Thursday, May 19, 2005

House Republican goes to war

"House Republicans retreated from a sweeping ban on women in combat support and service units, and instead approved legislation backing the Pentagon’s policy barring women from direct ground combat in a bill passed overnight.

The House Armed Services Committee approved the narrower provision after the Army and Democrats said the amendment, rammed through a subcommittee last week, would close nearly 22,000 jobs to women, undermine morale, and hamper operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We want women to serve everywhere, except in ground combat,” said Rep. John McHugh, R-N.Y. McHugh, chairman of the personnel subcommittee, said the amendment would require Congress to vote before women would be allowed in direct combat units."

Iraq combat support now 20 percent women
About 20 percent of the combat support and service units in Iraq are comprised of women, although Army policy keeps women from some support jobs such as repairing tanks or artillery in a fighting situation.

Gen. Richard Cody, the Army Vice Chief of Staff, in a letter to the committee said that amendment would “cause confusion in the ranks and send the wrong signal to the brave young men and women fighting the global war on terrorism.”

But Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., pushed the measure, saying Congress needed to weigh in on whether women should be in "forward support companies," which he said could happen soon unless it intervened.

Those units provide infantry, armor and artillery units with equipment, ammunition, maintenance and other supplies in combat zones. The Army started allowing women to staff such support posts last year and says it is complying with the 1994 policy.

Hunter said there was “massive confusion” in Army policies on women in combat roles, and said it needed to be defined.