have a good reason for it. I just don’t think it’s right.