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ISSUE: RAND Report on Assessing the Assignment Policy for Army Women
AND POSITION: The position of AND on service assignment policy is that individuals, regardless of gender, must be considered for all military assignments and duties based on their training, experience, leadership potential and characteristics (e.g., strength, dexterity, intelligence and character) required to accomplish the specific tasks of the job.
AND recommends that the Army drop its policy on collocation and work within the current DoD assignment policy.
Congress directed in the 2005 Defense Authorizations Act that a review of the Army women’s assignment policy be studied. This was a result of efforts by Congressman Duncan Hunter to have the Army policy of “collocation” made into law. RAND was selected to do the study and the final due date for the report was December 31, 2006. RAND delivered the report to OSD and the Army, and they released the report in August 2007. It is worth noting that the report is being made to a very different Congress than the one which made the request.
There has been no reason given for the delay in release and there has been no DoD press release on the completion of the report, it was simply posted to the RAND website. On July 18th, the President of AND, BG Pat Foote along with CAPT Lory Manning from WREI, met with OSD officials to press for the release of the report. We believe the efforts of AND and WREI helped DoD to understand there is a need for public review of Army women’s assignment policy.
Army Regulation 600-13 allows women to serve in any unit except those which are assigned a routine mission to engage in direct combat or which collocate routinely with units assigned a direct combat mission. This leads to a need for a definition of direct combat which the Army defines as: “Engaging an enemy with individual or crew served weapons while being exposed to direct enemy fire, a high probability of direct physical contact with the enemy’s personnel and a substantial risk of capture. Direct combat takes place while closing with the enemy by fire, maneuver, and shock effect in order to destroy or capture the enemy, or while repelling the enemy’s assault by fire, close combat, or counterattack.” This policy was not updated in 1994 when DoD created its policy and it is not reflective of the modular configuration of today’s Army.
The last line of the policy is emphasized as it could reasonably be interpreted to mean those instances where women are part of a unit defending themselves or helping to defend other units. Taken to its logical conclusion, this could deny women assignment to practically any unit in a combat area. In Iraq operations, it is not always clear who is the enemy, or to know if there is danger of hostile fire. And there are issues over the definition of “routine mission” and “collocate routinely”. Collocation could mean just proximity or it could mean proximity and interdependence of mission between units.
The RAND report clearly shows that the Army and DoD policies define combat differently with the Army’s definitions being the more restrictive. The report notes the confusion resulting from the different definitions and from the lack of clarity on words such as “routine” and “collocates.” RAND also found that support units with women assigned are in working relationships with maneuver units that could reasonably be construed as assignment. This means the assignment of these support units to the battalion is nothing but a paper fig leaf.
RAND makes a number of significant recommendations and notes that the critical first issue is whether there should remain an assignment policy for military women. Removing such a policy does imply women should be permitted to serve in combat units. RAND declines to make this specific recommendation.
Other RAND report recommendations include crafting an assignment policy that conforms to the nature of warfare today, and to review that policy periodically. The intent and objectives of such a policy should be made clear. It would be necessary to clarify whether the assignment policy should constrain military effectiveness and under what conditions expediency can overrule the assignment policy. It would have to consider whether any prospective policy should exclude women from units and positions in which they have successfully performed in Iraq. It would not make sense for a Service to bar women from duties they have proven they can meet or exceed standards. It would be necessary to consider whether such a policy should bar women from assignment to units or to occupations.
If collocation remains a part of the Army policy, it must be made clear whether it is the proximity that is objectionable or proximity and interdependence of the units. This will make a difference in how and when women can be assigned. There are challenges in monitoring personnel assignments if the Army and DoD continue to have different policies as the military services routinely operative in a joint environment.
Combat today is fluid, and September 11th taught us that all citizens could find themselves in a situation where they were under attack. Setting boundaries to where women can be assigned defies common sense and negatively impacts military readiness. Since this report will undoubtedly help to frame any post-Iraq war debates on the roles and status of women in the military, it is worth studying.
If you would like to read the entire RAND report, it can be found at the RAND web site at www.RAND.org.
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