Panetta to Lift Ban on Women in Combat
by Newsmax Wires
January 23, 2013
Senior defense officials say Pentagon chief Leon Panetta will remove the military's ban on women serving in combat, opening hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs after more than a decade at war.
The groundbreaking move recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff overturns a 1994 rule prohibiting women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units. Panetta's decision gives the military services until January 2016 to seek special exceptions if they believe any positions must remain closed to women.
"After a decade of critical military service in hostile environments, women have demonstrated a wide range of capabilities in combat operations and we welcome this review," said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon of California.
Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a former Army helicopter pilot who lost both of her legs fighting in Iraq, called the “long overdue.”
“This is a win for our nation," Duckworth, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. told Politico. "This is a win for our military — that the talents of all of these women are going to be able to be used by our nation to protect and defend this great democracy.”
A senior military official says the services will develop plans for allowing women to seek the combat positions. Some jobs may open as this year. Assessments for others, such as special operations forces, including Navy SEALs and the Army's Delta Force, may take longer.
The official told the Associated Press that military chiefs must report back to Panetta with their initial implementation plans by May 15. The announcement on Panetta's decision is not expected until Thursday, so the official spoke on condition of anonymity.
Panetta's move expands the Pentagon's action nearly a year ago to open about 14,500 combat positions to women, nearly all of them in the U.S. Army. This decision could open more than 230,000 jobs, many in Army and Marine infantry units, to women.
In recent years the necessities of war propelled women into jobs as medics, military police and intelligence officers that were sometimes attached — but not formally assigned — to units on the front lines.
Women comprise 14 percent of the 1.4 million active military personnel.
The news came as complete surprise, with no leaks to the media on a day when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's riveting testimony on the Benghazi killings of a U.S. ambassador and three Americans consumed much attention.
But lawmakers, conservative activists and former military leaders were quick to react.
"The focus of our military needs to be maximizing combat effectiveness," said U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California and a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
"The question here is whether this change will actually make our military better at operating in combat and killing the enemy, since that will be their job too. What needs to be explained is how this decision, when all is said and done, increases combat effectiveness rather than being a move done for political purposes -- which is what this looks like," Hunter said.
"Lifting the ban is contrary to law and the wishes of the American people," said Phyllis Schlafly, the conservative activist and constitutional lawyer. "It is an embarrassment to the country."
Read more: http://goo.gl/OxddE
Analysis: Debt limit bill gives political cover to both parties
January 23, 2013
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Previous budget dramas in Washington produced bargains that made it look like Congress was making great strides, without actually doing so.
Wednesday's vote by the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives to extend the government's borrowing power until May 19 was no different.
It temporarily removed a hazard - a potential default within the next month - that only existed because Republicans created it. They initiated Wednesday's vote after taking a beating in public opinion polls for engaging in budget brinkmanship over the "fiscal cliff," a series of budget deadlines that came together at the end of 2012, which could have resulted in huge tax increases and spending cuts had Congress not acted to either eliminate or postpone most of them.
While House Speaker John Boehner advertised the vote as the "first step" toward a balanced budget that puts the onus on Democrats to address the deficit. But the House-passed bill does not contain measures that are guaranteed to bring about deficit reduction.
The bill did not: cut government spending; extract commitments from President Barack Obama or Democrats in the U.S. Senate to cut government spending; or avoid three potentially jarring fiscal confrontations a few months down the road.
Automatic budget cuts postponed from the fiscal cliff around New Year's Day kick in on March 1. A bill that temporarily funded the government will expire on March 27, threatening a potential shutdown of some federal operations. In May, the borrowing authority approved on Wednesday will run out.
While Republicans say each of these will present an opportunity for them to engage Democrats, including Obama, in deficit reduction negotiations, their track record is not promising.
"I don't think it (the House debt limit bill) has much to do with deficit reduction at all," said Robert Bixby, executive director of the non-partisan Concord Coalition, a budget reform advocacy group. "It's a way of defusing a political crisis."
"Our base case remains a series of endless cliffs," Chris Krueger of the financial services firm Guggenheim Partners wrote in a note. "Short-term extensions of these cliffs could result in an endless game of kick the can - until the can kicks back."
As for deficit reduction, he wrote: "Don't hold your breath, though hope springs eternal."
Ethan Harris of Bank of America Merrill Lynch said, "It is another example of where politicians' bark seems worse than their bite."
Welcome to the latest chapter in a two-year battle between Obama and congressional Republicans over how the world's largest economy can gain control of a $16.4 trillion national debt.
There was the 2010 presidential commission to find budget solutions, a 2011 congressional "super committee" that was supposed to put the government on a sound fiscal path and a "fiscal cliff" of late 2012 designed to force big decisions.
Now, Republicans have crafted a debt limit increase without setting a specific new ceiling on borrowing that they could be blamed for.
Read more: http://goo.gl/q3ub4
Rand Paul to Hillary: Let’s face it, you should have been fired over Benghazi
January 23, 2013
One other note. This is not an exchange I would have expected Ron Paul to have with Hillary, not because he’s in any way comfortable with unaccountability in Washington but because his priorities lie elsewhere. You can imagine him grilling her about why the CIA is in Libya in the first place and what the root causes of the assault on the consulate might be. Not Rand; his showcase moment here has more to do with protecting Americans who are already in the field. A lot of what he’s up to lately has to do with distinguishing his brand from his father’s, the trip to Israel being the most conspicuous example. This is another.
Read more: http://goo.gl/E0HTP