NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Defeminizing The Military

September 23, 2002

Critics warn that the Bush administration is quietly attempting to reverse the gains of women in the military. They focus on the actions of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld regarding a respected volunteer civilian agency within the department, the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS). The group was created in 1951 to allow servicewomen to have their concerns aired and translated into recommendations sent to the military services.

  • DACOWITS brought many hard questions to the fore, leading to such changes as coed boot camp, "norming" of fitness standards, rules aimed at sexual harassment and family-friendly policies.
  • The group was behind President Clinton's 1994 move to put women on most combat ships and aircraft.
  • This year, Rumsfeld let DACOWITS's charter lapse, dismissed it members and reconstituted it to concentrate on recruitment and retention rather than integration.
  • Meanwhile, critics charge, Rumsfeld is taking other steps to move woman toward the back of the troop train.

For example, Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition squadrons are part of the Army's efforts to train faster, more flexible troops. Assignment to such a squadron was a mark of accomplishment, and early on women were part of the units. But after an independent group, the Center for Military Readiness, lobbied the Defense Department to get women out of the unit, the Pentagon complied.

Also at the behest of critics of a gender-integrated military, the Army is now re-evaluating the practice of sexually-integrated basic training (Army, Navy and Air Force men and women who will serve together now train together).

Source: Robin Gerber, "Don't Send Military to the Back of the Troop Train," USA Today, September 23, 2002.

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