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Survey of Marines Fails to Show Support for Women in Direct Ground Combat Units

February 2, 2013
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"Quick-Look" Summary Omits Details on Issues of Major Concern

On Friday, February 1, the Center for Naval Analysis (CNA) released a "Quick-Look Analysis of Survey Results Assessing the Implications of Possible Changes to Women in Service Restrictions."  The 5-page paper, dated September 2012, summarizes results of an online survey of active-duty Marines on the subject of women in combat, which was conducted from May 30 to August 31, 2012. 

The Center for Military Readiness obtained a copy of the 16-page CNA survey instrument in June, 2012, and prepared an analysis of the 122 questions asked. 

The CNA "Quick-Look" summary, belatedly released on a Friday, seems intended to manage public perceptions that are not supported by still-undisclosed research data.  If the survey of Marines revealed significant support for the assignment of women in "tip of the spear" direct ground combat units, detailed poll results would have been announced in full and proclaimed a "success" four months ago. 

The survey instrument, unfortunately, missed the opportunity to ask the most important questions.  For example, "How would the assignment of women to Marine infantry and Special Operations Forces improve mission effectiveness" And, "Do you favor or oppose the elimination of all direct ground combat exemptions for women?"  Conclusions cannot be drawn from questions not asked. 

It also skewed results by asking twelve questions using the word "voluntary" − an option that does not exist.  Research done by the Presidential Commission the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces, which studied this issue in depth in 1992, determined that a "voluntary" option for women but not for men in close combat simply would not work.  (See Selected Findings, point #7) 

Finally, the survey relies on the mistaken belief that tough training standards preparing men for direct ground combat missions would remain the same as they are now.  This will not be possible for reasons explained here:

Seven Reasons Why Women-in-Combat Diversity Will Degrade Tough Training Standards

The following points are excerpted from the 42-page CMR Special Report:

Defense Department "Diversity" Push for Women in Land Combat

Prepared by the Center for Military Readiness, January 2013, Pages 8-11:

B. Force-Wide Survey

The online survey of Marines, conducted in the summer of 2012 by the Center for Naval Analyses - Marine Division, may produce some interesting results. The most significant findings, however, are likely to be eclipsed by media spin and perceptions managed by the Obama Administration. 14

1. Misleading Survey Questions

The WISRR survey included not just one but twelve questions seeking opinions on a "voluntary" women-in-land-combat option. 15 These questions were problematic, since respondents were asked to express opinions on a non-existent policy that would not be workable, desirable, or necessary.

The 1992 Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces investigated the "voluntary” option for women in combat and found that the obvious double standard would be demoralizing as well as unworkable:

"In an all-volunteer force, if combat positions are opened to women and men are involuntarily assigned to those combat positions, then women should also be involuntarily assigned to those same positions. Different assignment policies would have a deleterious effect on morale, as women would have the privilege of volunteering for combat, but not the burden of being involuntarily assigned." 16 (CF 4.13, p. C-127, emphasis added)

If the WISRR survey registers support for women in combat on a "voluntary" basis that is not available to men, media reports will push the Marines to implement that option, regardless of the impact on infantry battalion cohesion. There is not much evidence, however, that if infantry positions were open, significant numbers of women would choose them.

  • As of September 2012, only two women had volunteered for the Infantry Officer Course test at Quantico − a key component in the WISRR project that will need close to 100 volunteers to yield useful data. 17

  • In 2011, Australia responded to a major military sex scandal by allowing the Human Rights Committee Sex Discrimination Commissioner to announce a five-year plan to achieve a "critical mass" of women in combat. As of August 2012, not a single Army woman had volunteered to participate in the experiment. The Human Resources Director suggested that women "could try it for a few months with no obligation." 18 This is not how the American military works.

A preliminary review of the survey instrument reveals other potential flaws:

  • Survey questions fail to adequately define the mission of "direct ground combat" battalions, which are at issue today. Everyone in a war zone is serving "in harm's way," but the missions of DGC infantry battalions, which "seek out, close with and attack the enemy with deliberate offensive action under fire," remain unchanged. 19

  • The survey instrument includes some questions to identify demographics, occupations, and deployments, but they are not sufficient to identify and document the views of experienced Marine infantry or Special Operations Forces troops. Respondents are asked to indicate "In which of the following ground combat element units have you ever served?" Men or women who were collocated with or served in a brigade-level administrative position in the infantry, artillery, armor, and other DGC units might check one or more of those boxes, even though another option in that question inquires about "direct or general support" of the same DGC units. This is not sufficient to isolate the target battalion-level DGC unit personnel, especially since the definition of "combat" is not clear. (Q #8)

  • Numbers of infantry/SOF troops are small, but their views should be given more credibility and weight. Instead, they are being asked to tell if they have worked on a regular basis with female Marines. (Q #10) The answers of those answering "no" might be discredited for their lack of experience with women in combat.

  • There are several questions inquiring about intent to leave the Marine Corps if rules affecting women change, but responses will not reveal very much. Marines have contractual obligations, investments in their careers, and retirement goals that are unlikely to change, especially in the majority of communities that are not DGC. In addition, retention likely will remain high as long as the economy remains weak.

  • Classic Marine advertising campaigns have highlighted the tough, masculine image of the Corps as an important tool for obtaining the kinds of recruits it wants. The survey asks female respondents whether an assignment to a ground combat PMOS (primary military occupational specialty) would result in "Pressure to suppress my femininity." (Q91) It does not ask men whether the integration of women into the infantry might damage the Marines' masculine culture and recruiting "brand.”

  • Some questions are almost exclusively focused on self-interest and personal feelings, not combat realities or missions. For example, one set of question about "Closed PMOSs" asks about "career opportunities," then "promotion opportunities," then being "treated equally," and "being closer to the action." (Q #81-85) The careerist focus and civilian vocabulary are inconsistent with the combat mission of the Marine Corps.

  • There is a question about male Marines "feeling obligated to protect female Marines," but no queries to measure the opposite effect: men becoming increasingly resentful of women if they are assigned to currently all-male infantry battalions. (Q 52) In 1992, military sociologist Prof. Charles C. Moskos, PhD, who also served as a member of the Presidential Commission, did a survey of military personnel that identified a significant subset of men he called "egalitarian sexists." Dr. Moskos informed the commission that these men said they favored women in combat because they resented feminists and wanted to punish women by forcing them into combat where they would be hurt and forced to go away.20

  • In a later article, Moskos' colleague Laura L. Miller provided more information about men she identified as "hostile proponents." This group, which swells the numbers of survey respondents favoring women in combat, "...reason that the issue of women in the combat arms will not be put to rest until women have been given the opportunity to prove their incompetence." 21

The needlessly convoluted survey instrument fails to ask the only two questions that matter:

1)     How would the assignment of women to Marine infantry battalions improve combat readiness?

2)     Do you favor or oppose the assignment of women to Marine infantry battalions?

Without answers to those questions, liberal media will fill the news vacuum and manage perceptions with the desired spin, this time with the apparent but misleading support of military respondents whose full and complete opinions will not be heard. 22

2. Advertising, Market Research, and Recruiting

General Max Thurman, who came up with the famous Army recruiting slogan "Be All You Can Be," used to say that ours is "not an all-volunteer Army, but an all-recruited Army." 23 There are no indications that recruiting rates would improve if female soldiers were involuntarily assigned to infantry battalions.The December 2010 Youth Poll 20 Report of the Defense Department Joint Advertising, Market Research & Studies (JAMRS) found that the propensity of young women to serve in the military is only about a third that of men. 24

  • In addition, JAMRS research data that Marine Col. John Nettles presented to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) on 22 September 2011 showed that if women could serve in combat roles, 29% of potential female recruits said they would be less likely to join the military, compared to 12% of women who said they would be more likely to join. 25
  • In 2007 the Marine Corps tried an innovative advertising campaign aimed at athletic women in popular magazines such as Shape and Self, but it was not successful. Response cards were returned by over a thousand "qualified leads," but only two of those turned into enlistments − one of them already interested because of her Navy brother. 26

It is difficult to find civilian surveys done since the 1992 presidential commission that provide information on the opinions of potential male recruits on co-ed infantry assignments, should the infantry be made co-ed. If the DoD has such information it should be made available, together with the male respondents' reasons for their opinions.

Endnotes:

14. This is what happened in 2010, when the Obama Defense Department circulated a survey of the troops on the issue of gays in the military.  A subsequent Department of Defense Inspector General investigation reported that DoD General Counsel Jeh Johnson, Co-Chair of the Pentagon Working Group that produced a report on the issue, was polishing an Executive Summary of survey results in July 2010, before the instrument was sent out.  A version of that summary, suggesting that "70%" of surveyed troops did not object to repeal, was leaked prematurely to the Washington Post.  Resulting headlines eclipsed actual survey data to the contrary, especially from Marine and Army land combat respondents.  See CMR Policy Analysis, DoD IG Report Reveals Improper Activities to Repeal Gays-in-Military Law, June 2011, available at

http://cmrlink.org/CMRDocuments/CMR_PolicyAnalysis062111-A.pdf.

15. Survey Instrument prepared by the Center for Naval Analysis,  Marine Corps Manpower Team, provided to CMR on June 25, 2012.

16. Presidential Commission, supra note #11, CF 4.13, p. C-127.

17. Email message to Elaine Donnelly, September 6, 2012, on file.  The Armed Forces Press Service and AP had reported, in error, that the experiences of only two women on the IOC would support the Commandant's recommendations in November.  The misinformation remained uncorrected.

18. Misha Shubert, Sydney Morning Herald: "Women To 'Try Before They Buy' Combat Roles," Aug. 26, 2012, available at http://www.smh.com.au/action/printArticle?id=3584203.

19. USMC Close Combat Manual MCRP 3-02B, available at http://www.combatical.com/p/overview-of-closecombat.html, provides this definition: "Close combat is the physical confrontation between two or more opponents. It involves armed and unarmed and lethal and nonlethal fighting techniques that range from enforced compliance to deadly force. The purpose of close combat is to execute armed and unarmed techniques to produce both lethal and nonlethal results. Unarmed techniques include hand-to-hand combat and defense against hand-held weapons. Armed techniques include techniques applied with a rifle, bayonet, knife, baton, or any weapon of opportunity." The Presidential Commission reported this definition, quoting MCO 1300.8P, in CF 1.9, p. C-34: "For assignment purposes, direct combat action is defined as seeking out, reconnoitering, or engaging in offensive action." The other services provided similar definitions that distinguished deliberate offensive action from the experience of being "in harm's way" in a war zone.

20. In a major survey on this issue done for the 1992 Presidential Commission, Prof. Charles Moskos, a noted military sociologist and member of the commission, found that over 70% of women in all ranks supported the "voluntary option," but only 10-14% of them would have volunteered themselves.  Transcript of testimony, Sept. 21, 1992.

21. Laura L. Miller, "Not Just Weapons of the Weak: Gender Harassment as a Form of Protest for Army Men," Social Psychology Quarterly, Mar. 1997, 60, 1: Research Library, p. 43.  Dr. Miller, now a researcher with RAND, noted in the same article that military men are extremely reluctant to say anything critical or opposed to women in close combat.  During focus group interviews most would recite the "party line."  Only when pressed would "their true feelings burst forth." (p. 48, quoted by Prof. Browne in Co-Ed Combat, p. 218)

22. See note #14, supra.  Page 74 of the Comprehensive Review Working Group (CRWG) report indicated that “Nearly 60% of respondents in the Marine Corps and in Army combat arms said they believed there would be a negative impact on their unit’s effectiveness in this context; among Marine combat arms the number was 67%.”  These significant findings were eclipsed by the Washington Post headline suggesting that "70%" of surveyed military troops were not concerned about repeal of the 1993 law, and by nuanced interpretations of indirect inquiries that did not ask the most important question: "Do you support the current law or do you think it should be repealed?"

23. Quoted by Christopher L. Kolokowski, Letter to Naval Institute Proceedings magazine, "Winning the Battle, Losing the War," September 2012, p. 83.

24. Joint Advertising, Market Research & Studies, (JAMRS), Report No. 2011-05, September 2011, Table 3-4, Propensity by Race and Ethnicity, Gender, p. 3-7, available at http://www.jamrs.org/reports.php.  This estimate of female propensity probably is on the high side, since males are recruited at rates 6 or 7 times those of women.

25. USMC Women in the Service Restrictions Review, DACOWITS Brief, 22 Sep 2011, Col. John Nettles Slide #8, titled "Women Involuntarily Assigned to GCE - Impact on Recruiting and Retention?"  Available on the DACOWITS website, http://dacowits.defense.gov/, Reports & Meetings/Documents.  This briefing also noted that 55% of women said that changing the rules would not "change the likelihood" of their joining the military, discrediting the argument that a social experiment with women in land combat justifies radical disruption of the culture of the military. 

26. Douglas Quenqua, New York Times, "Sending in the Marines (to Recruit Women)" April 21, 2008.

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