The Obama Administration is moving ahead with incremental plans to force (not "allow") women into direct ground combat fighting teams that currently are all-male. These include Army/Marine infantry, armor, artillery and − with inevitably-"adjusted" standards − Special Operations Forces, Rangers, and Navy SEALs.
There are many good reasons to delay and eventually halt ill-advised plans to gender-integrate direct ground combat units that currently are all-male. Decades of empirical evidence that is based on actual experience, not theory, indicates that this is an unnecessary, bad idea that cannot be justified in terms of military necessity. An analysis of reasons why this is a bad idea, and constructive recommendations to enact sound policy for both women and men in the military are incorporated in a comprehensive statement on this subject that the Center for Military Readiness submitted for the record of a House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee hearing on July 24, 2013:
Since the attacks of 9/11, more than 142 women have given their lives in service to America, and unprecedented numbers have served with distinction in Afghanistan and Iraq. The nation is proud of women who have made great sacrifices, experiencing contingent or incident-related combat in war zones placing them "in harm's way."
Still, women have not been assigned to the small "tip of the spear" units in question now: direct ground combat units such as the infantry. These fighting teams are trained to seek, find, and attack the enemy with deliberate offensive action. Situations in Iraq and Afghanistan have changed, but the missions and physical demands of direct ground combat units, which are all-male, have not changed.
There is no evidence that anything more than a small minority of military women want to be treated like men in direct ground combat. The most recent online survey done in August by the Military Times asked active-duty female readers whether they would want to take a combat job once it was open to them. Of the female respondents, 13% said Yes, 9% were not sure, and 77% of uniformed women said No, they would not take a combat job. (Aug. 19, Navy Times) So why is this happening?
We are seeing a campaign of false perception management that relies upon confusion about the definition of direct ground combat, the mistaken idea that assignments will be voluntary, and misguided assumptions about what it is that "women" want. Contrary to claims that combat experience is needed and desirable for career advancement, data going back decades indicates that women have been promoted at rates equal to or faster than men.
Members of Congress are suffering from a severe case of "fem fear," due to false charges that they are waging some sort of "war on women." As a result, most are standing by passively while the military prepares to force unwilling women to fight our nation's wars.
Military service leaders are saying what President Obama expects them to say, but they are also delaying for as long possible implementation of the administration's plans to order women into direct ground combat fighting teams. Incremental plans are stretching out the process until January 2016, using a "frog in the pot" strategy to mislead Congress with promises that the issue is being objectively "studied." It is not.
Information that does not support pre-conceived conclusion that women should have "career opportunities" in the infantry is simply being withheld from public view. The services are also using words and phrases with double meanings, such as "gender-neutral standards." Contrary to common misunderstandings, the phrase refers to training programs that are gender-specific or gender-normed to recognize physical differences between men and women. "Gender-neutral" standards likely will be "equal" but lower than they are now.
The following is an update on events and policies that will impose unnecessary burdens on military women and on every branch and community in the armed forces − particularly the combat arms. A review is important to understand what has happened and what might be done about it in the future.
1. The Obama Administration's Push for "Gender Diversity" in Direct Ground Combat
On January 24, 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that he was unilaterally revoking all remaining Defense Department regulations exempting women from assignment to direct ground combat battalions such as the infantry. Secretary Panetta directed the military service chiefs to provide by May 2013 specific reports on how to implement his mandate to gender-integrate all-male fighting units by 2016.
The Center for Military Readiness set forth a plan of action, starting with a joint letter expressing concern about unprecedented policy changes announced in January. Forty-five individual leaders and organizations affiliated with the Military Culture Coalition (MCC) signed the letter, which was delivered to Rep. Howard P. McKeon (R-CA), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on April 1, 2013.
The MCC letter asked committee members to intervene before the administration's incremental plans resulted in women being involuntarily assigned to "tip of the spear" direct ground combat units. Action to codify women's exemption from direct ground combat units that attack the enemy would make it necessary for the administration to obtain specific congressional approval before women are forced into the infantry. A law codifying current policy also would counter the administration's push for a "critical mass" of women to acieve "gender diversity" in units that should remain all-male.
2. Concerns About Selective Service
The MCC expressed additional concern because, according to legal experts, making female military personnel eligible for direct ground combat likely would result in a federal court ruling making young women subject to Selective Service and a possible future draft.
3. A Plan for Action: "Sound Policy for Women In the Military"
To prevent this legal result of gender "equality," and to avoid problems expected to ensue when women are forced into land combat, the Center for Military Readiness proposed a plan of action called "Sound Policy for Women In the Military."
Lawmakers who actively sought information from the Center for Military Readiness, including high-ranking Republicans in both the House and Senate, said they were very concerned about administration moves to force women into direct ground combat. Many liked the "Sound Policy" concept because it is reality-based, contemporary, and rooted in common sense. For example, the "Sound Policy" concept would:
a) Differentiate direct ground combat from contingency combat "in harm's way."
The word "combat" needs to be defined more clearly. There is no question that women have been subjected to contingent, incident-related combat while "in harm's way." Direct ground combat, which involves deliberately attacking the enemy, goes beyond that experience. Clarifying the difference would help to assign women to military occupational specialties for which they are well suited and qualified, instead of forcing women into units where "equal" treatment would be unfair and counter-productive.
b) Preserve women's current exemptions from direct ground combat.
Congress would retain control of the issue by codifying assignment policies known to work well. Under the "Sound Policy" concept, direct ground combat battalions such as the infantry would remain all-male. This is the same sound policy that the Defense Department has supported throughout history and even in a recent formal notification submitted to the Armed Services Committees on April 11, 2013.
c) Retain high, uncompromised training standards in the combat arms.
If Army/Marine infantry, armor, artillery, Special Operations Forces and Navy SEALs remain all-male, there will be no need for elaborate and expensive projects to "validate" standards that, over time, will be adjusted and lowered to accommodate a "critical mass" of women in formerly all-male units.
d) Preserve women's exemption from Selective Service and a possible draft.
Changes in women's eligibility for direct ground combat, which would trigger Selective Service obligations, would have to be authorized by a specific vote of Congress. A decision such as this should not be made by a federal court overturning the Rostker precedent.
e) Support both men and women in the military with policies that recognize reality and put military necessity first.
Codifying extant policy would not remove women from any positions for which they are eligible − including "exceptions to policy" announced in February 2012. (The "exceptions" or "ETPs" primarily involved support units that used to fall under the now-repealed DoD "collocation rule" that exempted women from non-aggressive-combat support units collocated or embedded with the infantry. Repeal of the collocation rule was controversial, sparking a serious debate in 2005, but repeal has become a fait accompli.)
The "Sound Policy for Women in the Military" proposal essentially would follow the advice of the late Lt. Gen. Victor "Brute" Krulak, a visionary Marine who, when asked about women in combat, recommended, "Congress should draw the line at the point of the bayonet."
4. Mark-up Session: National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2014
During the House Armed Services Committee mark-up session on June 5, in which members voted for their version of the National Defense Authorization Act, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) sponsored an amendment to mandate "gender-neutral" standards. The amendment was approved as part of the "Chairman's mark" draft bill that was prepared in advance and adopted en bloc (Sec. 526).
Some staff members admitted that abundant facts, persuasive arguments, and concerns about future legal and military consequences were disregarded due to perceived political self-interest, meaning concerns about accusations of waging a "war on women." Even if there were a "war on women," the answer is not to send unwilling women to fight our wars.
As a result of congressional inaction so far, nothing stands in the way of female soldiers and Marines being forced into infantry battalions, or civilian women being subject to Selective Service obligations including a possible future draft.
5. Personnel Sub-Committee Hearing
The House Armed Services Committee has not had a serious hearing on women in combat since 1979, 34 years ago, and the Senate Armed Services Committee has not had a hearing since 1991, 22 years ago. On July 24 the HASC Personnel Subcommittee had a brief hearing that did not break this sorry record of inattention to the concerns of women in the military.
The hearing was a passive, incurious event, which only heard from Pentagon civilian and military officials. The members' apparent lack of preparation to discuss the issue knowledgeably was not a tribute to military women or a credit to the committee. The few members who did show up on the Republican side of the room did not ask questions related to the serious arguments and facts that were contained in the 23-page statement that the Center for Military Readiness filed.
Feminist Representatives Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Niki Tsongas (D-NH), and Susan Davis (D-DA) were there to ask aggressive questions, one of which drew out testimony that should have been headline news: Women will not be "allowed" into combat; they will be ordered.
6. Reluctant Women Will Be Forced Into Land Combat
Every woman already in the military, potential recruits, and their families should be aware of what General Milstead said and what it means for their future. Most questions and articles about women in combat, however, still suggest that women will be "allowed" into the infantry − a permissive word that disguises the involuntary nature of such assignments.
Women in uniform, most of whom serve in the enlisted ranks, know that forcing them into occupations where they are not the physical equals of men would not be fair, equal, or beneficial for the armed forces and our national security. The armed forces are nevertheless pushing young women and mothers into direct ground combat, which is not a reality show.
In that environment, women do not have an equal opportunity to survive, or to help fellow soldiers survive. To show true respect for military women, Congress needs to pay attention to this issue and live up to their duty to make sound policy for women...and men...in the only military we have.
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