A top Pentagon official says Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is lifting the ban that keeps American women from combat duty in the military.
The official says Panetta is giving military chiefs until May to draw up plans for implementing the new policy, which is expected to open thousands of front-line combat positions to women in all U.S. military services – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.
Panetta plans to formally announce the new policy as soon as Thursday.
Women may still be excluded from some combat jobs in the future. The Pentagon official said the chiefs of U.S. military services will have three years to study that issue.