Panetta to End Ban on Women in Combat

With this term as Defense Secretary coming to a close, Leon Panetta is continuing to ensure his legacy, as he will announce the end of a policy keeping women from fighting on the front lines alongside America's soldiers.

FOX News Radio's Mike Majchrowitz reports from Washington:

Audio clip:

A senior Defense official confirms to FOX News that outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has decided to drop the exclusion rule that keeps women from direct combat roles.  It won't be immediate, but it will require the services to develop plans to implement the decision.

The Secretary is said to have made this decision on the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  The Associated Press reports that after January 2016, the services will need to seek special exemptions if they believe any positions must remain closed to women.

In Washington, Mike Majchrowitz, FOX News Radio.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Secretary of Defense will brief the media on Thursday at 1:30pm ET on this decision.

READ a statement from the ACLU on the decision:

"We are thrilled to hear Secretary Panetta's announcement today recognizing that qualified women will have the same chance to distinguish themselves in combat as their brothers-in-arms, which they actually already have been doing with valor and distinction.  But we welcome this statement with cautious optimism, as we hope that it will be implemented fairly and quickly so that servicewomen can receive the same recognition for their service as their male counterparts."

READ a statement from the Concerned Women for America on the decision:

"News of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's intent to lift the long-standing ban on women serving in direct combat is further proof that this administration simply does not care about the issues about which the majority of women care.  Once again, their interest on women issues is driven by special interest groups. The point of the military is to protect our country.  Anything that distracts from that is detrimental.  Our military cannot continue to choose social experimentation and political correctness over combat readiness. While this decision is not unexpected from this administration, it is still disappointing.  Concerned Women for America (CWA) and its more than half-a-million members around the country will continue to do all we can to see that our men and women in uniform are governed with the respect and resources needed to do the hard task of fighting for and protecting our freedoms."