ARLINGTON, Va. — Women will not be allowed to serve in combat positions in the new “transformed” Army, according to a decision made by senior service leaders and approved Thursday by Army Secretary Francis Harvey.

The Army has been reviewing its policy prohibiting women in combat ever since last year, when service leaders decided to shift emphasis from large, cumbersome divisions to “Brigade Combat Teams” that are much more flexible and lethal than today’s organizations.

Under a 10-year-old ban, women are not allowed to be part of combat units, such as armored cavalry or the infantry.

After reviewing the Army’s existing policy, “my assessment is that, in our new Brigade Combat Teams … no women will be assigned to a unit below the brigade level whose primary mission is direct ground combat,” Harvey said in a Jan. 13 memo obtained Friday by Stripes to Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In addition to prohibiting women from taking jobs that are directly related to combat, the new policy also means that women will not “be routinely co-located with units assigned a direct combat mission,” the memo says.

Since the new policy is the same as the Army’s current Combat Exclusion Rule, “no change to the extant policy is required,” the memo says.

There is a clause in the ban, Public Law 103-160 signed by then-Defense Secretary Les Aspin in 1994, that says women are not allowed to serve “where units and positions are doctrinally required to physically collocate and remain with direct ground combat units that are closed to women.”

But women are not banned from such tasks as driving trucks, working in mess halls, repairing helicopters, and other jobs that either hold the potential for enemy attacks, or require close proximity to combat units.

And because combat units cannot do their jobs without maintenance and other support assistance, “there have been support units attached to maneuver units” in both Afghanistan and Iraq that include women, Army officials have noted.

Harvey reiterated that the clause will remain in effect.

But opponents of women serving in war were angered in October when Army officials said they were considering changes to the exclusion rules.

Harvey conducted “a systemic review of all Army policies” after he was sworn in Nov. 19, 2004, according to his memo.

Based on that review, and a subsequent review undertaken by Army staff, Harvey decided not to make changes to the Army’s current policy.

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