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Posted on Oct 1, 2007 Print this Article


The Center for Military Readiness has released detailed CMR Policy Analysis of the long-delayed RAND Report on women in combat.  The 158-page document, titled Assessing the Assignment Policy for Army Women, fails to provide objective, credible information useful for congressional hearings and oversight.  Instead, the RAND Report creates needless confusion with unsupported findings, misinformation, and flawed assumptions about questionable Pentagon practices.

Among other things, the RAND Report denies the clear meaning and even the existence of a key Defense Department (DoD) regulation, called the “collocation rule.”  That regulation, which remains in effect, exempts female soldiers from involuntary assignment in support units that physically collocate and remain with direct ground combat units, such as the infantry, 100% of the time. 

RAND researchers make much of alleged “differences” between current Defense Department regulations set forth in 1994 by then-Secretary Les Aspin, and Army regulations established by the Army in 1992.  This is a curious argument to make, since the 1994 DoD regulations superceded the outdated 1992 Army rules

There is no evidence that the Secretary of Defense allowed the Army to retain inconsistent rules with regard to women in combat.  On July 28, 1994, Secretary Aspin’s successor, William J. Perry, signed a letter approving a list of Army positions to be opened or to remain approving a list of Army positions to be opened or to remain closed under DoD regulations, including the extant DoD “collocation rule.”

Another inconvenient fact further undermines RAND’s dissembling argument. The 1992 Army rules also included the Army’s version of the “Risk Rule,” which attempted to shield women soldiers from units involving a “substantial risk of capture.”  Then-Secretary of Defense Les Aspin dropped that phrase and the Risk Rule from DoD regulations in 1994.  Why, then, is RAND not arguing that the Army’s Risk Rule is still in effect?  RAND cannot base its straw man argument on an obsolete rule—but only part of it.   

Phony Word for a Phantom Rule

The RAND Report also tries to draw distinctions between the legitimate word “collocate,” which appears in both the current DoD and obsolete Army regulations, and the non-existent word “colocate,” which RAND says was used with a different meaning and pronunciation by a few unnamed interviewees. 

This entire line of argument attempts to draw distinctions without a difference.  It is ludicrous for RAND to rely upon a phantom “colocation rule,” while denying the existence of the genuine DoD “collocation rule,” which remains in extant regulations.  There is no record of any official action to repeal the DoD collocation rule, or to comply with the long-standing congressional notification law prior to changes that already have been made without authorization by the Secretary of Defense. 

Irresponsible Incrementalism

The RAND Report is admittedly tunnel-visioned and short-sighted, discussing only the current situation of the Army in Iraq.  This narrow and naïve perspective does not acknowledge or discuss the consequences of improper and unauthorized precedents being set by the Army, without authorization or notice to Congress.  Incremental extension of these changes ultimately will affect all direct ground combat units, such as Army and Marine infantry, armor, and Special Operations Forces.  Absent congressional oversight and intervention, lives of both men and women will be put at greater risk in units that currently are required to be all male.

There is no question that in the current war, all deployed soldiers are serving “in harm’s way.”  But the offensive missions of direct ground combat units, such as the infantry, have not changed.  Our female soldiers are indisputably brave, but the military cannot disregard differences in physical strength and social complications that would detract from the strength, discipline, and readiness of direct ground combat units.  These troops attack the enemy with deliberate offensive action under fire.

Collocated forward support companies, called “FSCs,” also are required by regulation to be all male for many good reasons.  No one’s infantryman son should have to die because the FSC support soldier nearest him cannot lift and single-handedly carry him from the battlefield if he is severely wounded under fire.  Most male soldiers have that physical capability.  Female soldiers, no matter how competent and brave, do not.

Members of Congress should be appalled by RAND’s casual disregard of the long-standing law mandating congressional oversight.  If the Army wants to change the rules, it should follow legal procedures for change, instead of using a civilian contractor to dissemble and blur the facts and consequences involved. 

Absent public awareness and intervention by President George W. Bush, illicit Army practices already are imposing unnecessary burdens, such as sexual misconduct issues and pregnancies, on land combat units that used to be all male.  The unresolved and worsening situation invites more incremental steps in the wrong direction. 

President George W. Bush should hold accountable all officials who have tolerated this situation, and used semantics and sophistry to mislead Congress on a matter of great importance.  The RAND Report was released seventeen months beyond the deadline set by law.  It is long past time for Congress to shoulder its responsibility to provide responsible oversight.  This must be done for the sake of women, men, and the armed forces as a whole.


NOTE:  Information refuting many of RAND’s assumptions and assertions is included in Elaine Donnelly’s comprehensive article, titled “Constructing the Co-Ed Military,” published in the May 2007 edition of the Duke University Journal of Gender Law and Policy.  (See link here, at pages 833-853.) 

Posted on Oct 1, 2007 Print this Article