women

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is ending the military’s ban on women serving in combat.

The move could open up more than 230,000 jobs that had been previously closed to women by overturning a 1994 ban on female servicemembers in small combat units.

A senior defense official confirmed that Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey would officially announce the policy change on Thursday.

Panetta’s decision gives the military services until 2016 to request special exceptions for positions they think should remain closed to women, according to the Associated Press, which first reported the move.

The services will now develop plans to implement the policy change, which was recommend by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the service chiefs will report back to Panetta — or potentially his successor — in May.