Navy Secretary Dismisses Risks to Women in Combat

A new study reveals the disturbing facts.

For Navy Secretary Ray Mabus it would appear that progressive ideology trumps inconvenient reality. In an interview with National Public Radio (NPR) Mabus criticized a nine month study revealing that women sustain injuries at a higher rate than their male counterparts and shoot with less accuracy under combat-simulated conditions. “(The study) started out with a fairly large component of the men thinking this is not a good idea and women will never be able to do this,” Mabus told NPR’s David Greene. “When you start out with that mindset you’re almost presupposing the outcome.”

Apparently Mabus is immune to the irony that attends his own presuppositions. The study itself, known as the Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force (GCEITF) and conducted with 200 male and 75 female volunteers, couldn’t have been clearer. As the executive summary reveals, all male squads, teams and crews “demonstrated higher performance levels on 69% of tasks evaluated (93 of 134) as compared to gender-integrated squads, teams and crews.” By contrast, gender-integrated units outperformed their all-male counterparts in two events.

In the Speed category, and regardless of Military Occupational Specialties (MOS), all-male squads were faster than gender-integrated ones in each tactical movement. Furthermore, those differences “were more pronounced in infantry crew-served weapons specialties that carried the assault load plus the additional weight of crew-served weapons and ammunition,” the summary stated.

The Lethality category showed similar discrepancies. Other than the probability of hit and miss with the M4, all-male squads demonstrated greater accuracy than gender-integrated ones with a “notable difference” recorded between genders for “every individual weapons system.” All male squads had higher hit percentages, engaged targets in shorter time periods and registered more hits on those targets than their gender-integrated counterparts, with the only exception being M2 accuracy.

In addition, all male squads demonstrated superiority in the performance of the basic combat tasks that required negotiating obstacles and evacuating casualties. “For example, when negotiating the wall obstacle, male Marines threw their packs to the top of the wall, whereas female Marines required regular assistance in getting their packs to the top,” the summary revealed. “During casualty evacuation assessments, there were notable differences in execution times between all-male and gender-integrated groups, except in the case where teams conducted a casualty evacuation as a one-Marine fireman’s carry of another (in which case it was most often a male Marine who ‘evacuated’ the casualty).”

In the Health and Welfare of Marines category, “well documented comparative disadvantage in upper and lower-body strength resulted in higher fatigue levels of most women, which contributed to greater incidents of overuse injuries such as stress fractures,” with men outperforming, or demonstrating greater degrees of strength and endurance, than women in all categories, including body composition, anaerobic power and capacity, and aerobic capacity. 

The injury differences were especially stark. According to research at the Infantry Training Battalion, females undergoing that entry level training sustained injuries at six times the rate of their male counterparts. In the categories of task movements while carrying loads, males were injured at a rate of 13 percent while females sustained injuries at a rate of 27 percent. Female musculoskeletal injury rates were more than double those of males, coming in at a staggering 40.5 percent, compared to just 18.8 percent for males.

Mabus was unmoved, insisting that “empirical standards” are determined by “what you put in” the tests and that the Center for Naval Analyses have discovered ways to “mitigate this so you can have the same combat effectiveness, the same lethality, which is crucial.” He further insisted the idea that women are injured more often than men was not shown in the study, but based rather on “an extrapolation based on injury rates,” and that the Marines could have chosen women for the study better suited for the task of shouldering heavier loads. “For the women that volunteered, probably there should have been a higher bar to cross to get into the experiment,” he said, apparently ignoring what the word “volunteers” actually means.

Sgt. Danielle Beck, a female anti-armor gunner with the task force was contemptuous of Mabus’s contentions. “Our secretary of the Navy completely rolled the Marine Corps and the entire staff that was involved in putting this [experiment] in place under the bus,” she said. That sentiment was echoed by Sgt. Joe Frommling, one of the Marines acting as a monitor for Beck during the tests. “What Mabus said went completely against what the command was saying the whole time,” Frommling explained. “They said, ‘Hey, no matter what your opinion is, go out there and give it your best and let the chips fall where they may.’”

Another Marine officer took Mabus to task for the Secretary’s suggestion the test was rigged. “If you were to look at our training plan and how we progressed from October to February, you’re not going to find any evidence of institutional bias or some way we built this for females to fail,” he stated. “We consulted physical trainers from [the school of infantry] to help develop an appropriate hike plan, and we fired roughly a year’s worth of ammo for a regiment in a quarter. In the time that we had, there wasn’t a day wasted when it came to training for California … From the top down, we were trying to level the playing field.”

Congressman Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, took it one step further, calling on Mabus to resign. In a scathing letter  sent to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Sept. 17, Hunter, who served as a Marine in both Iraq and Afghanistan, criticized Mabus’s assertion that he would not support any requests for gender-related exemptions before he was even briefed on the 900-page report’s findings. “This alone underscores the fact that the Navy Secretary is biased in his judgment and should be withdrawn from any decision-making with respect to the Marine Corps’ gender integration plan,” Duncan wrote. In calling for Mabus’s resignation, Hunter cited the Secretary’s disrespect for the Marine Corps as an institution and for insulting its competency “by disregarding their professional judgment, their combat experience and their quality of leadership.”

Four days later, Mabus penned an editorial for the Washington Post reiterating his commitment to diversity, and once again implying the tested were rigged. “The Marines deconstructed each job in a unit to specifically detail its requirements so that individual members could function better as a team,” he wrote. “During the study, however, the Marine Corps did not rely on the data for, or evaluate the performance of, individual female Marines; instead, it used only averages. Averages have no relevance to the abilities and performance of individual Marines.” 

In its Oct. 1 release, the Center for Military Readiness (CMR) refuted that assessment. “Secretary Mabus betrayed a fundamental misunderstanding of statistical analysis,” CMR stated. “Data points are derived from the performances of multiple research participants – not just the highest-scoring or lowest-scoring. It matters, therefore that all-male squads, teams, and units outperformed gender-integrated teams in 93 of 134 tasks” (bold in the original).

Mabus sounded even sillier when he noted the language rescinded by former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey to integrate combat units had its roots in a 1992 recommendation by the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces that excluded women from combat. Mabus insisted the Marine Corps “relied on that language” when conducting its tests.

Yesterday was the deadline for armed service recommendations for gender integration into combat units by top U.S. military leaders. The Marine Corps has requested a partial exemption from the 2013 directive issued by Panetta and Dempsey. According to Reuters, the Army, Navy, and Air Force have “hinted that they will not seek exemptions.” Current Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford recommended maintaining the Marine Corps exemption. Secretary Carter, who stated he would “carefully review” reports from all four service branches and the Special Operations Command, remained noncommittal. “Everyone who is able and willing to serve and can meet the standards we require should have the full opportunity to do so,” he told reporters. “I am going to be very facts-based and analysis-based. I want to see the grounds upon which any actions that we take at the first of the year are going to be made.” 

Few things are more emblematic of the fecklessness of Obama administration than its obsession with progressive pieties while Vladimir Putin and the Iranians are turning the Middle East into their personal playground. While Obama and company pursue the Holy Grail of diversity, our enemies pursue a realignment of the world in ways utterly inimical to our national security. If it continues, these doyens of gender equality irrespective of reality may get their wish: every soldier in uniform may be called upon to defend this nation from an unprecedented level of aggression. Aggression enabled by what is arguably one of the worst assemblages of clueless government officials and their military enablers in the history of our nation.