Foley Hoag Assists No Exceptions with Role in Ending Ban on Women in Combat

January 14, 2016

The lifting of the U.S. military’s gender-based combat exclusion ban, on orders from Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, came as a result of the efforts of groups such as No Exceptions, which was advised on a pro bono basis by Foley Hoag LLP.

Foley Hoag counseled No Exceptions on strategic legal issues related to gender integration and women in combat since the organization was formed in early 2015. No Exceptions conducted a public education campaign throughout 2015 to inform the public and decision makers about the implementation of Secretary Defense Panetta Chairman of the Joint Chief’s Martin Demsey’s 2013 directive lifting the military’s long-standing ban excluding women from serving in combat. That directive declared that all services were to open previously closed positions and units to women by January 2016.

According to the directive, however, armed forces could request exceptions for particular positions, but such requests had to be based on “a rigorous analysis of factual data regarding the knowledge, skills and abilities needed for the position.”

In the years since, the branches of the U.S. armed forces conducted studies on issues of gender inclusion in their ranks, including permitting women to train side-by-side with men in the elite courses that - if passed - qualify individuals to serve as Army Rangers.

It was following such actions and subsequent analyses that on December 3, 2015, Secretary Carter announced the armed forces would open all combat positions to women regardless of their gender, and that the change would take effect in 30 days following the legally provided period of Congressional review. That review period has now passed.

“No Exceptions performed an essential role in the public discussion of women in combat roles,” said Foley Hoag attorney Alexandra A. Kerr Meise. “It educated the public and decision makers on the importance of emphasizing ability and qualification instead of gender to ensure the highest possible level of military capability. They can take pride in Secretary Carter’s words when he made his decision;he said there will be ‘no exceptions’ in determining fitness for combat roles. We congratulate No Exceptions for helping to shape the public discussion that contributed to Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s decision.”

About No Exceptions

No Exceptions is a non-partisan initiative of the Truman Project, a national security and leadership development organization based in Washington, D.C., and the Center for National Policy, an independent policy institute. Comprised of post-9/11 generation veterans and national security leaders, No Exceptions supports the military-wide policy of full combat inclusion for anyone who meets physical and mental standards, regardless of gender. For more information on No Exceptions, please visit

About Foley Hoag LLP

Foley Hoag provides innovative, strategic legal services to public, private and government clients across the globe. We have premier capabilities in the life sciences, healthcare, technology, energy, professional services and private funds fields, and in cross-border disputes. The diverse backgrounds, perspectives and experiences of our lawyers and business services professionals contribute to the exceptional service we deliver to clients ranging from startups to multinational companies to sovereign states. For more information, visit or follow @FoleyHoag on Twitter.