Tags: Battle | Lost | War | Continues | Women | Combat

Battle Lost, War Continues on Women in Combat

Sunday, 29 May 2005 12:00 AM

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., had sought to codify in federal law a 1994 Pentagon policy that barred women from serving in most direct combat roles in armor, artillery, infantry or Special Forces units. Instead of the stronger measure, however, Congress simply instructed the Pentagon to keep it informed about the status of women deployed in war zones, a duty it ostensibly already has under the law.

Donnelly and some allies on Capitol Hill have been gravely concerned about the number of women being killed or maimed in combat operations both in Iraq and Afghanistan. As of today, 35 women were among the 1,649 American troops killed in Iraq, while six women have been killed serving in Afghanistan. Additionally, 279 women in Iraq and three in Afghanistan have been wounded, earning them the Purple Heart Medal.

As NewsMax pointed out in its "GI Jane at War" special, such dramatic casualty statistics make the War on Terrorism unique from the nation' s last major conflict, Vietnam, where eight women died – all military nurses – during a conflict that stretched out over a decade.

Lawmakers like Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., who came out against the Hunter amendment, voiced fear that new restrictions on women in combat would make it more difficult to fill the ranks at a time when the Army has been missing its recruiting targets. Other Democrats portrayed the Hunter legislation as leading to a reduced status for women in uniform.

In the end, the measure on women in combat was pulled from the defense bill that authorized $441.6 billion in regular defense spending plus $49.1 billion in emergency budget authority to support costs related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Donnelly told NewsMax: "You should know that Duncan Hunter accomplished a lot by standing up on the issue of women in combat, and he deserves a lot of credit for finally forcing members of the Congress to take a serious look at it - something they have not done since 1991."

"Chairman Hunter had everything pitted against him, including the U.S. Army, but he held the Republicans together to get that critical vote in the full House Armed Services Committee," Donnelly added. "Pentagon generals got a slap they didn't expect, and that's an improvement on where we were on May 10, before Hunter made his first move."

Meanwhile, pundits have suggested that an outright defeat of the Hunter bill on the floor – had it come to pass - could have been interpreted as a green light for the Army to push the women-in-combat agenda further, and as legislative history for the American Civil Liberties Union's always-percolating lawsuit challenging women's exemption from the draft, the logical next step as the dividing line between the role of the sexes in the military grows vaguer and vaguer.

With the support of Rep. John McHugh, R-NY, Hunter successfully inserted language into the 2006 Defense Authorization Act that would codify Defense Department regulations that exempt women from involuntary assignments in or near land combat units.

During a one-hour debate in the full committee on May 18, which culminated in a voice vote along partisan lines, Hunter and McHugh successfully led the committee in defeating several attempts by Democratic committee members to strike or weaken the legislation.

During the debate, Hunter expressed frustration with Army officials who had provided three different "fact sheets" on the numbers of female soldiers already assigned to land "combat-collocated" forward support companies in the 3rd Infantry Division, which re-deployed to Iraq in January.

McHugh stressed the importance of congressional oversight, and challenged members who opposed the Hunter/McHugh amendment to make the case for allowing the Army to assign women in or near land combat units without congressional oversight or approval.

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Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., had sought to codify in federal law a 1994 Pentagon policy that barred women from serving in most direct combat roles in armor, artillery, infantry or Special Forces units. Instead of the stronger measure, however, Congress simply instructed...
Battle,Lost,,War,Continues,Women,Combat
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2005-00-29
Sunday, 29 May 2005 12:00 AM
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