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"Diversity" for Women in Land Combat

The documents posted below provide factual information and historic context on the issue of military women in or near direct ground combat.  Current articles are posted in the Issues Research & Analysis Section of this website under "Women in Combat."

Perspective also is provided in relevant sections of a comprehensive article by CMR President Elaine Donnelly, titled Constructing the Co-Ed Military," which was published n the June 2007 edition of the Duke University Journal of Gender Law & Policy. This peer-reviewed article provides links to original sources in more than 600 footnotes.

Analysis of Current Research on Women in Land Combat

 The following are major CMR Policy Analyses posted in the News & Commentary and Essential Resources sections of the CMR website:

Interim CMR Special Report, Part I, Sept. 2014, U.S. Marine Corps Research Findings: Where Is the Case for Co-Ed Ground Combat?

More Documents of Current Interest:

On July 24, 2013, CMR President Elaine Donnelly submitted a comprehensive statement raising still-unanswered questions about Defense Department plans to order female personnel into direct ground combat battalions.  The 24-page document, which includes links to footnoted sources, is posted on the website of the House Armed Services Committee:

Statement of Elaine Donnelly, President, Center for Military Readiness - House Armed Services Personnel Committee - Hearing on  Women in Service Review, July 24, 2013.

The following CMR Policy Analyses and Statement highlight aspects of controversies surrounding policies affecting women in the military:

The following are CMR Policy Analyses highlighting various aspects of the women in land combat controversy:

For the convenience of researchers, CMR has posted a variety of documents addressing the following topics, which are essential in understanding the past and future debate regarding women in direct ground combat:

A.  Military Leadership Diversity Commission: Diversity Discrimination, Not Individual Merit

B.  Physical Differences, Physiology, and Medical Concerns

C.  U.K  Decision to Retain Women's Exemptions from Direct Ground Combat

D.  "Gender-Free" Training Causes Women's Injuries to Skyrocket 

E.  Additional Issues:  It's Not Just About Physical Differences or Career Opportunities

F.  Definitions Relevant to the Debate: Women in Combat

Additional information is provided in the CMR Research & Analysis section of this website, under Women in Combat, or in other sections highlighted by a key word search.  These documents and many more set forth multiple reasons why the case for women in land combat has not been made.  Such a policy would be harmful to women, men, and the armed forces as a whole.

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A.  Military Leadership Diversity Commission: Diversity Discrimination, Not Individual Merit

The renewed push to get women (especially minority women) into direct ground combat units is  designed to achieve what is sometimes called a "diversity vision" based on "diversity metrics."  The latter phrase, used repeatedly in the Defense Department-endorsed 2011 Military Leadership Diversity Commission (MLDC) Report, is another name for gender-based quotas that treat people not as individuals, but as part of favored or disfavored demographic groups. 

1.  On February 9, 2012, Defense Department officials announced changes in long-standing regulations affecting the assignments of military women in or near direct ground combat units that attack the enemy with deliberate offensive action.  During that event, there were several references to the MLDC Report, which recommends that the "DoD and the Services eliminate combat exclusion policies for women,  (p. xvii) 

The full 140 page report of the congressionally-authorized Military Leadership Diversity Commission (MLDC), which advocates a quest for "diversity metrics" as the military's highest priority, is at the center of this discussion:

Among other things, the MLDC Report recommends that "diversity" become an "institutional priority" and a "core value" that requires a "standard set of strategic metrics and benchmarks to track progress toward the goal of officer and enlisted corps that reflects the eligible U.S. population across all service communities and ranks..."  (pp. 17-18, emphasis added)

The MLDC admits that the new concept of diversity may be a "difficult concept to grasp" because it is not the same as the "EO-inspired mandate to be both color and gender blind."  Instead, the MLDC  report repeatedly pushes for "diversity metrics," which are supposed to enforce race- and gender-conscious "inclusion" that goes beyond EO, and "needs to become the norm." (p. 18, emphasis added.)  

In August 2012, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jon Greenert told Navy Times that his own "diversity vision" would not involve quotas for favored groups.  On the contrary, this radical ideology, if fully implemented, would be a sharp departure from policies that ban discrimination and recognize individual merit, which were implemented in the armed forces long before the civilian world.  The result of "diversity metrics" would be deliberate discrimination against persons who are not part of the favored group.

2.  The MLDC Report is supported by additional documents promoting what former Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen called "diversity as a strategic imperative."

Issue Paper #56, titled Women in Combat presents inadequate, one-sided information from the RAND Corporation, which has promoted consistently liberal positions on military/social issues, the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS), and other advocates of women in land combat.

Prof. Kingsley R. Browne, Wayne State University Law School, has written an insightful analysis of the MLDC Report's recommendations for women in land combat:

3.  Among other things, the MLDC report MLDC relied upon a deeply-flawed 1997 RAND report in formulating its recommendations for women in combat.  A comparison of a more honest draft edition of the RAND Report and the heavily-redacted final version revealed facts that remain significant to this day:

B.  Physical Differences, Physiology, and Medical Concerns

Over the past 30 years, there have been many studies and reports on physical differences between men and women in the military.  Not one of them has ever shown that average female trainees are or can be trained to equal the physical strengths of average men in uniform.

1.  William J. Gregor, PhD, Professor of Social Sciences at the School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, KS, has compiled this two-page Information Paper and partial list of such studies:

Detailed information on physiology is provided in this paper, which Dr. William Gregor presented at the 2011 International Biennial Conference of the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society:

Excerpt"The data clearly reveals a very large gap between the physical strength, aerobic capacity and size of Army men and women. Training men and women correctly improves the performance of both groups but it also widens the gap in performance."

This is one of the reports on Dr. Gregor's  list, a four-year study of Marine Corps training graduates at Parris Island, done by Daniel W. Trone, MA and reported in Military Medicine magazine in 2007:

The Trone study, which focused on the career impacts of elevated injury rates among female trainees, reinforced questions about the short- and long-term consequences of training women and men with identical standards.  In addition to the cost of early separations, negative outcomes included a) Failure to complete first-term of service; b) Failure to achieve rank of corporal, and c) Failure to re-enlist.

2.  The November 1997 US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine Report, referred to as the Natick Study, has been cited in some  misleading reports as evidence that special training can overcome physical differences between men and women in close combat.  This is a brief analysis of the Natick Study that, on closer examination, did not meet expectations of its sponsors:

3)  Rear Adm. Hugh P. Scott, MC, USN (Ret.), an expert in undersea medicine who has done extensive research on medical issues facing women in the military, expressed his concerns about the physical and physiological differences between men and women in a letter to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon:


"While men and women have an equal number of muscles and muscle fibers, the strength difference relates exclusively to muscle size that is determined by testosterone levels. Because women have less testosterone than men, they have smaller muscle fibers that result in the development of small-size muscles; in effect, women have less muscle to activate. That also is the reason why women develop less muscle when training with weights and exercising."

4)  Dr. Scott's concerns are reflected in this report, which also considers factors unique to women, such as pregnancy:


"Females, compared with males, had a significantly increased incidence rate ratio for becoming a DNBI [disease and non-battle injury] casualty....Of 47 female soldiers receiving MEDEVAC 35 (74%) were for pregnancy-related issues."

5.  In this article, a Marine Captain with extensive experience in Iraq and Afghanistan draws upon her own experience to make arguments similar to those of Dr. Scott.  In a close combat environment, the physical demands and medical penalties are more severe for women than men:

The concerns of Dr. Scott and Capt. Petronio, plus abundant official reports documenting their professional knowledge and personal experience, should be fully examined in congressional hearings. 

No one has questioned the bravery of our military women serving in the Middle East since the attacks on America on September 11, 2011.  The fact that unprecedented numbers of uniformed women have been killed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait since 9/11 still does not make the case for eliminating all of women's combat exemptions:

C.  United Kingdom Decision to Retain Women's Exemptions from Direct Ground Combat

The findings of tests done by allied militaries also should be examined:

1.  In 2002, the British Ministry of Defence issued a report providing the rationale for the decision to retain women's exemption from direct ground combat:


" The study concluded that only 0.1 percent of female applicants and 1 percent of trained female soldiers "would reach the required standards to meet the demands of these roles..."

"The military viewpoint was that under the conditions of a high intensity close-quarter battle, group cohesion becomes of much greater significance to team performance and, in such an environment, the consequences of failure can have far-reaching and grave consequences. To admit women would, therefore, involve a risk with no gains in terms of combat effectiveness to offset it....[T]the Secretary of State for Defence concluded that the case for lifting the current restrictions on women serving in combat roles has not been made for any of the units in question. Taking the risk that the inclusion of women in close combat teams could adversely affect those units in the extraordinary circumstances of high intensity close combat cannot be justified." (emphasis added)

2.  Eight years later, the United Kingdom reviewed the issue again, and came to the same conclusion: 


"[Women's] capability in almost all areas is not in doubt...But these situations are not those typical of the small tactical teams in the combat arms which are required deliberately to close with and kill the enemy."

D.  "Gender-Free" Training Causes Women's Injuries to Skyrocket  

1.  In 1997-98, the United Kingdom conducted an 18-month experimental Army program that demonstrated why the services cannot treat women exactly like men in training.  The British experiment with "gender-free" Army training was expected to produce results that would support political pressures for women in land combat.  Instead, the high level of injuries supported the opposite conclusion. 


"In the final decade of the 20th century, the British Armed Forces came under intense pressure to open up traditionally male roles to female recruits. For training, women were initially given lower entry and exit standards, but it became apparent that many did not possess the strength necessary for their work. This ‘gender fair’ policy was therefore changed to a ‘gender free’ policy, whereby identical physical fitness tests were used for selection of male and female recruits and the training programme made no allowances for gender differences.... The cross-gender (F/M) odds ratio for discharges because of overuse injury rose from 4.0...under the gender-fair system to 7.5... under the gender-free system. Despite reducing the number of women selected, the gender-free policy led to higher losses from overuse injuries.  This study confirms and quantifies the excess risk for women when they undertake the same arduous training as male recruits, and highlights the conflict between health and safety legislation and equal opportunities legislation."  (emphasis added)

A subsequent London Times article and accompanying graph showed the steep increases in injuries that ensued when "gender-free" training was temporarily used instead of "gender-fair" exercises that treated women and men differently, due to physical differences:   

2.  Talk of putting women through Ranger Training, or ordering them to serve in infantry battalions, fails to recognize physical realities reflected in current qualification standards:


"To graduate from boot camp, soldiers must perform 35 pushups and 47 situps and run two miles in at least 16 minutes and 36 seconds — but that's only for male soldiers.  Female troops are required to do 13 pushups and 43 situps and run two miles in 19 minutes and 42 seconds.  As the Army weighs integrating women into armor and infantry combat positions, the command in charge of soldier training is looking at requiring women to meet the same physical goals as men.  If wartime studies over the past decade are a guide, the Army can expect an increase in injuries and attrition among female soldiers as they seek to match men in strength and endurance." 

"If women were to enter the all-male Ranger School — an option being weighed — they would have to meet physical standards more rigorous than those for men in boot camp.  Would-be Rangers must be able to do at least 49 pushups and 59 situps, run five miles in less than 40 minutes and do six pullups from a dead hang."  (emphasis added)

The 1992 Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces received abundant testimony from experts in the field of physiology and military training.  Summaries of the most relevant presentations, illustrated with several graphs and diagrams, appear in Appendix C of the Commission Report, pages C-3 through C-19.

E.  Additional Issues: It's Not Just About Physical Differences or Career Opportunities

1.  An article by Prof. Kingsley Browne that soon will be published in the Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Perspectives on Violence, Homicide, and War (2012), as part of the Oxford Library of Psychology Series:

2.  Some advocates used to argue that assigning women to close combat would increase respect for them, resulting in fewer incidents of sexual harassment or assault.  Evidence does not support this theory--in fact, trend lines have worsened in recent years.  This is a CMR Policy Analysis of recent Defense Department and Army reports on sexual misconduct in the military:

F.  Definitions Relevant to the Debate: Women in Combat

1Direct Ground Combat More Than Being "In Harm's Way"

The media keeps confusing "land combat" with the war zone experience of being "In Harm's Way."  For this reason, the constant claim that women ought to be assigned to the infantry because "there are no more front lines" has become a thoughtless cliche.

The 1992 Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces published findings that included the definitions of direct ground combat adopted by the various armed services:

In a war zone, everyone is serving "In Harm's Way."  As stated in long-standing regulations promulgated by then-Defense Secretary Les Aspin in 1994, direct ground combat" (DGC) involves deliberate offensive action to attack  the enemy under fire:

Without question, American women who have served with skill and courage in recent wars.  Female engagement and cultural support teams also perform valuable work with civilians in Middle East warzones.  However, the mission of Army and Marine "tip of the spear" infantry and Special Operations Forces has not changed.  In that environment, women do not have an equal opportunity to survive, or to help fellow soldiers survive.

2.  Unit Cohesion

Many news reports construe "cohesion" as being well-liked in a given unit.  But that is not the correct definition in armed forces combat units.  The Report of the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces includes this definition of cohesion, which was explained in detail by Dr. William Daryl Henderson, a member of the commission, who wrote a book on the subject.  (Nov. 15, 1992, Finding 2.5.1, p. C80)  It uses the word "survival" three times in one short paragraph and stresses the importance of the group, not the individual:

Cohesion is the relationship that develops in a unit or group where (1) members share common values and experiences; (2) individuals in the group conform to group norms and behavior in order to ensure group survival and goals; (3) members lose their personal identity in favor of a group identity; (4) members focus on group activities and goals; (5) unit members become totally dependent on each other for the completion of their mission or survival; and (6) group members must meet all standards of performance and behavior in order not to threaten group survival.”

The following documents provide historic background on this issue:

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