The Pentagon has fired all Clinton-appointed members of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) and created a new charter for the 51-year old committee that restricts its advisory role. Instead of advising Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on “the full range of matters,” DACOWITS will now report on only “specified matters” determined by the Pentagon, according to the Washington Times. The Pentagon has also ended the relationship of 30 service representatives to DACOWITS and has forbidden DACOWITS from conducting site visits to independently picked U.S. military installations. The Pentagon will now determine where the new DACOWITS panel is allowed to visit.
The Pentagon is now choosing new members of DACOWITS. The Washington Times reports that all members will now be required to have been in the military or to be in a military family. The Pentagon is not making a commitment to ensuring that women are adequately represented on the panel, and officials have said that there will be “no predetermined ratio” of men to women on the panel.
Reactionary anti-feminist groups had been urging the Bush Administration to dismantle DACOWITS altogether, even though the committee has helped increase women’s participation in military service over a period of decades. The Pentagon’s new reconstruction of DACOWITS comes just as a federal district court ruled that the U.S. Army’s promotional affirmative action policy was unconstitutional and disadvantaged white males. As of 1997, women made up only 14% of the Army. In that same year, an Army report found that “sexual harassment exists throughout the army” and that “sex discrimination is more common than sexual harassment.”