The following article first appeared in the May 2002 issue of CMR Notes, a publication of the Center for Military Readiness. The "Interim Brigade Combat Teams" described are now called "Stryker Brigade Combat Teams."
The Center for Military Readiness is pleased that the Bush Administration is ending the practice of training women for land combat positions, which was instigated during the Clinton Administration and continued until April of this year. In a front page story by military reporter Rowan Scarborough on May 30, 2002, the Washington Times reported that the Bush Administration will no longer train female soldiers in land Surveillance Troops designed to fight for information on the ground in places like the caves of Afghanistan. Eight female trainees will be reassigned, with no penalty to their careers.
Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition squadrons, known as RSTAs, will operate as a key element of the Army’s newly forming Interim Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs). The IBCT program is at the center of the Army’s effort to "transform" itself into a lighter, faster, more flexible land combat force that will deploy on wheeled vehicles instead of heavy tanks. Deployment of the first of six IBCTs, currently being trained at Fort Lewis, WA, was originally scheduled for 2007. Due to the War on Terrorism, plans for deployment are being accelerated to as early as next year.
Elaine Donnelly praised the Bush Administration for restoring the RSTA squadrons to all-male status. "This shows that Bush Defense Team leaders have their priorities straight, and that they take the realities of warfare seriously. Feminist civilians fail to understand that the new IBCT/RSTA squadrons will have a serious and dangerous job to do. They should not be treated as just another ‘career opportunity.’
Stealthy Plans for Women in Combat
Papers circulated at the Spring 1995 meeting of the old Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Armed Services indicated that Pentagon feminists associated with the DACOWITS were "in the loop" on plans to include women in the RSTA land combat units, but Congress was not. Under the leadership of Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, (R-MD), twenty-eight members of the House Armed Services Committee co-signed a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on June 28, 2001, asking for information about the training of women in the RSTA squadrons, which appeared to violate regulations adopted by then-Defense Secretary Les Aspin in 1994.
Under those still-operative DoD rules, female soldiers are not eligible to serve in Direct Ground Combat (DGC) units that directly engage the enemy on the ground or co-locate with units that do. The reported training of women in the RSTA squadrons also violated laws requiring sufficient notice to Congress in the event of changes to policies regarding women in close combat units. The Clinton-era policy of training women in the RSTA squadrons was therefore in violation of law as well as policy, and the Bush Administration had a clear responsibility to correct the situation.
In September 2001 the Center for Military Readiness obtained credible information that women were being trained in an 85-member sub-unit of the RSTA squadrons, called the Surveillance Troop. CMR also obtained an August 2, 2001, memorandum, signed by Gen. B. B. Bell, then-Commander of Armor Command at Fort Knox, KY, which forcefully opposed mixed-gender assignments in the IBCT/RSTA Surveillance Troop:
“The RSTA squadron operates as part of the Interim Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) which is a full spectrum, early entry combat force designed to conduct operations against conventional or unconventional enemy forces in all types of terrain and climate conditions...[T]he squadron’s ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance] assets will operate in direct contact with enemy forces with the imminent likelihood of combat throughout the Squadron battlespace...This mission directly meets the Department of Defense definition of ‘direct ground combat.'’’
Under the Defense Department’s long-standing Direct Combat Probability Coding (DCPC) system, all elements of the RSTA squadrons should have been designated "P1" (male-only). Instead, a September 19, 2001, Army organization table computer printout obtained by CMR indicated that only 12 of the Surveillance Troop’s 85 positions, including Executive Officer, were properly coded "P1." The remaining 73 positions, including the troop Commander, were coded "P2" (open to both sexes.) Congress was not informed of these controversial designations.
Instead, several Army spokesmen suggested that the co-ed assignments were "consistent" with DoD policy. Instead of changing the Aspin rules to include newly forming units that did not exist in 1994, the apparent plan was to surreptitiously reinterpret them, and keep Congress in the dark. In the meantime, Army briefers were telling DACOWITS members that 18% of IBCT positions would be open to women.
Elaine Donnelly pursued the matter in several meetings and correspondence with Dr. David Chu, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel & Readiness, and with Charles Abell, Asst. Secretary for Force Management and Personnel. Nothing changed, however, until shortly after a meeting she had at the Pentagon with Deputy Defense Secretary Dr. Paul Wolfowitz on March 8, at which Dr. Chu was also present.
The conversation focused not on equal opportunities and careers, but on the realities of warfare that will be faced by Army IBCT/RSTA combat units in future. Shortly therafter, open "P2" positions in the RSTA squadrons were restored to the "P1" (male only) status that they should have been all along. (See reference below)
A Positive Step for America's Military
If the Bush Administration had allowed the mixed-gender RSTA training to continue at Fort Lewis, civilian and Pentagon feminists would have been sure to criticize "inconsistencies" in the policy, and push for even more incremental "career opportunities" to make things "fair" for female soldiers. Never mind that "fairness" cannot be expected in hostile environments such as those where soldiers have fought in the War on Terrorism.
Young women’s exemption from Selective Service obligations also could have been put in jeopardy. Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) would surely cite such assignments in arguing that it is unfair to register and draft only men for combat duty in the future. The willingness of the Bush Administration to reverse course on a Clinton-era policy that shouldn’t have been implemented in the first place will inspire even more confidence among men and women who are serving their country well in the War on Terrorism.
Reference: Memorandum from Lt. Gen. John M. LeMoyne, GS, Deputy Chief of Staff, G1, to the Commander,U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Monroe, VA, dated 26 April, 2002. This memo approved the TRADOC recommendation that "The RSTA Squadron of the IBCT be GGCP coded P1 (Male only.) [A copy of this order is available from CMR on request.]
Note: There is no record of this mandate being repealed, with or without the required prior notice to Congress. A copy of this order is available from CMR on request.