At a news conference Friday, June 26, Defense Secretary William Cohen discussed a panel he has created to study the “viability” and “desirability” of mixed-gender training and make sure women trainees receive fair treatment. While he claims the panel will not restrict opportunities for women in the military, Cohen did not deny the possibility that the panel will suggest segregated training as a means of improvement for the military. Cohen created the panel to deal with female trainees’ charges of sexual harassment against male drill sergeants at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. Cohen attributes the strength of the military to the increasing importance of women’s role in the armed forces. Women make up almost 14% of the military compared to 2% twenty-five years ago.
Former Republican Senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker will head the panel. At the news conference, Kassebaum said the panel will consist of four retired military officers and six civilians, evenly divided by gender. The panel will have six months to submit its suggestions to Cohen.