Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter testifies during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the U.S. Strategy for Syria and Iraq and its implications for the region, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on December 1, 2015. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Defense will open all combat roles in the U.S. Armed Forces to women, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced on Thursday.
Saying the country can't afford to shut out roughly half of the population from supporting its mission of providing national security, Carter said there will be no exceptions.
"We have to take full advantage of every individual who can meet our standards," Carter told the Washington Times at a press conference. "In the 21st century, that requires drawing strength from the broadest possible pool of talent. This includes women, because they make up over 50 percent of America's population."
USA Today reports the ban on women performing in combat operations will be lifted in 30 days, following months of debate after a Marine Corps study on women's performance in combat showed units without women out-performed those with women during tactical exercises.
The study, released in September, was conducted over a nine-month period. During the exercises, women were shown to be injured more often, move more slowly through tactical obstacles, and fire their weapons less accurately.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who manages both the U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps, spoke in favor of opening all combat positions to women in September, saying he would not ask Secretary Carter for exemptions in either branch.
"This is being done for political reasons," said Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., a member of the House Armed Services Committee. "What is it going to do to our ability to be lethal at the small-unit level? It degrades that ability."
Prior to Carter's announcement, the U.S. Armed Forces prohibited roughly 220,000 military jobs to women, amounting to about 10 percent of all military roles.