(CNN) - The Pentagon will permit members of the military to travel to wed same-sex partners if the community or state where they are based does not permit it, a key element of a new benefits policy unveiled Wednesday.
The Defense Department announced its intention to extended health, housing and other benefits to same-sex spouses of uniformed military personnel and defense civilian employees.
A dramatic moment at the Pentagon Tuesday, and another milestone for military women.
Declaring "the days of Rambo are over," officials announced that in a few years, women will be allowed in combat units.
Eventually, that may including the country's most elite special forces.
CNN Pentagon Correspondent Chris Lawrence explains how long the transition will take.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel quoted President Dwight D. Eisenhower Wednesday, telling rising military officers "the wise and prudent administration of the vast resources required by defense calls for extraordinary skill."
In his first major policy speech since taking over the Pentagon, Hagel focused on the budget problems facing the Defense Department and the rest of the government.
"A combination of fiscal pressures and a gridlocked political process has led to far more abrupt and deeper reductions than were planned for or expected. Now DoD is grappling with the serious and immediate challenge of sequester - which is forcing us to take as much as a $41 billion cut in this current fiscal year," Hagel said at the National Defense University at Fort McNair.
By Jake Tapper and Jessica Metzger
EDITOR'S NOTE: Jake Tapper is an anchor and Chief Washington Correspondent for CNN. He’s also the author of the best-selling book about Afghanistan “The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor”
In her senior year at West Point, Candace Fisher decided she wanted to join the Military Police since it would allow her the most options “to do the most soldier-like things,” Fisher recalled in an interview with CNN.
In 2006 and 2007, Fisher served at what would become Combat Outpost Keating, one of the most dangerous bases in Afghanistan. Fisher – who then went by her maiden name, Mathis – led a platoon of Military Police, supervising 36 troops, including six other women, attached to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 71st Cavalry.
With Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announcing today that the Pentagon would end its policy of excluding women from combat positions, Fisher – reached at Fort Leonard Wood in the Missouri Ozarks, where she is currently a small group leader for an officer leadership course – said the Army was acknowledging what has already in many ways become a reality in the military.
“It’s a formalization of what we’ve been experimenting with the last ten to twelve years in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Fisher told CNN. “I think that those two conflicts have probably given the Army a pretty good idea of whether or not an actual policy change was warranted.” FULL POST
By Barbara Starr
The FBI has sent an investigative team to the site of last month's deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, a senior administration official told CNN Thursday.
Arriving late Wednesday and working through Thursday, the team examined the outpost, located in the city of Benghazi, the official said.
A U.S. military security force accompanied the FBI team to the site and provided security for them as they traveled there. Officials said it was an indication of the ongoing security concerns in the region.
The September 11 consulate attack killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
The incident fueled increased global scrutiny of the North African nation, led by a government that toppled dictator Moammar Gadhafi last year.
It also sparked political debate over whether the Obama administration has been forthcoming about its understanding of events.
The FBI visit to Benghazi had been stalled for more than three weeks because of security concerns at the site.
FBI and military officials have said they would need proper military protection in case of another attack on the U.S. Consulate.
The official described the support as both visible and more covert, suggesting the use of intelligence assets to monitor communications and the surrounding areas. The military team was "relatively small," the official said.
By Chris Lawrence
The days of American troops living on luxurious bases, hanging out at the coffee shop, attending dance parties and still earning full combat pay may be coming to an end. The Pentagon is considering changes to combat pay that could result in a tiered system, based on how much danger the service member is actually in.
The new recommendations come from an independent review ordered by President Barack Obama in 2010, the Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation.
The review concluded that "the relationship between combat compensation and the degree of danger to which a member is exposed has eroded." FULL POST
Opinion by Tova Neugut, Kate Rosenblum, and Mike Erwin
Special to CNN
As Americans celebrated Fathers Day, few were likely aware that close to 2 million children have at least one parent who serves in the armed forces. Forty-three percent of American troops are parents, most of them fathers.
While many acknowledge the sacrifices made by our servicemen, women, and their families, our appreciation for the significance of these sacrifices has deepened as we’ve heard the voices of military dads. Like this one: FULL POST
By Barbara Starr
The Defense Department is notifying Congress Thursday it will open up nearly 14,000 jobs to military women that will place them even closer to the front lines of combat.
A senior Pentagon official confirmed details to CNN, but declined to be identified until a formal announcement comes later on Thursday.
Under a 1994 policy, women are restricted from formally serving in small ground units directly involved in combat. The reality of the last ten years of war however has been that many women serve in support positions–such as military police or medics–which place them in harms way. They are not formally assigned to combat units, but rather informally "attached" which means they do not get the crucial credit for combat duty that is needed for promotions to higher grades.
Some of the jobs that will now be open to women include specialties such as tank or artillery mechanic, crew members on missile launcher, and field surgeons in forward deployed brigade combat teams.
By CNN's Larry Shaughnessy
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta unveiled details of a budget plan that slices half a trillion dollars in spending increases over the next 10 years and serves as a blueprint for the administration's vision of how America's military needs to change.
The savings would begin in October, the start of fiscal year 2013.
By Barbara Starr
The eight Army soldiers charged in connection with the death of Private Danny Chen are facing charges due to “conduct that occurred in the time leading up to his death,” according to a US Army official familiar with the details of the investigation.
The official declined to be identified because the military criminal investigation remains on going.
Essentially the soldiers are charged with hazing and abusing Chen in the weeks and days before he died of an apparent self inflicted gun shot wound. But the case remains open and other charges could be filed.
The eight men charged have been moved to a different base in southern Afghanistan and remain under restrictions. They are not permitted to leave the base. The official said this is standard procedure in part due to concerns for their physical safety now that the charges have been made public.
Chen had complained to his family about how his fellow soldiers were treating him, according to his cousin Benny Chen.
At a recent candlelight vigil held for the soldier, his cousin Banny read a portion of a letter written by Danny to his family while he was in Afghanistan.
“They ask if I’m from China a few times a day. They also called out my name, “Chen,” in a goat-like voice sometimes for no reason. No idea how it started, but it’s just best to ignore it," Chen said, reading from the letter.
– Leigh Remizowski contributed to this report