Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta spoke Thursday morning on lifting the ban on women in combat in advance of a more formal announcement later in the day.
"As secretary of defense, I know that opening more opportunities for our most qualified men and women in uniform strengthens our ability to fight and to win the nation's wars," Panetta said Thursday at a Martin Luther King Jr. remembrance event.
Panetta compared the expansion to racial integration and repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
"Every person in today's military has made a solemn commitment to fight and, if necessary, to die for our nation's defense," Panetta said Thursday morning. "We owe it to them to allow them to pursue every avenue of military service for which they are fully prepared and qualified."