New Report: Where is the Case for Co-Ed Ground Combat?

The Center for Military Readiness has released an Interim CMR Special Report that reveals and analyzes ongoing U.S. Marine Corps research on issues Interim Report on Marine Corps Research Findingssurrounding women in direct ground combat (DGC) units.

The Interim CMR Special Report reveals previously-undisclosed findings derived from research done since 2012, when former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta set in motion incremental steps to repeal all of women’s exemptions from direct ground combat units by January 2016.  These include Marine and Army infantry, armor, artillery, Special Operations Forces and Navy Seals − small fighting teams that engage the enemy with deliberate offensive action.

The Obama Administration expects the Marine Corps to find a way to assign women to ground combat units without lowering standards.  In the independent view of CMR, quantitative research done so far indicates that these expectations cannot be met.  Androgenic characteristics in men, which are not going to change, account for greater muscle power and aerobic (endurance) capabilities that are essential for survival and mission accomplishment in direct ground combat. 

There is a perception that proposed policy changes would benefit women, but raw data and inconvenient realities presented in the Interim CMR Special Report suggest otherwise.  Information available as of October 3, 2014, can be reviewed in the one-page Abstract, the four-page Executive Summary, and the full 64-page Interim CMR Special Report, posted here:

US Marine Corps Research Findings: Where is the Case for Co-Ed Combat?

The Interim Report, which includes links to documents cited in footnotes, exposes the many pitfalls ofn implementing the administration’s incremental plans to achieve “gender diversity metrics” in the combat arms.  For example: 

  • Physical strength disparities are most relevant in tests of upper-body strength and endurance.  Significant percentages of female volunteers were unable to perform several proxy tests simulating upper body strength requirements of direct ground combat units.

  • Proxy tests under controlled conditions are not definitive, but they clearly indicate that ordering women to lift or march with heavy burdens under wartime conditions would set them up for disproportionate injuries, and put all personnel and missions at greater risk.

  • Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey has suggested that standards too high for women should be questioned, and the administration endorses recommendations for “gender diversity metrics.”  Implementation of these goals would, over time, erode high standards in the combat arms.

  • General Dempsey also has called for a “critical mass” of women in ground combat units, and administration proposals for achieving “gender diversity metrics” (read, quotas) could result in the replacement of personnel meeting high standards with others performing at minimum, “lower but equal” levels. 

  • Some of the organizations involved in the design of Marine Corps Force Integration Plan projects and subsequent studies, such as RAND, are not independent, objective, or likely to challenge the administration’s monolithic group-think on military/social issues.

  • The theoretical 3% of women who might meet minimum male standards could move from rising  career opportunities to lower status in ground combat units.  In that physically-demanding environment, they would be at a disadvantage and subject to disproportionate stress and risks of debilitating injury.

  • Reliance on “gender-neutral standards” likely would be overruled by political forces, budget cutters, recruiters, and Pentagon advisory groups that promote a liberal agenda.  The predictable formula is simple: Incrementalism + Consistency = Radical Change.

In addition to analysis of raw data compiled in the course of the Marines’ quantitative research, the Interim CMR Special Report calls attention to major issues that are not being studied. 

These include: Disproportionate risks of debilitating injuries; Readiness implications of on non-deployability and health-related personnel losses; Dynamics of male and female relationships in the military “workplace,” Distractions related to sexual misconduct, both voluntary and involuntary; Consequences for recruiting and retention; Cultural ambivalence about combat violence against women; Eligibility for Selective Service obligations, and many more unresolved issues that deserve congressional oversight and intervention.

Marine Commandant General James Amos was correct in calling for comprehensive research on the impact of policy changes, and in reserving the option to request exceptions for some ground combat element (GCE) units.  Now the responsibility falls on all policy makers to be honest about what policies are best for women, men, and the Marine Corps as a whole.

Contrary to popular beliefs, eligibility for the combat arms would harm women, not help them.  Defense Department data have shown for decades that military women are promoted at rates equal to or faster than men.

None of the USMC research results produced so far support the theory that women can be physical equals and interchangeable with men in the combat arms.    Reliance on unrealistic “best case” scenarios would impose heavy burdens on women and put all troops at greater risk. 

No one has claimed that proposed policies would improve combat readiness; they will not.  Nor is there any legal requirement to do any of this, especially without diligent congressional oversight and specific legislation ordering that women be assigned to the combat arms on the same involuntary basis as men.

In coming months, the Center for Military Readiness will continue to follow and report on research regarding women in land combat being done in the Marine Corps and other branches of the service.  CMR will also encourage Congress to exercise diligent oversight, and to challenge all assumptions and theories, political mandates, media bias, public misperceptions, and misguided group-think in academia and the administration. 

Respect for our military women, which is greater than ever, demands nothing less.