The military also is preparing to put women in direct land combat units.
The Navy promoted its first woman this month to four-star rank: Adm. Michelle J. Howard, a surface warship commander, to vice chief of naval operations, the Navy’s second-ranking officer.
The Air Force promoted its first woman to four-star rank in 2012, when Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger took over Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
The Army’s first female four-star general, Ann Elizabeth Dunwoody, has retired.
To observers, the twin moves to promote a woman to vice chief of naval operations and to place a woman in charge of a major combatant command Air Force means that female officers are destined to be elevated to the six-member Joint Chiefs of Staff, which comprises the four service chiefs, a chairman and a vice chairman.