The Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, a body advocating for women’s interests in the military, released a report Friday showing that female junior officers in a focus group unanimously believe gender integration is about forwarding a “social agenda.”
DACOWITS elected to discuss 14 relevant topics in 2016, and one of those topics included the tendentious policy decision to integrate women into combat roles.
To that effect, it conducted focus groups to learn more about what female officers think about the matter.
What DACOWITS found is that in one pertinent focus group, all 12 junior female officers believed gender integration is about forwarding a “social agenda,” as opposed to promoting combat readiness. Combat readiness is a belief held by many opponents of the policy move, such as Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness. Donnelly believes the move to open all combat roles to women should be rolled back post-haste.
“These women did not view gender integration as a requirement to ensure the broadest possible pool of talent is available for national security,” the report noted.
This finding presents a challenge to DACOWITS’s mission of combating negative perceptions of women on the battlefield by using “strategic communication” to “counter potential and known bias.”
As such, DACOWITS suggested the DOD switch away from the term “gender integration” to a more neutral language like “talent leverage,” in the hopes of removing any implications of social engineering, and to encourage people to think that the switch will actually increase combat readiness.
The same goes for the term “gender-neutral” standard, which DACOWITS thinks should simply be replaced with “standard.” It thinks the former term draws unnecessary attention to the perception that standards have been lowered to accommodate women.
Former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter opened all combat roles to women in December 2015, leading to an explosion of heated disagreement and emotion in Congress, the public sphere and in the armed forces.
The greatest opposition to this move came from the Marine Corps, which has not been lost on DACOWITS. The report recommended that Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who himself was opposed in the past to women serving in combat, mandate that the Marine Corps provide detailed information on its progress towards integration.
Not only that, but the report stated that Mattis should mandate that the Marine Corps work with the Army to “share best practices on gender integration.”
Finally, DACOWITS wants Mattis to require strategic wording and images be used across the Pentagon to “positively shape perceptions regarding the ability of servicewomen to perform to the highest standards of combat readiness.”