Trump could nix Obama's women in combat military policy

Female Marine recruits navigate an obstacle on the Confidence Course during boot camp
Scott Olson | Getty Images

The Obama administration's move last year to integrate women into front-line combat roles may get reversed by the next Pentagon head selected by President-elect Donald Trump.

The Republican Party's 2016 official platform, drafted over the summer, seeks to exempt women from "direct ground combat units and infantry battalions."

Last month, Trump was asked about the women in combat issue at an event hosted by the Retired American Warriors in Virginia. In his response, Trump vowed to do "away with political correctness" in the U.S. military.

Yet on the same question of women in combat, the billionaire seemed more open to the idea in August 2015. During a television interview, he expressed support for the issue but added that he would consult with generals on the matter.

The Military Times over the weekend quoted the Center for Military Readiness President Elaine Donnelly, who runs a military advocacy group, as endorsing the "rolling back" of some of President Barack Obama's military personnel reforms.

"Right now the policy is that women can and will be assigned to ground combat units," Donnelly was quoted as saying. "That pronouncement can indeed be changed by a future secretary of defense."

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Obama has been a strong supporter of the policy to allow women in combat roles and an advocate for other military personnel reforms. However, it's widely known there was some resistance within the Marines and other military branches for the changes.

A 1994 Pentagon policy preventing women from serving in combat was rescinded in 2013 by then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and ultimately led to the current DoD head Ash Carter making the historic change.

The decision whether to make changes in the military personnel rules ultimately will rest with the next defense secretary. The president-elect hasn't given any indication on who will get the job but there has been speculation it could include everyone from retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, a top Trump military adviser, or Republican Senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama.

The Washington Post reported Friday that another name under consideration for the defense post is Senator Kelly Ayotte, a Republican who earlier this year backed the idea of draft registration for women. Currently, all male citizens aged 17 to 25 are required to register for the draft, but the rule exempts women.