Former DOD Inspector Gen: Panetta’s Directive May be Unconstitutional
Wednesday, January 23, 2013 10:39 PM
By: Paul Scicchitano
Reacting to reports that outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is lifting the Pentagon’s long-standing ban on women serving in combat, former DOD Inspector General Joseph E. Schmitz tells Newsmax that he believes the decision will lead to a “degradation of good order and discipline” and may even be unconstitutional.
Senior defense officials say Pentagon chief Leon Panetta is removing 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.
“Introducing mixed gender combat units in my experience and judgment will inevitably lead to a degradation of good order and discipline,” asserted Schmitz, a recognized constitutional expert who held the position of DOD’s top investigator from April 2002 to September 2005 after 27 years of Naval Service, including four years at the Naval Academy, five years of active duty in the fleet, and 18 years in the Naval Reserve.
Schmitz tells Newsmax that it is questionable under Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution whether Panetta has the authority to make such a change to America’s “land and naval forces,” since this authority is specifically granted to Congress.
“My first question as a commander frankly would be is this a legal order? And to answer that question I would have to find out by what authority, and for what purpose, did the secretary of defense do what he did here,” said Schmitz, who is also a Newsmax contributor.
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.
“Last time I checked the secretary of defense serves under Article 2 of the Constitution,” Schmitz added, reading from the Constitution. “He’s not a member of Congress and he does not independently have the constitutional authority to ‘make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.’”
The issue of women serving in combat has been discussed for many years, according to Schmitz, but he said he has reservations as to whether the time is right for the ban to be lifted.
“I think generally speaking if you put human beings in stressful situations including combat and then you introduce a gender issue, it will inevitably lead to a degradation of good order and discipline,” Schmitz explained.