Canton Repository

May 25, 2005

Dems oppose barring women from combat

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON — Congress should not be enacting laws that bar women in the military from ground combat, area Democratic lawmakers said.

Reps. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, Ted Strickland, D-Lisbon, and Sherrod Brown, D-Lorain, oppose the effort to codify into law existing Defense Department policy that prohibits women from serving in ground combat units.

The House is set to consider a defense authorization bill today that includes that ban and prohibits the services from opening any additional jobs without Congress’s approval.

Reps. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, and Bob Ney, R-St. Clairsville, declined to discuss their views on the provision prior to the vote.

“Let’s wait and talk about it after the debate,” Regula said Tuesday. “I haven’t really focused on the issue. So it would be premature for me to even speak on it.”

While the Army opposes the ban as unnecessary, the provision has the support of House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., a former Army paratrooper and Vietnam veteran.

Ryan, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, argues that the decision where to assign women should be left up to the military, not Congress.

“We need to let the military brass make these kinds of determinations,” said Ryan, who opposed the ban when the committee added it to the defense bill last week.

Strickland said the military should make assignments based on ability, not gender.

“I think women should be able to do whatever it is that they are physically capable of doing based on their skills or abilities,” Strickland said. “Those decisions should and can be made on the basis of ability.”

Brown also opposes the provision, which he said would “stretch dangerously thin already diminishing resources by excluding well-trained and fully capable military personnel.”

A spokesman for Ney said the congressman would not discuss the issue until he saw the final language of the ban.

“It’s our understanding that this language could be amended before the full House vote,” Ney spokesman Brian Walsh said.