Putting Military Women's Lives on the Line
The key data Obama's move to force women into combat roles ignores.
In a move that reeks of political correctness, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Thursday that all combat positions in the U.S. military will now be open to women, with no exceptions. “They’ll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars and lead infantry soldiers into combat,” Carter declared. “They’ll be able to serve as Army rangers and green berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers and everything else that was previously open only to men.”
As the Center for Military Readiness (CMR) explains, Carter could only make the change by overruling the best professional advice of the U.S. Marine Corps “in matters involving life, death, and national security,” and “by breaking his own promise” to base his decision on the quality of scientific research behind the military services’ recommendations. The Marine Corps had requested some exceptions to the policy, but Carter declined to honor them. “The important factor in making my decision was to have access to every American who could add strength to the joint force,” he insisted, further stating the decision to do so _was_ based on empirical analysis of the data following a three-year review by all armed services branches.
CMR president Elaine Donnelly disputes that assertion, noting that Carter promised to base his decision on ”the analytic underpinnings and the data supporting them.” On that basis, Donnelly added, “Secretary Carter must assign greater weight to Marine Corps empirical evidence than he does to wishful thinking, unsupported speculations, and ‘mitigation myths.’” CMR further explains Task Force tests were created to test the hypothesis that “an integrated unit under gender-neutral standards will perform equally as well as a gender-restricted unit.”
Not exactly. The Marine Corps Test and Evaluation Activity (MCOTEA) report, a 33-page memo with attached documents, was signed by Brig. Gen. George W. Smith, Jr., Director of the Marine Corps Force Innovation Office. It was designed to analyze the _collective_ performances of units because Marines operate as such. Moreover the analysis emphasized the unwavering focus considered the benchmark of achieving the most combat effective force.
Integrated units were found lacking in three areas. Female Marines demonstrated they were capable of performing physically demanding tasks, but not at levels commensurate with their male counterparts, measured in terms of performance, fatigue, workload, or cohesion. With very few exceptions gender-integrated units also performed at lower levels with respect to time taken to complete tasks, move under loads and achieve timely efforts on targets, when compared with male counterparts. And finally, it was determined that the greater the gender integration, the more these shortfalls were “magnified.”
In terms of Combat Performance Readiness, all male units out-performed integrated units in 69 percent of ground combat tasks with the greatest physical discrepancies occurring in “specialties that carried the assault load plus the additional weight of crew-served weapons and ammunition.” Cumulative Impact of Injuries categories revealed women’s disadvantage in upper and lower body strength resulted in higher fatigue levels and greater incidents of over-use injuries, such as stress fractures.
Yet perhaps the one stat the reveals the political nature of this exercise was an Army Survey taken in 2013 of the service’s nearly 170,000 women: less than 8 percent who responded to that survey wanted a combat job. Moreover, that survey was followed up with a series of questionnaires sent to women on active duty, in the reserves and to Army National Guard members. Again, only 7.5 percent of the 30,000 women who responded indicated their desire to obtain jobs in infantry, armor, artillery and combat engineering.
Regardless, the Obama administration is moving forward with the program, getting mixed reviews in the process. “This is a unilateral decision by the secretary of defense for purely political reasons,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a member of the Armed Services Committee who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. “What is it going to do to our ability to be lethal at the small-unit level? It degrades that ability,” he added. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, (D-NY), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee disagreed. “This will strengthen our armed forces, and it builds on a history of honorable and courageous service by women throughout the military,” she countered. Judy Patterson, CEO of the Service Women’s Action Network was thrilled with Carter’s “momentous decision.” “We salute his leadership on this issue, and look forward to working with him and the service branches to create full combat integration in 2016,” she said.
Republican House and Senate leaders remain skeptical of the decision, and promised they would vigorously oversee the program’s implementation. Former Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford was also believed to be disdainful of the decision. Despite his current position as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he did not appear by Carter’s side when the decision was announced. More than likely that’s because in his prior position as Marine Corps’ commandant, he was the one who requested the exception to placing women in certain Marine roles last September, based on the aforementioned study analyses. Unfortunately Dunford’s supervisor at that time was Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who expressed his support for gender integration, while trashing the study results as biased. “It 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.”
Dunford released his own statement last Thursday. “My responsibility is to ensure (Carter’s) decision is properly implemented,” he said. “Moving forward my focus is to lead the full integration of women in a manner that maintains our joint war-fighting capability, ensures the health and welfare of our people, and optimizes how we leverage talent across the Joint Force.”
The military had been given a Dec. 31 deadline to implement the changes, or request a waiver backed by data showing why women would not be capable of performing certain tasks. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, promised Congress would use the time remaining to review the decision. ”Secretary Carter’s decision to open all combat positions to women will have a consequential impact on our service members and our military’s war fighting capabilities,” he stated. “The Congress has an essential constitutional role to make rules for the government and regulation of our nation’s armed forces.”
Sen Jack Reed (D-RI), the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, stood squarely behind the decision. ”Change will not happen overnight,” he said in a statement. “It will likely take some time before women are assigned to certain combat occupations. But going forward, the combat effectiveness of our forces will increase as integrated units are able to take advantage of the very best talent available for military service, without restriction.”
Perhaps, but it is far more likely the same incrementalist progressive mindset that had former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey suggesting that “standards too high for women should be questioned” and calling for a “critical mass” of women in Direct Ground Combat (DGC) units, coupled with the Obama administration’s promotion of “gender diversity metrics” (read: “quotas”) that could lead to higher-performing personnel being replaced by those meeting minimum standards characterized as “lower but equal,” will ultimately prevail.
Medal of Honor winner Dakota Meyer, who served with honor and distinction in Afghanistan to earn the highest award for bravery in the military, was also concerned with the decision. “In my opinion that decision was based on a political push and not a realistic thought-out study,” Meyer said. He noted many women served successfully in Iraq and Afghanistan, but maintained politicians like Carter “aren’t listening to their counterparts in the military,” referring to Carter’s decision to reject the Marines’ request for a waiver.
Only time will tell if this policy is successful, but if there is a defining characteristic of the Obama administration that stands out above all the rest, an utter lack of credibility is number one with a bullet. “ISIL will not pose an existential threat to us,” Obama said in CBS interview–taped the _same day_ the atrocity in San Bernardino was unfolding. “They are a dangerous organization like al Qaeda was, but we have hardened our defenses. The American people should feel confident that, you know, we are going to be able to defend ourselves and make sure that, you know, we have a good holiday and go about our lives.”
Such denialism goes hand in hand with progressive attitudes regarding gender integration. The Obama administration pursues diversity while ISIS pursues the destruction of our nation and Iran pursues a nuclear weapon. And once again, the administration’s timing is impeccable: one day after the deadliest terror attack since 9⁄11, the president chose to advance his social engineering agenda and degrade the nation’s military preparedness. That’s because progressives would rather protect multiculturalism, diversity and political correctness than the lives of their fellow Americans.