Gen. Lori J. Robinson, in Singapore in February, has been selected to lead all military forces in North America. Credit Us Air Force/Reuters
WASHINGTON — The White House will nominate Gen. Lori J. Robinson of the Air Force to lead all military forces in North America, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said Friday. If confirmed by the Senate, General Robinson will become the first woman to head one of the United States combatant commands.
“We have coming along now a lot of female officers who are exceptionally strong,” Mr. Carter said in an interview with Politico. “Lori certainly fits into that category.”
The Defense Department has six combatant commanders who oversee military operations in different regions of the world.
General Robinson would lead the United States Northern Command, which is based in Colorado Springs and was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to coordinate the military’s response to domestic threats. The highest-profile command in recent years has been the United States Central Command, which oversees military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.
Mr. Carter made the announcement as the Pentagon moves forward with a series of measures designed to create greater gender equality in the military and make the services more appealing to women.
In December, Mr. Carter announced that the Pentagon would open all combat roles to women. Then in January, he announced that he was expanding maternity leave and said the Pentagon would begin a pilot program that would pay for women to have their eggs frozen to encourage them to stay in the military during their 20s and 30s, a time when many leave after giving birth.
According to figures compiled by the Pentagon, a little more than 6 percent of generals and admirals are women; 17 percent of officers are women; and 15 percent of enlisted service members are women. Out of 38 four-star generals and admirals, there are three women, including General Robinson, according to the Pentagon.
Since 2014, General Robinson has been based at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, where she has been the commander over Air Force operations in the Pacific.