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DEMISE OF THE DACOWITS

April 15, 2002
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DONNELLY MEETS WITH PENTAGON OFFICIALS. Despite intense pressure from Pentagon feminists and their allies in Congress, the Charter of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services was allowed to expire on February 28, 2002. This was good news to the Center for Military Readiness and many influential friends and organizations that strongly opposed continuation of the DACOWITS. Time will tell, however, whether the agenda of radical feminists will truly become a thing of the past. The obscure but influential advisory committee, historically composed of mostly civilian women, was formed 50 years ago to promote recruiting and retention of servicewomen. Under President Jimmy Carter the committee began to function as a tax-funded feminist lobby, and it became increasingly radical during the administration of Bill Clinton. Defying the advice of military experts and the views of the majority of women in uniform, the committee repeatedly pushed for feminist goals such as co-ed basic training and the assignment of women to submarines, special operations helicopters, multiple launch field artillery, and newly forming land combat units. They did so with the protocol status of three-star generals and admirals, with little public awareness and no accountability. Expiration of the DACOWITS charter brought worldwide sighs of relief, but Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) led a mini-storm of protest, promising to "strongly" oppose any move to eliminate or modify the DACOWITS. (In a 1993 PBS National Review "Firing Line" debate on women in combat, Rep. Wilson was on the team captained by then-Rep. Patricia Schroeder, (D-CO) an ultra liberal activist for feminist and homosexual causes. Wilson also admitted to National Review Online editor Kathryn Jean Lopez that she had little knowledge of the most extreme items on the current DACOWITS agenda.) DACOWITS Re-Done Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had every right to abolish the high-budget, insubordinate, self-discredited committee. At its 50th Anniversary (and last) meeting last year, members defied combat experts once again by adopting their usual list of extreme demands--usually with unanimous votes. Clinton holdovers in the Pentagon also misused the autopen of Secretary Rumsfeld to ratify the appointment of eight new members selected by his predecessor, William S. Cohen. At a news conference organized by CMR in January, the leaders of several women’s organizations denounced the DACOWITS, and expressed concern about the national security dangers of taking political correctness to extremes. A number of newspaper editorials and columnists encouraged Secretary Rumsfeld to abolish the troublesome committee. But on March 7, Dr. David S.C. Chu, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, announced that the DACOWITS would be reconstituted under a newly revised Charter. Clinton-era members were thanked for their service and dismissed. The new Charter calls for appointees having prior experience with the armed forces, either personally or as a member of a military family. Instead of amateur civilian women visiting military bases and constantly looking for problems, the new committee will be given a specific range of topics to research that focus on military readiness and family considerations, as well as career opportunities for women. The news sounded encouraging, but questions remained. On March 8 CMR President Elaine Donnelly met at the Pentagon with Dr. Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense. Dr. Chu, who was also present, assured Donnelly that the new committee would make a fresh start. She noted, however, that the February 28 filing date for the "new" DACOWITS, as posted on the Defense Department’s website, was the same day that the old Charter had expired. Would that signal "continuity" with the old DACOWITS, and retain on the table radical recommendations of the past? Apparently not. Several days later, the filing date for the new DACOWITS was changed to March 5, 2002. This is a significant victory, since it indicates that a break with the past may indeed be possible. The new Charter, posted at the location below, is an improvement, even though it still places inordinate emphasis on women’s careers. This is unnecessary, given the existence of many DoD "equal opportunity" institutions, and the fact that promotion rates for women in the military are equal to or better than those of men. (See the May/June 2001 edition of CMR Notes, which reports promotion figures presented to the old DACOWITS at their final meeting last April.) There is room in the Charter, however, for true innovation and a realistic, constructive approach to military personnel issues. As always, people are policy. It is in the best interests of the Bush Administration to select a panel of well-qualified, pro-defense members who have their priorities straight. The official charged with immediate responsibility for the DACOWITS is Charles Abell, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Management Policy. DoD Family Readiness Concerns The new Charter’s emphasis on family concerns may produce useful ideas, but only if the Defense Department instructs committee members to investigate sensitive areas of family policy about which questions are rarely asked, much less answered. The need for an objective review is obvious, because the numbers of married personnel in all the services have increased dramatically. The Army Personnel Command reports that the number of married enlisted personnel has increased from 32% in 1973 to 51% in 2000. (Chart, "America’s Army--Then and Now," 2001) That is a major demographic change, which has had a direct effect on military budgets. According to the February 11 edition of Army Times, the largest of seven major components in President Bush’s proposed Army budget, $35.6 billion, is Personnel, including pay raises. That figure accounts for 38% of the $91 billion total--not counting an additional 1.4 billion for family housing. Consider the escalating demand for childcare centers. According to Army Times (April 1), the military is meeting only about 65% of service members’ needs for spaces in child-development centers, not counting in-home child care. Something must be done to meet the childcare needs of stable families, without subsidizing unstable family arrangements that continually drive up demand. The armed forces must reconsider questionable social welfare policies, long discredited in the civilian world, which have the unintended effect of increasing poverty and family instability, especially in the junior enlisted ranks. Family service agencies in the Department of Defense and the various services do a fine job providing social services to those in need of help. It is not the mission of these agencies, however, to consider broader questions of personnel policy, such as the following: · Do military policies regarding pregnancy--which provide generous medical, housing, and educational benefits regardless of marital status or number or pregnancies--subsidize and encourage single parenthood, poverty, and a demand for food stamps in the military? · What percentage of military personnel are serving without valid dependent/family care plans? What can be done to ensure that military objectives are not compromised due to family instability or inadequate Family Care plans that were so troubling to the nation during the Gulf War? · What are the risks of anthrax vaccinations for servicewomen who are pregnant or may become pregnant? Are women of childbearing age fully informed of this and other risks associated with toxic substances, high-decibel noise, vibration, etc.? · What is the cost of subsidized childcare in the various services? How have these costs increased over the past decade, and what will they be if continued at the same rate? The Defense Department can no longer allow the largest portion of its budget to continue growing exponentially, without objective analysis in terms of costs, benefits, and the overall needs of the military. Family policies must be consistent with and supportive of long-term DoD objectives, including the goal of each service to "transform" itself into a force that is lighter, faster, stronger, more versatile, and more effective. DoD Memo to the DACOWITS: National Security First The Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services has been given another chance, undeserved though it may be, to provide useful advice that is supportive of the unique mission of the Department of Defense. It remains to be seen whether newly selected members will restore sound priorities and make recommendations that are relevant and essential to the war effort. CMR has offered assistance to the Bush/Cheney Administration, and will watch carefully as events unfold. DA040802
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