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Posted on May 28, 2015 Print this Article

Issue 37: May 2015

This edition of CMR E-Notes will give you an idea of what the Center for Military Readiness has been doing to defend high standards and advocate for sound policies in the All-Volunteer Force. 

 

Section A announces a powerful joint letter that focuses on the importance of congressional oversight on the issue of women in direct ground combat.  Does Congress Care About Women in the Military?  

 

Section B describes what happened when the House version of the Defense Authorization bill was drafted.  New members of Congress have begun to challenge assumptions that do not hold up.  Finally, Section C counters myths about women who serve in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), but not in infantry and other direct ground combat units that deliberately attack the enemy. 

 

We hope that you will enjoy this edition of CMR E-Notes, and consider lending support to CMR's important work.

 

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A. Military and Civilian Leaders Sign Letter Pressing for Oversight on Women in Direct Ground Combat

 

Nearly 100 distinguished retired military and civilian organization leaders have co-signed a letter expressing concerns about the lack of congressional oversight of administration efforts to order female military personnel into combat arms units such as the infantry.

 

Signers of the Military Culture Coalition letter include a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, high-ranking former leaders of the Marine Corps, Army, Navy, and Air Force, decorated land combat veterans, and influential leaders of civilian organizations that support sound policies in our military.

 

Identical co-signed letters were addressed to the Chairmen of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. "Mac" Thornberry (R-TX), and conveyed to them on May 21, together with this concise 2-page fact sheet:

 

Military/Civilian Letter to Chairman John McCain

Re: Women in Direct Ground Combat

 

2015 Interim Fact Sheet -- Women in Direct Ground Combat (DGC)

 

A news release announcing the MCC letter generated broadcast interviews and print articles like these in the Washington Times and OneNewsNow:

 

 

 

B. Despite New Allies, House Disappoints in NDAA Markup

 

During its mark-up session on May 29, the House Armed Services Committee drafted the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2016 (NDAA).

 

During the sparsely-attended all-day session, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), who is now a candidate for the U.S. Senate, initially moved to abolish a long-standing law requiring the Department of Defense to notify Congress of policy changes regarding women in direct ground combat. The notification law requires formal notice at least 30 continuous legislative days in advance, when both houses are in session.

 

The notification law also requires an analysis of the impact of proposed policy changes on Selective Service obligations. This provision exists because legal experts have predicted that if women become eligible for direct ground combat units, federal courts likely would order civilian women to register for Selective Service on the same basis as men.

 

Decisions on matters such as this, affecting all military communities and civilians as well, should be made by accountable members of Congress, not federal courts.

  

Rep. Sanchez showed poor judgment in misconstruing the notification law as a "waiting period." She failed to understand that the notification law is about congressional oversight, not women in the military.

 

The California liberal encountered resistance when Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), a former Navy SEAL whose daughter is a Navy diver, and Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK), a veteran of infantry combat, challenged the Sanchez amendment.

 

Proclaiming that 'There is a role and mission for everyone' in the armed forces, Zinke expressed concerns about the physical demands in direct ground combat units such as the infantry and Special Operations Forces. Missions of these units, which go beyond the experience of being "in harm's way" in a war zone, involve deliberate offensive action to seek out and destroy the enemy.

 

Rep. Russell cited reports predicting disproportionate injuries that women would suffer if they are required to carry the same burdens as men. Russell cited a recent report from the British Ministry of Defence, analyzed by the Center for Military Readiness in February, which noted that even unusually strong women, called the "physical elites," still are subject to debilitating injuries at rates far great than men.

 

When it started to look like the Sanchez amendment might be defeated, a substitute amendment was crafted for her that reduced the notification period to only 30 calendar days. With a weak voice-vote, the House committee approved the substitute, thereby surrendering policy-making authority of the legislative branch on a matter of paramount importance.

 

This irresponsible action opens the door for unfettered administration action while Congress is not in session. Signers of the Military Culture Coalition letter have asked House members to reconsider the ill-advised bill language, and senators to non-concur with it. Senators will vote on their version of the bill in the next few weeks.

 

Regardless of the number of notification days, the question is whether members of Congress respect our military women enough to pay attention to their concerns. According to an official Army survey, 92.5% of female soldiers said they do not want to be assigned to direct ground combat units.

 

If the case for women in direct ground combat has been made -- and research so far shows that it hasn't -- high-handed measures to preclude congressional oversight would not be necessary.

 

Planned administrative policy changes, due to go into effect in January 2016 unless military leaders ask for exceptions, would affect every military community, especially the combat arms. It is not known what military leaders will recommend or exceptions to policy that they may request, but respect for both women in the military requires diligent oversight, to include an objective review of research findings produced so far.

 

C. Legends Surround Women in Israeli Defense Force (IDF)

 

On May 17, media in the embattled nation of Israel reported that following extensive field tests and medical reviews, Israeli Defense Force (IDF) officials have decided that women would not be assigned to armored tank units. (Hat tip to Darren Boch):

 

Washington Times reporter Rowan Scarborough researched the largely-unreported news from Israel and wrote a front-page story that should give policy-makers pause:

 

Women's Combat Roles in Israel Defense Forces Exaggerated,

Military Traditionalists Say

 

Hebrew University scholar Martin Van Creveld, who testified before the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces on June 26, 1992, said something that is still relevant today:

 

"For us, the military is a question of survival.  We would not survive probably for five minutes if it weren't for our superb, well-trained, well-prepared, combat-ready forces.  Everything in the Israeli armed forces is geared towards that.  Everything. . . .To me, the very fact that this issue is being discussed and this meeting being held simply shows that you really don't take the military seriously. . .[Y]ou can afford to make all kinds of social experiments, which we cannot."  (Transcript, 062692)

 

Thank you for reading this - I hope to hear from you soon.

  

Sincerely,

 

Elaine's Signature-Blue

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Center for Military Readiness is an independent public policy organization that specializes in military/social issues.  Additional information on these topics and more are posted on the website, www.cmrlink.org.

Posted on May 28, 2015 Print this Article