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Posted on Sep 3, 2003 Print this Article


In the fall of 1996 sensational news of sex scandals broke out at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, and at several gender-integrated basic training facilities.  The nation was shocked to learn that drill sergeants were abusing female trainees by engaging in forced or consensual sex that was exploitive, contrary to military law, and seriously wrong by any measure.

The atmosphere of indiscipline in programs that were supposed to teach military discipline were an unfortunate but predictable consequence of social policies implemented by the administration of then-President Bill Clinton.  In 1994, Clinton’s Secretary of the Army Togo D. West and Assistant Secretary Sara Lister ordered gender-integration of basic training programs to improve the morale of female trainees. 

The administration disregarded the fact that a previous five-year test of co-ed basic training, ordered during the Jimmy Carter Administration, had to be ended early in the Reagan Administration because women were experiencing disproportionate injuries and male trainees were not being challenged enough. 1 

In 1997 an independent Defense Department commission headed by former Kansas Senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker, recommended unanimously that co-ed basic training be ended because it was “resulting in less discipline, less unit cohesion, and more distraction from training programs.” 2

The House of Representatives voted to do so in 1998.  The Senate declined to pass similar legislation, however, pending the completion of yet another report by a commission created by Congress to study the issue.  Indeed, Pentagon and Army task forces, review panels, study groups, commissions, and individual members of Congress have studied this issue to death. 

During six years of debate and delay, an enormous body of expert testimony and information has been presented for the record and compiled in numerous official reports published by the Department of the Army, Congress, and the Department of Defense. 

On the request of Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), the Center for Military Readiness compiled a comprehensive Summary of Relevant Findings and Recommendations – Army Gender-Integrated Basic Training (GIBT) – 1993-2002.  Rep. Bartlett subsequently placed the summary in the Congressional Record on June 11, 2003.  (pp. E1223 – E1226) 

The heavily footnoted 18-page compendium of relevant facts on the subject, which includes excerpts and graphs from the 1997 Kassebaum Baker Report and the 1999 Final Report of the Congressional Commission on Military Training and Gender-Related Issues, lists dozens of compelling reasons why co-ed basic training should be ended without further delay. 

The September 11 Attack on America forced other priorities to the forefront.  Still, it is disappointing  that after more than a decade, nothing has been done to restore single-gender training to the Army. 

The Bush Administration has expressed its intent to transform the military into a faster, stronger, and more flexible force.  It would make sense, therefore, to restore a training format that is known to be both efficient and effective in terms of military requirements.

The most recent evaluation of co-ed training was presented to then-Army Secretary Thomas White on March 22, 2002, by the Army Training and Doctrine Command.  In an astonishing slide show,  TRADOC supported the program for sociological reasons, but also conceded that GIBT is “not efficient” as a format for the basic instruction of recruits. 3

Inefficiencies associated with GIBT, many of which were chronicled in prior official reports done on the subject, include the following: 

  • Less discipline, less unit cohesion, and more distraction from training programs 
  • Voluntary and involuntary misconduct, due to an emotionally volatile environment for which leaders and recruits are unprepared. 
  • Higher physical injury and sick call rates that detract from primary training objectives. 
  • Diversion from essential training time due to interpersonal distractions and the need for an extra week of costly “sensitivity training.”  
  • A perceived decline in the overall quality and discipline of GIBT; lack of confidence in the abilities of fellow soldiers; and the need to provide remedial instruction to compensate for military skills not learned in basic training.  
  • Re-defined or lowered standards, gender-normed scores, and elimination of physically demanding exercises so that women will succeed. 
  • Additional stress on instructors who must deal with different physical abilities and psychological needs of male and female recruits. 
  • Contrivances to reduce the risk of scandal, such as changing rooms, extra security equipment and personnel hours to monitor barracks activities, and “no talk, no touch” rules, which interfere with informal contacts between recruits and instructors. 
  • No evidence of objectively measured positive benefits from GIBT, and no evidence that restoration of separate gender training would have negative consequences for women or men.

Improve Army Basic Training—End GIBT Now      

The need for women in the military is unquestioned and not relevant to the issue of Gender-Integrated Basic Training.  The real question is whether it makes sense to retain an expensive, inefficient form of Army training that offers minimal benefits in terms of military necessity.

GIBT was implemented administratively in 1994.  It is possible to restore superior gender-separate basic training in the same way.  For the sake of military efficiency and the best interests of Army men and women, this should be done without further delay. 

Restoration of single-gender basic training, which worked very well for both male and female trainees prior to the Clinton Administration, would be consistent with current Defense Department strategies to transform and improve the effectiveness of the Army as a whole. 

During the 2000 Presidential Campaign, the American Legion Magazine asked then-Texas Governor George W. Bush about his views on co-ed basic training.  Candidate Bush replied,

“The experts tell me, such as Condoleezza Rice, [formerly a member of the Kassebaum Baker Commission] that we ought to have separate basic training facilities.  I think women in the military have an important and good role, but the people who study the issue tell me that the most effective training would be to have the genders separated.”  (Washington Times, Jan. 31, 2003)

Well said, Mr. President.  And the body evidence from experts that is available now is even more compelling than it was then.  With the War on Terrorism still in progress, continuance of problematic military personnel policies cannot be justified.

For access to the full Summary of Relevant Findings and Recommendations on GIBT, please click on the link below.  Appendices A-D are also available in a PDF file posted nearby under Issues/Co-Ed Basic Training.



[1]  Report of the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces, Nov. 15, 1992, CF 2.1.5, and CF 2.4.1A. Numerous studies in the United States and in the United Kingdom have confirmed similar results. 

[2] Report of the Kassebaum Baker Commission, Dec. 16, 1997, p. 15. 

[3]  Slide No. 12, U.S. Army Traiing Center and Fort Jackson Gender Integrated Training, Secretary of the Army, 22 March 2002, IET Task Force Findings & Conclusions.   Reasons given include: Billeting;  NCO losses (1.4%) due to abuse/improper association;  Issues of  “rigor” and “standards;”  Disproportionate female injury rates;  Limited number of female drill sergeants; and  Perception of double standards in PT test. 


Posted on Sep 3, 2003 Print this Article