Weekly Defense Notes

Big news: Women can fight on the front lines.

Happy Friday! Here’s what hit the headlines in the defense this week:

Equalizing the Battlefield

On Thursday, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, signed a directive that allows the roughly 200,000 active-duty women in the military to move to the front lines of the battlefield. The move—which lifts the 1994 ban on women in such specialties as armor, infantry, and artillery—may ease the military’s problems with sexual harassment.

Navy to Begin Personnel Cuts

To cut expenses, Navy flag officers and executives have been ordered to lay off thousands of temporary civilian workers, reduce base operations, and cancel maintenance on dozens of ships and hundreds of aircraft. Because Congress has not yet decided on an annual budget, the Navy is left with $4.6 billion less than it requires for 2013.

UN to Investigate Drone Killings

With unmanned technology increasingly widespread, the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights will decide whether drone attacks can be considered a war crime. Drone killings in such countries as Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia—including some carried out by the U.S. and United Kingdom—will be investigated.

U.S. Commander Anxious about South Korea

U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. James Thurman is concerned about the safety of U.S. forces in South Korea, especially after Pyongyang’s “successful” test launch of a long-range rocket in December. “We’re doing all the right things across all of our components to make sure that we don’t have any potential security problems,” Gen. Thurman told the audience at a community briefing at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan.

VA Should Fight Gulf War, Iraq Ailments

While there’s not one effective treatment for depression, headaches, pain, sleeplessness, and other disorders war veterans face, an Institute of Medicine panel insists the Department of Veterans Affairs should attempt to find remedies. In addition to examining veterans after they are discharged, the panel said the VA should pay for better studies of conditions such as chronic multisymptom illness (formerly Gulf War syndrome).