Less than a year from an integration deadline, nearly a quarter-million positions remain closed to women in the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines as of March, along with 25,700 positions still closed to women by the U.S. Special Operations Command, according to Government Accountability Office data.
The four services have opened up 91,000 positions for women since January 2013, when the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff rescinded a 1994 rule that prohibited women from being assigned to certain ground combat units.
Regardless of the prohibition, more than 800 women have been wounded and 130 have died while deployed to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.
The DOD has required the services to integrate women into the remaining closed positions by the beginning of next year, but the department has no plans to monitor progress after that date, the GAO said.
The services and SOCOM are conducting studies to “identify and mitigate potential integration challenges” in areas such as unit cohesion, women’s health, and facilities modifications, equipment, uniforms and “interest in serving,” the GAO said Monday.
As of May, the Secretary of the Navy was the only military department secretary to recommend an exception to policy to keep positions closed to women on three classes of ships -- frigates, mine countermeasure ships and patrol coastal craft. The Navy said the berths on the ships would need to be retrofitted, but the ships are close enough to decommissioning that it would be an inefficient use of money.