A senior member of the Senate Armed Services manpower and personnel subcommittee says the experience of the Persian Gulf war calls for a new look at the ban on U.S. servicewomen in combat roles.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Wednesday that the distinction between combat and non-combat roles has become blurred with the increasing range of missiles, aircraft and other weapons."I think it's time we re-evaluated that policy," McCain said. "I think that clearly women have demonstrated again that they can perform any role that they're called upon that any male is called upon to make."
Of the 540,000 U.S. military personnel who served in the gulf, 35,000 were women, according to the Pentagon.
McCain, ranking Republican on the personnel subcommittee, is one of a handful of lawmakers to speak out publicly for a change in the combat policy. A former Navy pilot, McCain was a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
By law, women in the Navy and Air Force are barred from serving in combat. The Army is not covered under the statute but has written its own regulation.
Last year, several House Democrats proposed legislation calling for a four-year test of whether women could hold combat-related jobs, but no action was taken.
Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., said Wednesday she will attempt to bring it back in a package of economic equality legislation for women that will be introduced in June.