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New Army chief ponders momentous decision on women in combat

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Women in combatThe Army's new chief of staff, Gen. Mark Milley, is taking a calculated approach to arguably the most consequential decision of his early tenure — whether to recommend that any all-male combat roles remain closed to women.

Central to his thinking, he said in an Associated Press interview Friday, is the question of whether allowing women to serve in the infantry, armor and other traditionally male-only fields would affect Army "readiness" for war.

"Does it improve it, or does it hurt it?" he is asking as he and leaders of the other military services weigh whether to recommend to Defense Secretary Ash Carter that he keep some positions off-limits to women. Under a January 2013 edict, all remaining all-male positions will be opened to women unless the defense secretary approves exceptions by January 2016. Carter said on Thursday that he expects to see the services' recommendations by October.

Milley, who took over as Army chief on Aug. 14 and has seen women in combat during his numerous tours as a commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, said he is not ready to say which direction he is leaning.


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