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Posted on Oct 13, 2015 Print this Article

Marines Set Sound Priorities: “Survivability and Lethality” in Battle

CMR Analyzes USMC Women in Combat Research Data: Part II 

After four years of comprehensive Marine Corps research, results clearly show that the case for women in direct ground combat still has not been made.  In fact, tests have produced highly credible, reality-based, empirical data that discredits theories about gender equality in the combat arms.

This is the unmistakable message conveyed in a significant memorandum signed by Brig. Gen. George W. Smith, Jr., Director of the Marine Corps Force Innovation Office at Quantico, VA, which the Center for Military Readiness has analyzed here:  

Interim CMR Special Report – Part II, Section A

U.S. Marine Corps Research Finding: Where Is the Case for Co-Ed Ground Combat?

General Smith’s 14-page August 18, 2015, memorandum to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, released with 19 additional pages, included consequential facts and empirical data resulting from Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force (GCEITF) operations at Marine bases on the west coast.  For nine months, the task force conducted professionally-monitored field exercises designed to analyze direct ground combat units such as the infantryarmorartillery, and Special Operations Forces.  

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh worked with GCEITF officials to scientifically measure the individual physical capabilities and unit performance of hundreds of male and female volunteers divided into units.  Some teams remained all-male, while others were integrated with female volunteers who qualified by meeting the same physical requirements as the men.

In a presentation to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) on September 18, 2014, Marine Col. Anne Weinberg, Deputy Director of the Marine Corps Innovation Office, noted that the “purpose-built” task force was designed to test a simple Research Study Hypothesis that would be tested via operational evaluations: “[A]n integrated unit under gender-neutral standards will perform equally as well as a gender-restricted unit." 

To qualify for participation, both men and women had to meet the same minimum standards for men in physical fitness (PFT) and combat fitness tests (CFT).  Far from being “average,” the female task force volunteers were exceptionally strong and well-prepared to succeed.

Despite positive expectations, task force data and findings failed to prove the hypothesis.

Quoting briefing slides accompanying the Smith memo, “All-male task force teams outperformed their mixed-gender counterparts in 69 percent (93 of 134) ground combat tasks. . . .[Physical differences were more pronounced in] “specialties that carried the assault load plus the additional weight of crew-served weapons and ammunition.” 

In addition, women suffered injuries at rates double those of men, and enlisted women who successfully completed training at the Infantry Training Battalion suffered six times more injuries than men. 

As stated in the Smith memo and findings, factors such as “speed and tempo, lethality, readiness, survivability, and cohesion [are] critical components to fighting and winning in direct ground combat.”  In this environment, “speed is a weapon.” 

Survivability and lethality -- two factors that the Marines identified as most important for successful accomplishment of ground combat missions -- define the very purpose of the Marine Corps.  It matters, therefore, that “[G]ender-integrated teams, squads, or crews demonstrated, with few exceptions, degraded performance in the time to complete tasks, move under load, and achieve timely effects on target as compared to all-male teams, squads, or crews.” 

These results are not anomalous: Numerous research projects conducted by United States researchers and by the British Ministry of Defence have produced similar findings that reflect physical realities, not theories.

As reported in this CMR Policy Analysis, British gender-integration research pointed to “a reduced lethality rate [among women], in that combat marksmanship degrades as a result of fatigue when the combat load increases in proportion to body weight and strength.”  The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) also decided recently to keep their armored units all-male.

In addition, U.S. Army Medical Command documents, which CMR obtained via FOIA, revealed injury rates among women averaging twice those of men.  These are physical realities that cannot be ignored or mitigated, even with extra training and conditioning.

Mabus vs. the Marines 

For Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, facts cease to be facts if they are not politically correct.

In a September 14 speech, Secretary Mabus announced that he would disregard the best professional advice of the U.S. Marine Corps on a serious matter affecting all servicemen and women.  (See CMR: Memo to Secretary Mabus: Marine Lives Matter.)

Mabus faulted the Marines for “presupposing” results, and other critics accused them of resistance to cultural change.  The truth is that Marine leaders are showing resistance to high risks and loss of many lives when flawed social policies are imposed on the military.

Without any empirical evidence, Mabus claimed that assigning women to direct ground combat units that attack the enemy would not reduce the fighting units’ effectiveness.  “In fact, said Mabus, “I think they will be a stronger force because a more diverse force is a stronger force.”  If this were true, the Naval Academy would put women on the football team.  Navy doesn’t do that because they want to Beat Army.

The racial argument often used by women-in-combat advocates falls apart upon closer examination.  The 1992 Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces found that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not apply to the military.  The armed forces took the lead in addressing irrational prejudice, many years before the law took effect in the civilian world.

The 1948 Executive Order of President Harry Truman was issued primarily for reasons of military necessity, not equal opportunity.  Racial minorities often excel in military environments, where lives depend on physical readiness for combat.  Defense Department reports also have consistently shown that women are promoted at rates equal to or faster than men.

Nevertheless, in 2011 the Pentagon-endorsed 2011 Military Leadership Diversity Commission (MLDC) recommended that women be made eligible for direct ground combat assignments to promote careers, not military effectiveness.  The MLDC philosophy advocates for group rights and conscious discrimination in pursuit of “gender diversity metrics,” another name for quotas.  Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen called this philosophy “diversity as a strategic imperative.”

This mindset explains why, in 2009, then-Army Chief of Staff General George Casey, Jr. expressed concern that the Fort Hood rampage of Major Nidal Hasan might set back the Army’s efforts to achieve ethnic/religious diversity.  “A diverse Army,” said Casey“gives us strength.  And as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.”

We live in a dangerous world, but potential adversaries such as RussiaNorth KoreaISIS, or Iran have no interest in “gender diversity.”  Dominance and winning in battle are their primary goals.  Pentagon officials who assign higher priority to “gender diversity” are endangering national security as well as letting down the troops. 

Since the Marines did not give Secretary Mabus the results he wanted, he wrote a Washington Post op-ed faulting the USMC task force findings for evaluating “averages,” as if the women involved were less prepared than the men.  The op-ed insulted task force participants and betrayed a fundamental misunderstanding of statistical analyses. 

Contrary to Secretary Mabus’ insinuations, female task force participants were above-average in strength and preparation going in, and they received full support from the men who volunteered to participate.  In this context “average” represents a data point derived from the performances of multiple persons.

It would not make sense to make policy based on the best individual performance out of 400, or the weakest.  Secretary Mabus, apparently, doesn’t understand this.

Who Will Decide?

It is not known what then-Commandant General Joseph Dunford, who is now the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recommended to the Secretary of the Navy and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.  News reports have suggested that General Dunford privately requested exceptions for some ground combat units, and supported his recommendations with solid research data.

During a September 30 news conference, Secretary Carter promised to carefully consider the “quality” and “fact-based analysis behind the recommendations” that military service leaders will submit to him and to Joint Chiefs Chairman Dunford by the end of October.  If Carter is sincere in this intent, he will respect requests for exceptions to policies due to go into effect in January 2016.

There is no justification for Secretary Carter to disregard the best professional advice of the U.S. Marine Corps, especially since none of the research done since 2012 has made the case for ordering women into the combat arms.  General Smith recognized what is at stake in his memorandum:

“Those who choose to turn a blind eye to . . . immutable realities do so at the expense of our Corps’ warfighting capability and, in turn, the security of our nation.”

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 The Center for Military Readiness, founded in 1993, is an independent public policy organization that reports on and analyzes military/social issues.  Additional information on this topic is available elsewhere on this website: 

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Posted on Oct 13, 2015 Print this Article