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CONGRESSWOMEN PUSH FOR WOMEN IN COMBAT

CMR | August 19 2005

Ignore Current Violations of Law and Policy
CMR has learned that several liberal members of Congress, led by feminists Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Susan Davis (D-CA), are working hard to deny any role for Congress in decisions regarding military orders to force (not allow) female soldiers into or near direct ground combat.

This is the message of a disingenuous “Dear Colleague” letter circulated by the two women last week with the support of fellow Armed Services Committee members Marty Meehan (D-MA), Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU) and Rick Larsen (D-WA). On the Senate side, Armed Services Committee member Hillary Clinton (D-NY) proposed a resolution to “uphold the role of women serving in combat zones.”

Current Defense Department rules exempt female soldiers from direct ground combat units, such as the infantry, and from smaller support units that constantly operate (collocate) with land combat troops. On May 19 the full House Armed Services Committee followed the lead of Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Subcommittee Chairman John McHugh (R-NY) in approving legislation to simply codify current DoD regulations.

At that point Army officials issued an unsupported, two-sentence letter vaguely suggesting that thousands of female soldiers would be removed from Iraq if the legislation passed. This took on the nature of a political “push-poll” – suggesting something disturbing and then asking people what they think about it.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who should have been supporting the Hunter/McHugh amendment, intervened to prevent it from being considered on the floor. Following a meeting with Rumsfeld, Chairman Hunter withdrew the HASC-approved bill, and substituted one that would increase from 30 to 60 legislative days (about six months) the amount of time required to provide advance notice to Congress of proposed changes in the rules regarding women in land combat.

The substitute legislation, which was approved by the House on May 26, restates the current requirement that notice of proposed changes must include an analysis of the effect of such changes on women’s exemption from Selective Service registration.

Due to procedural delays, the Senate version of the same bill has yet to be approved on the floor. Assuming that a bill does pass, House/Senate conferees will be named early in September.

The Maloney/Davis letter asks potential conferees to strike the 60-day notice amendment—supposedly to “show support” for military women. To the contrary, such an act would disrespect women by assigning secondary importance to issues of this kind.

Leaders of this irresponsible campaign have expressed no concern whatsoever about current Army violations of law and policy. Nor do they seem to care what increasingly callous field commanders and generals do with unprepared female recruits, most of whom are led to believe that they won’t be assigned in or near land combat.

Members of Congress who are asked to sign this letter should not only refuse—they should counter this effort with affirmative steps to enforce the congressional notification law currently on the books.

Members who support women in the military should reject any move that might be interpreted as an abdication of their responsibility to provide oversight in matters of military policy. Elected officials, not Pentagon officials or generals, should decide whether female soldiers should be ordered into or near direct ground combat, or whether young girls should be required to register for a possible future draft. [See “Courts, Congress, and the Military”]

Even if Congress extended the notification period from 30 to 300 days, that would not solve the problems presented by the Army’s failure to comply with current law. As explained in this article [See link “Hunter Admonishes Army…”] and several others posted on "www.cmrlink.org", Army officials have been bending, breaking, redefining, and circumventing exemptions from land combat that the overwhelming majority of military women support.

If Army officials believe it is a good idea to force military women into or near land combat units--and thereby trigger a future ACLU lawsuit and a federal court order to include 18 year-old girls in registration for the draft--they should follow the law and present their plans to Congress in advance, as currently required by law.

Irony and Maloney Baloney

The Maloney/Davis letter complains about “Congress imposing itself…without holding hearings or engaging in a full debate on the issue.” This is ironic, since the current notification law was written precisely for that purpose--to ensure sufficient time for hearings and a full, thoughtful debate before women are forced into or near land combat. Passage of the HASC-approved Hunter/McHugh amendment would not have removed women from any positions they are authorized to have.

It is even more absurd for the congresswomen to write, “[Instead,] we should be supporting expert panels and commissions which have been examining the issue of women in the military for decades…”

Which “expert panels and commissions” are they talking about? Probably not the congressionally chartered 1992 Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces, which produced the most comprehensive official report ever done on all aspects of women in combat.

The 15 member, $4 million commission, which included three women who were staunch advocates of women in land combat, approved recommendations to retain women’s exemptions from most types of combat on land, Special Operations Forces, combat aviation, and combatant vessels such as submarines. These recommendations followed eight months of detailed testimony from experts of every background and point of view, plus uniformed people of all ranks and services, men and women, active duty and retired.

At the time the presidential commission did its work, active duty men and women were encouraged to speak freely and candidly, whether they supported women in combat or opposed it. Such freedom of expression is not encouraged today.

During the May 19 HASC debate about the Hunter/McHugh amendment—the first to occur in more than a decade--Ranking Member Ike Skelton (D-MO) actually complained about the lack of hearings on the bill. Never mind that in 1993, when he was Chairman of the HASC, Skelton failed to schedule a single hearing on the comprehensive findings and recommendations of the Presidential Commission—with the exception of five minutes granted to former commissioner Elaine Donnelly.

The Senate did not conduct any hearings at all on the Presidential Commission’s report. So much for an honest search for knowledge on the subject.

The Importance of Oversight

Maloney and Davis suggest that “[W]e should be trusting the military commanders to make the necessary operational decisions.” This is a typically foolish, unserious attitude to take in matters affecting women in the military. Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution mandates oversight of the military by elected officials, not unaccountable flag officers who seem primarily interested in career opportunities for a few female officers—including their own daughters in the military.

A number of female officers serving in Iraq have bragged to reporters that they are knowingly assigning female subordinates in land combat-collocated support units that are required to be all male. Such actions constitute deliberate violations that would not be tolerated in any other area of military policy. This is no way to run an Army. Some decisions are too important to be made by junior officers—or even four star generals.

If women are to be taken seriously in the military (and they should), policies that affect both male and female soldiers--and even civilian women--should be formulated and evaluated objectively. Above all, the Army must be required to follow the law.

Real men who respect women should not be intimidated by ideologues who want to stifle all debate. With so much at stake, feminists should not be allowed to get their way by default.


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