Fourteen right-wing organizations, including the anti-feminist Concerned Women for America signed a letter urging Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to segregate basic training of military recruits by sex. Among the signatories is the Center for Military Readiness, headed by longstanding equal rights opponent Elaine Donnelly. The Center works to eliminate women and gays from the military, sighting fears of lowered standards of training and pregnancy-related absences.
Yet pregnancy among female recruits has also proven to be far less of a problem than alcohol and drug abuse among male recruits. A recent study showed that the average cost of early returns for men was $7,174 as compared to $2,046 for women. AIDS and substance abuse accounted for 8% of medical evacuations, pregnancy for barely 1%.
In a debate with Donnelly on Washington Journal last month, Eleanor Smeal, Feminist Majority Foundation president, argued that purely physical measurements of military readiness are archaic, given the high-tech nature of today’s military. “The major impetus behind the integration of the military was and is a shortage of male volunteers who can pass the military’s mental standards and tests,” said Smeal. “In an economy with only a 4.5% unemployment rate, you can’t offer low pay and expect qualified men to apply. The military recruits women because it needs a larger pool of qualified applicants. For women, especially those who cannot afford college, the military offers training and educational opportunities.”
“The country’s demographics won’t support an all-volunteer force unless you use women,” agrees retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Donald Gardner. “Nearly 14 percent of today’s military is composed of women,” Gardner said “and they are there to stay.” A 1997 study by RAND found that women had little or no effect on readiness, and that the majority of enlisted men and women support an increased role of women in combat.
In 1997 the Chief of Naval Operations, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff of the Army refused to implement a proposal by Sen. Bartlett (R-MD) to re-segregate military training. “Any proposal that calls for gender segregation of both trainees and cadres violates the very foundation of the Army, an integrated, effective and lethal force that is ready to perform the mission anywhere at any time,” wrote General Reimer in an open letter on the issue.
For more, see:
NOWLDEF http://www.nowldef.org/html/news/pr/archive/060697j2.htm RAND http://www.rand.org/publications/RB/RB7515/ http://www.rand.org/publications/MR/MR896/ Linda Bird Francke, “Ground Zero” NYT review http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/06/15/reviews/970615.15kaminet.html Military Women Veterans http://userpages.aug.com/captbarb/myths.html US Dept of Defense http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jun1997/x06051997_x0603gen.html