Obama to name first woman to head major US military command

President Barack Obama will name a woman to head a major US combatant command for the first time, Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said today.

He said Air Force General Lori Robinson will be appointed as the next head of the US Northern Command (NORTHCOM), which is responsible for the defense of the US “homeland” with an area of operations that extends from Alaska to portions of the Caribbean.

Robinson has “very deep operational experience” as well as “very good managerial experience,” Carter said at a conference in Washington.

Her appointment to one of the military’s most senior jobs is subject to Senate confirmation.

The position also oversees the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which provides aviation security for the United States and Canada.

Women play an increasingly important role in the US military, making up around 15 per cent of personnel.

The Pentagon last year opened all combat positions to women, including elite special operations units.

Carter—who has long said the military must look for ways to attract and retain top talent—recently announced a package of family-friendly initiatives for personnel.

They include maternity leave of 12 weeks for all services and a requirement that military installations employing more than 50 women have rooms for mothers to breastfeed their babies.

In January, another woman, General Diana Holland, became the first female commandant of West Point’s Corps of Cadets.

Robinson is currently the commander of US air forces in the Pacific.