Seventy-five years ago today, President Truman signed into law the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948, paving the way for women to officially serve in the United States military. Today, the Biden-Harris Administration celebrates this anniversary as a day to honor the more than three million women who have stepped up to serve their country in uniform since the Revolutionary War, and recognizes the many ways women continue to contribute to the strength of our military.
Since the beginning of our nation’s story, women have fought and sacrificed for our republic. Women played an especially critical role in World War II, when all-women auxiliary units were stood up in every branch to support the war effort. Their critical contributions to the Allied victory in the second World War made clear that our military is stronger with women in the force. In 1973, when the draft was replaced by the All-Volunteer Force, the Military Departments accelerated their recruitment of women, and just two years later, the Military Service Academies welcomed their first class of women cadets and midshipmen. Ten years ago, all combat positions were finally opened to women. While we have come a long way in fully integrating women into our armed forces, there is still much left to do to enable all Americans to be able to serve to their fullest potential.
As Commander-in-Chief, President Biden has made it a top priority to eliminate obstacles to women’s military service through unprecedented actions to promote their safety, inclusion, health and wellbeing, and by delivering world-class benefits and services for women veterans, through:
Updating Military Hair, Dress, and Fitness Standards. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, Military Departments have made strides in updating fitness standards, including enabling a 12-month postpartum deferment so that new mothers are exempt from deployments and physical fitness testing for the year after giving birth. The Military Departments have expanded options for hair, dress and appearance, improving the availability of gender-specific gear and equipment, including better-fitting uniforms for pregnant service members, and lifting restrictionsto enable pregnant airmen to fly during their pregnancies.
Advancing Historic Military Justice Reform & Expanding Support for Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma. President Biden has advanced historic military justice reforms that fundamentally shift the prosecution and investigation of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and domestic violence, calling for the establishment of the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military as one of his earliest acts in office. The President also signed an Executive Order to establish sexual harassment as a specific offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, as well as strengthen the military justice response in prosecuting cases of domestic violence, and fully implement changes to the military justice code to criminalize the wrongful broadcast or distribution of intimate images. In July 2022, the Department of Defense (DoD) established initial operations for the Offices of Special Trial Counsel (OSTC) within the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. The OSTCs will take over prosecutorial decisions in December 2023 in sexual assault, domestic violence, and other special victim cases to provide independent and highly trained prosecutorial expertise.
Under the Biden-Harris Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has worked to proactively prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment, establishing a zero tolerance policy for sexual assault and sexual harassment in all Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities, and developing bystander intervention training. At VA, all employees are asked to take the White Ribbon VA Pledge to never commit, excuse, or stay silent about sexual harassment, sexual assault, or domestic violence. VA has taken steps to expand pathways for reporting sexual assault and sexual harassment for veterans and visitors to VA facilities. At the same time, VA is focused on delivering world-class health care to military sexual assault survivors.
Strengthening Services for Women’s Health and Wellness During and After Military Service. Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Department of Defense (DoD) took action to protect access to reproductive healthcare for service women and their families by establishing walk-in contraception clinics at military treatment facilities, and expanding access to women’s health care in deployed environments. DoD has also issued policies to enhance privacy and afford service members the time and space needed to make personal healthcare decisions, including standardizing the timeframe for Service members to inform their commanders about a pregnancy, generally allowing Service members until up to 20 weeks of pregnancy to notify their commanders of their pregnancy status.
The Biden-Harris Administration has also taken action to ensure the more than 600,000 women veterans, the fastest growing subpopulation of veterans served by the VA, have equitable access to benefits and gender-specific health services, in safe and culturally-competent settings. VA has protected and expanded access to reproductive health services for women veterans, ensuring they have access to medically needed services. VA has also expanded programs to support pregnant and postpartum women veterans, including extending maternity care coordination services from 3 months to 12 months post-delivery to better support both the physical and mental health of parents. In addition to reproductive and maternal health, VA has expanded access to breast cancer screenings. VA has prioritized hiring Women’s Health Primary Care Providers in every VA medical center across the nation. These efforts also include work to upgrade facilities to ensure VA equipment and exam rooms meet the unique needs of women veterans and increasing health services support for transitioning women service members.
Bolstering Support for Parenting and Caregiving Service Members. With the leadership of the First Lady’s Joining Forces initiative, DoD has made significant investments in expanding access to quality, affordable childcare for military families, and implemented policies to increase parental leave for active duty, Reserve and National Guard personnel following the birth, adoption, or placement of a child for long-term foster care, tackling challenges that disproportionately affect retention for women in uniform, and can play a factor in women’s early separation from the force. Efforts include: constructing new child development centers, focusing on locations where there is a long waitlist and a high concentration of military families who need childcare; launching a child care fee assistance program to provide assistance in finding civilian child care off the installation and offsetting the cost when installation-based child care is inaccessible or unattainable; setting up a pilot to offer child care fee assistance to service members who utilize in-home child care providers, such as nannies or babysitters; and enabling Service members to set up a dependent care flexible spending account.
Improving Economic & Housing Security for Women Veterans and Transitioning Service Women. The Biden-Harris Administration hasworked to support women service members transition to civilian life, especially in reaching their professional goals. In 2021 alone, the Department of Labor (DOL) has provided over 30,000 women transitioning from military to civilian life with Transition Assistance Program (TAP) training on job, education, and other opportunities. DOL also provides individualized career and training-related services to women veterans, helping them determine their next professional steps. VA has also expanded professional supports for women veterans, including by increasing contract awards to women-owned small businesses and partnering with the private sector to expand hiring of women veterans.
Achieving Historic “Firsts” in Women’s Command Roles. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, women commanders have risen to unprecedented ranks, including: Admiral Linda Fagan, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Coast Guard’s first woman to hold the rank of four-star admiral and the first woman Service Chief of any U.S. military service; Air Force General Jaqueline Van Ovost, head of U.S. Transportation Command; and Army General Laura J. Richardson, head of U.S. Southern Command. President Biden has also nominated Rear Admiral Yvette Davids to be the first-ever woman to lead a military service academy, as the next superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy.
Raising Visibility of Women’s Service. In March 2023, VA unveiled a new mission statement to reflect the obligation we have to all those who have served in our nation’s military, including women veterans, and references the important roles filled by veteran families, caregivers, and survivors. VA has also increased awareness of the historic role women have played in the military by disseminating information, establishing new partnerships, and expanding outreach. And, today, VA celebrated 21 Center for Women Veterans Trailblazers “Women Making the Difference” initiative. This campaign highlights the experiences and contributions of women veterans and celebrates their continued role as leaders.
Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/06/12/fact-sheet-biden-administration-celebrates-the-75th-anniversary-of-womens-integration-in-to-the-armed-forces/