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Statement of Anita K. Blair
RE: Gender-Integrated and Gender-Segregated Training
Mr. Chairman, and distinguished members of the Subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. The Congressional Commission on Military Training and Gender-Related Issues, of which I am the chairman, has provided a separate statement and status report. The Commission reached unanimous agreement on nearly all issues. The only exception is the question of gender-integrated versus gender-segregated training. This is my personal statement on that issue, and it does not necessarily reflect the views of any other Commissioner. I have attached an outline that relates my views to the specific provision of the Statute that established this Commission.
I recognize the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in basic training in all the Services. Nonetheless, it is misleading to suggest that Congress need not be concerned about the status quo as it relates to gender-integrated basic training.
Basic training, whether gender-separate or gender-integrated, presents challenges. But gender-integrated training entails special problems that simply do not arise in gender-separate training. These problems revolve around the difficulties of providing appropriate privacy for both sexes, accommodating fundamental physiological differences, and controlling sexual conduct.
There is no way to tell whether the benefits of gender-integration outweigh the costs. None of the Services has compared alternatives or evaluated the costs and benefits. Indeed each of the Services has told the Commission it is not conducting, and has no plans to conduct, any studies to evaluate the effectiveness of gender-integrated as compared with gender-separate training.
There are problems associated with gender-integrated training, and it concerns me greatly that the Services seem to minimize or ignore those problems. The Army, Navy and Air Force have declared gender-integration a success, and service members are strongly discouraged from even expressing concerns about gender-integration, much less criticizing any aspect of it. Obviously the Services cannot tolerate dissent from legitimate orders, but it is foolish to stifle legitimate criticism in the process.
Stress on the military forces, which arises from many causes, is hurting readiness. One undeniable source of stress is the confusion and distraction caused by the unavoidable issues associated with gender-integration. Unfortunately, this burden falls heaviest upon some of the hardest working and most dedicated service members, those who train new recruits.
It would improve readiness if the Services acted to reduce this kind of stress on trainers and trainees. To do so, however, the Services must recognize the real problems associated with gender-integration and address those problems the same as any others. In that case, one would expect a process something like this: Learn all the relevant facts. Compare the alternatives. Evaluate costs and benefits. Make decisions based on sound, principled reasons. Watch the results, and revisit as appropriate. Unfortunately the Services have performed only part of this process, and they say they have no plans to pursue the rest.
All the Services say they "could not do their job without women." In the all-volunteer force, it is true that women provide the margin that allows the Services to recruit fewer, but better qualified, men. But women are not interchangeable with men. A force that is fifteen percent female can do the job, but could the same be said of a force that was fifty percent female or somewhere in-between?
I believe the Services should seriously consider the full implications of relying on greater numbers of women to meet recruitment objectives. Rather than change the military to make it more accessible to women, perhaps it would be wiser to change recruiting policies so that sufficient numbers of combat and general-replacement personnel can be assured.
We are talking about military training, and so we must consider how the training we give recruits will enable the force to fight, survive and win. The non-linear battlefield exposes many support and even service personnel to the risks of battle. This means that we should be more, not less, concerned about providing non-combat arms personnel a program of basic training that emphasizes survivability. The principle of military effectiveness should dictate how the Services train, and it should not be subordinated to any other goal.
There are serious open questions about the relative effectiveness of gender-integrated versus gender-separate training. The Services have closed the book prematurely. At a minimum, I believe the Services should do the following:
I can understand why the Congress would be loath to substitute its judgment for the judgment of experienced commanders about how military training should be conducted. Nevertheless, the Congress should know that the Services have told this Commission in strong terms that they are committed to continuing the gender-integrated training policies they now have, without studying their effectiveness or comparing other alternatives. It may be necessary, if Congress desires things to be done any differently, for Congress to order it through legislation.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today, and thank you for allowing me the privilege of serving on this Commission. I hope that our work will be useful to you.
Basic Training Policies and Practices
(A) Determine how each service defines gender-integration and gender-segregation in the context of basic training.
See Commissions Statement and Status Report (Mar. 17, 1999), page 32.
(I) Evaluate the policies of each of the services regarding the assignment of adequate numbers of female drill instructors in gender-integrated training units who can serve as role models and mentors for female trainees.
See Commissions Statement and Status Report (Mar. 17, 1999), page 32.
See also discussions of paragraphs (O) and (P) below.
(F) Assess, with respect to each service, the degree to which different standards have been established, or if not established are in fact being implemented, for males and females in basic training for matters such as physical fitness, physical performance (such as confidence and obstacle courses), military skills (such as marksmanship and hand-grenade qualifications), and nonphysical tasks required of individuals and, to the degree that differing standards are in fact being implemented, assess the effect of the use of those differing standards.
Each of the Services reports it applies the same performance standards to all recruits, male and female, except in the area of physical fitness. Fitness standards are gender- and age-normed, which is entirely appropriate; however, merely being "fit" does not necessarily make an individual able to perform required tasks.
According to our Commissions surveys, a much larger portion of male recruits than female recruits think their basic training should have been more challenging. A substantial portion of all recruits (47%) believe male and female fitness standards should be equal. The tension between quality and equality is apparent everywhere, and most often it is associated with sex differences.
I observed Army trainees at Fort Jackson on the Confidence Course and Obstacle Course. I observed a number of trainees who had great difficulty completing the tasks; almost without exception they were women. (The exception was a tall, thin young man who could not pull himself to the top of a wall.)
I was not able to observe the Air Force Confidence Course, which was cancelled because of rain during my visit. However, I understand from other commissioners that the situation there was similar: The trainees who could not negotiate the obstacles were overwhelmingly female.
These scenes occurred in full view of male trainees. The male recruits whom I talked with in gender-integrated units generally said they do not expect women to perform physical tasks at the same level as men.
I observed Navy trainees in "Battle Stations." They (properly) assigned team tasks among themselves based on physical strength and ability. In practical effect, this meant that, for example, male trainees carried litters and female trainees acted as scouts. In an actual ship emergency, there might be enough men around to do the heavy lifting but there might not. For training purposes at least, all trainees should demonstrate their ability to do all required tasks.
When visiting gender-integrated units, I often asked female trainees how they liked training with men. They usually answered, "The guys really help us." When I asked in what ways the men helped, these were typical answers:
Male trainees in gender-integrated units had similar views: "We each do the things were better at."
Some of my colleagues apparently regard comments like these as positive evidence that male and female trainees are learning to operate as a team. I demur. To me, such comments indicate that gender-integrated training may be reinforcing, rather than eliminating, stereotypes. "Teamwork" that consists of assigning tasks by sex deprives both sexes of essential experience.
In contrast, at Marine Corps boot camp, the female trainees must do every task themselves. They must team up and find a way to lug heavy objects; they cannot pass off dirty or difficult jobs to men. If they have trouble climbing a wall or rope, they are motivated by other women who have demonstrated they can do it.
Male Marine recruits generally do not watch individual females training, but they reported that they often saw the female units marching to or from, or using, the same training facilities the men use. Drill Instructors teach their recruits exactly what the differences between male and female standards are, and why the differences exist. When I talked with new Marines who had just completed the Crucible, both men and women said they were confident those of the opposite sex had done all the same things they themselves had done in order to qualify as a Marine.
Different performance standards exist de facto for men and women in basic training. The physiological fact is that male and female performance, on average, will always differ. I believe fitness training and other physical task training should be gender-separate. Training men and women together seems to confirm (rather than challenge and overcome) the physical performance differences between the sexes.
Injury rates are higher for women than men in all Services, including the Marine Corps. In most activities other than the actual physical fitness test (e.g., marching), a "unisex" standard applies. Considering the female injury rates, this standard may be too demanding. The purpose of physical training ordinarily should be to stretch, not break, recruits. It may not be possible to impose uniform physical task requirements that "stretch" most male recruits without "breaking" many female recruits. This also argues in favor of gender-separate physical training.
Historical and Current Rationales
(B) Determine the historical rationales for the establishment and disestablishment of gender-integrated or gender-segregated basic training.
Because of a lack of official records, it difficult to document the specific rationales for past decisions to adopt, or discontinue, either gender-integrated or gender-separate training. Having reviewed both historical research and witness materials and testimony, I conclude that political considerations were a major factor motivating these actions. (See also the discussion under paragraph (C) below.)
In the mid- to late 1970s all Services experimented with different ways of adding more women into the forces. Two main factors provided the impetus for these decisions: One was the end of the draft in 1973, making it necessary to fill the ranks with volunteers instead of conscripts, and the other was the "womens liberation movement," which was very active in the 1970s. In 1976 Congress opened the Service academies to women.
In 1977 the Army began to integrate women in OSUT training for military police. In 1978 both the Army and the Air Force commenced gender-integrated basic training. In the same year a federal district judge ordered the Navy to lift its bar against women serving on ships.
The Army discontinued gender-integrated basic training (but not gender-integrated OSUT) in 1982. General Edward C. Meyer USA (Ret.), who was Army Chief of Staff from 1979 to 1983, advised the Commission that he
The Navy conducted studies in 1987 and 1990, prompted by disclosure and investigation of several sexual harassment incidents beginning in 1987. In January 1992, the Navy initiated a pilot program of gender-integrated basic training.
The Army conducted separate basic training (from the company level down) from approximately 1981 until early 1993. General Gordon R. Sullivan USA (Ret.), who was Army Chief of Staff from 1991 to 1995, testified before the Commission about the decision to gender-integrate Army basic training. He said the idea was raised by then-TRADOC Commander General Fred Franks in 1992, and the Army Research Institute conducted a series of experiments beginning in January 1993. General Sullivan denied that he was influenced by political pressure:
Major General Richard (Steve) Siegfried USA (Ret.), who was the commander of Fort Jackson also testified before the Commission about his recollections of the decision process.
MG Siegfried said he initially told General Franks that
MG Siegfried testified he gave General Franks a written response to that effect, but then reconsidered.
MG Siegfried testified he "messed around with it for about a year "
Nothing in the record indicates that the Army was responding to any specific problems when it decided to test gender-integrated basic training beginning in 1993. To the contrary, MG Siegfrieds testimony suggests the Army had a major concern about preserving all-male combat arms training. It appears that General Franks became interested in the idea of expanding Army gender-integrated training in January 1992, at the same time the Navy began testing gender-integrated basic training.
Although the Navy, in its responses to the Commission, made no reference to the infamous Tailhook Convention incident in September 1991, that event undoubtedly must have accelerated the Navys decision to gender-integrate basic training. Doubtless, too, the Armys decision to "fix" basic training in the absence of any problems owed something to inter-service rivalry and something to political timing. The Clinton Administration took office in January 1993. While the Fort Jackson "experiment" progressed, Clinton appointees were pursuing aggressive plans to expand the role of women in the armed forces.
(C) Examine, with respect to each service, the current rationale for the use of gender-integrated or gender-segregated basic training and the rationale that was current as of the time the service made a decision to integrate, or to segregate, basic training by gender (or as of the time of the most recent decision to continue to use a gender-integrated format or a gender-segregated format for basic training), and, as part of the examination, evaluate whether at the time of that decision, the Secretary of the military department with jurisdiction over that service had substantive reason to believe, or has since developed data to support, that gender-integrated basic training, or gender-segregated basic training, improves the readiness or performance of operational units.
When the Army and Air Force decided in the late 1970s to adopt gender-integrated basic training, they had little or no past experience on which to draw. Those efforts were necessarily trial-and-error.
General Meyers reasons for changing Army basic training back to a gender-separate format are noted above. The documentary record is extremely sketchy; however, his rationale is credible. The Commission heard from several experts in physiology and physical fitness, and all agreed that that there are substantial physiological differences between men and women, especially in the areas of strength and endurance. It is interesting to note that the British Army has just decided to change from gender-integrated back to gender-separate training platoons at its biggest training base, primarily because of concerns about womens high injury rates and low first-time pass rates.
The Navys decision to gender-integrate basic training in 1992 followed more than a decade of experience by other Services. The Navy also had some institutional experience with gender-integration since the first admission of women to the Naval Academy had occurred in 1976.
The Armys decision to gender-integrate basic training in 1993 followed a test at Fort Jackson. The Army Research Institute (ARI) conducted a three-year study from 1993 to 1995. According to the ARIs 1995 report,
Army representatives repeatedly cited the ARI study to the Commission as the scientific basis for the Armys conclusion that gender-integrated basic training is superior. In fact, after the 1993 ARI studies (the first of which had to be repeated to get the "right" results), the Army and ARI never again compared single-gender and gender-integrated training units. After the initial 1993 studies, the Army and ARI only tested gender-integrated units, as they were trying to determine the best male-female ratio for a unit. The 1994 and 1995 tests, to the extent they may have involved any comparison against single-gender units, used the results from the single-gender units in the 1993 test.
Furthermore, the Fort Leonard Wood test lasted from June to August 1994. In August 1994, before any results of that test could possibly have been tabulated or analyzed, the Army Chief of Staff announced that Army basic combat training would be gender-integrated effective 1 October 1994. In fact, gender-integrated basic training had already been put forward as part of a proposal, approved by Secretary Perry on 28 July 1994, describing how the Army would implement the new definition of "direct ground combat" then coming into effect.
We also heard repeatedly from "they-were-there" witnesses such as Generals Sullivan and Siegfried that the ARI studies demonstrated that the best ratio of men to women in basic training units was 75/25. In all gender-integrated Army training units that I observed or heard about, the ratio of men and women is, and is supposed to be, approximately 50/50. No one ever cited to the Commission any scientific study to support that ratio.
(D) Assess whether the concept of "training as you will fight" is a valid rationale for gender-integrated basic training or whether the training requirements and objectives for basic training are sufficiently different from those of operational units so that such concept, when balanced against other factors relating to basic training, might not be a sufficient rationale for gender-integrated basic training.
Only the Army specifically cited "train as you fight" as part of its rationale for gender-integrated basic training. This phrase originated in the 1970s as shorthand to describe Army doctrine that combat training should take place in as realistic a setting as practical. It is a misleading and over-used slogan when applied to gender-integration and basic training.
The Army, Navy and Air Force all cited variants of "train as you operate" as a rationale for gender-integrated basic training; however, "train as you operate" likewise is not a sufficient rationale for gender-integrated basic training. The purpose of basic training is not to teach tactics or job skills. It is to transform a civilian into a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine, who is able to wear a uniform, follow orders, observe proper customs and courtesies, and accept and live by the core values of the Service. "Train to transform" would be a more apt slogan.
(E) Identify the requirements unique to each service that could affect a decision by the Secretary concerned to adopt a gender-integrated or gender-segregated format for basic training and assess whether the format in use by each service has been successful in meeting those requirements.
The majority report cited several generic categories in which the Services are different: mission, tradition, size, force structure, rank distribution, gender composition, and positions open to women. Although the Services may have unique characteristics, basic trainees do not come in corresponding categories. Instead, they are young, they are civilians, some are men, and some are women.
Service-unique requirements do and should affect the content and conduct of basic training: The Navy properly emphasizes firefighting; the Army rightly focuses on rifle training. Official representatives of the Services have told the Commission, in testimony and in written submissions, that the Services are satisfied with the quality of graduates of their basic training programs.
Personnel in the operational forces are much more reserved in their enthusiasm. The Commissions survey asked service members to evaluate recent IET graduates. Large majorities say the quality of graduates has declined the past five years. Although todays graduates are thought to be smarter than those of five years ago, they are also considered (by large majorities of those surveyed) to be deficient in discipline, in their ability to adjust to military life, and in their ability to accept authority. During the Commissions operational visit discussions, I also heard many complaints about a certain passivity or lack of initiative among new graduates.
Throughout the ages elders have complained about the younger generation. But the comments of those who supervise trainees and new service members will ring true, I think, to most employers today. As a law office manager, lawyer, business owner and nonprofit leader, I have hired and supervised college-age workers over the past 25 years. They are different today, especially in terms of their independence, self-reliance and self-esteem.
The Services differ in their operational requirements, but the human element is fundamental and common to all. The decision whether to adopt a gender-integrated or gender-separate format for basic training should be based on the non-negotiable differences between men and women and the search for the best way to produce a good soldier, sailor, airman or Marine out of the raw material they have to work with.
(J) Review Department of Defense and military department efforts to objectively measure or evaluate the effectiveness of gender-integrated basic training, as compared to gender-segregated basic training, particularly with regard to the adequacy and scope of the efforts and with regard to the relevancy of findings to operational unit requirements, and determine whether the Department of Defense and the military departments are capable of measuring or evaluating the effectiveness of that training format objectively.
The Commission asked each Service in writing what, if any, objective measures they currently use to evaluate the effectiveness of their gender-integrated and gender-separate basic training. Each of the Services reported it has no current or planned efforts to study that issue.
The Army replied: "The Army studied this topic for three consecutive years and their [sic] is no empirical evidence to indicate that further study is required. Consequently, there are no ongoing studies that evaluate the effectiveness of gender-integrated and gender-separate Basic Combat Training (BCT)."
The Air Force stated: "The objective effectiveness of gender-integrated training is not directly measured in Basic Military Training (BMT). However, there are some related measurements [sexual harassment, Military Training Leader Survey on satisfaction with BMT graduates] that can provide useful insight."
The Navy and Marine Corps referred only to their standards for graduation for basic training and fleet satisfaction surveys, all of which are non-gender-specific.
None of the Services (with the possible exception of the Marine Corps) would be in a position to conduct such studies, because none of the Services (except the Marine Corps) trains women separately. In the Navy and Air Force, all basic training is gender-integrated, even for the small number of sailors or airmen who will go into all-male occupations.
(G) Identify the goals that each service has set forth in regard to readiness, in light of the gender-integrated or gender-segregated format that such service has adopted for basic training and whether that format contributes to the readiness of operational units.
The Commission asked each of the Services to provide a briefing on "readiness" with emphasis on personnel and training issues. In each case, the measure of readiness includes measures of personnel (how many? what qualifications?) and training (mission capable? how well qualified? how current?). Readiness is most often evaluated in terms of operating units; however, basic training provides trained personnel for operating units and thus must be considered a factor of military readiness.
The Army, Navy and Air Force have current and projected recruiting shortfalls. The Navy reported to the Commission that in FY98, the Navys recruiting accessions were 7,000 short of goals, and further shortages are projected through May 1999. The Air Force reported that it missed its recruiting goals two out of three months of the first quarter of FY99. Lower retention rates have made it necessary to increase recruiting goals by 1,000 this year. The Air Force cited "concern" over second term reenlistment rates in several categories of warfighting skills, and "major concern" over pilot retention, projecting a shortage of 2,000 pilots by the year 2002.
Every day the newspaper headlines describe another tactic being used by one of those Services (advertising campaigns, cash bonuses, waivers for non-high school graduates). Only the Marine Corps is meeting its recruiting goals, and the Marine Corps does it without offering bonuses or accepting candidates it normally would not want.
It is fair to ask whether the Marine Corps gender-separate training format may account, directly or indirectly, for its recruiting success. The Commission added questions to the YATS survey to determine attitudes of young people toward gender-integrated and gender-separate training. The overwhelming majority, even of those with a propensity to enlist, said they are indifferent about whether basic training would be with or without the opposite sex. Others were about evenly split between gender-integrated and gender-separate as a preference. This suggests that the Army, Navy and Air Force would suffer no loss (but might gain) in terms of recruiting if they decided to change, in whole or in part, from gender-integrated to gender-separate basic training.
(H) Assess the degree to which performance standards in basic training are based on military readiness.
Basic training performance standards must reflect a balance between personnel needs and training needs. Performance standards in basic training generally aim to produce a service member who is physically fit, who understands and accepts the services organizational values, who knows and complies with the services norms of behavior, and who is ready to receive further training.
The recruiting shortfalls noted above may exert a powerful temptation to recruit and graduate individuals who should not be allowed to become service members. In this regard, performance standards in basic training support readiness only when they are kept appropriately high and rigorously enforced.
(K) Compare the pattern of attrition in gender-integrated basic training units with the pattern of attrition in gender-segregated basic training units and assess the relevancy of the findings of such comparison.
The Final Report of the Commission will present detailed attrition data. In general, women leave the Services at all stages (basic training, first year, first term) at considerably higher rates than men. One can hypothesize all sorts of explanations; an obvious one is that young women of an age to serve in the military are also of child-bearing age, and they may reasonably decide they prefer a less demanding career when they are having and raising children.
Comparisons of attrition patterns between gender-integrated and gender-segregated units within each Service are impractical because of the lack of comparable groups in both formats.
(L) Compare the level of readiness and morale of gender-integrated basic training units with the level of readiness and morale of gender-segregated units, and assess the relevancy of the findings of such comparison and the implications, for readiness, of any differences found.
As noted above, "readiness" is a measure ordinarily not applied to basic training units. Concerning "morale," the Commission studied beginning and graduating recruits attitudes conducive to unit cohesion and commitment, as well as military leader opinions on training and gender-related issues. There are many interesting results from that study, which should be reviewed thoroughly and carefully.
For example, overwhelming majorities of leaders (NCOs and officers) agreed that the quality of recruit training has a direct effect on operational readiness. Among recruit trainers, however, substantial numbers (48 percent in the Army, 55 percent in the Navy, and 41 percent in the Air Force) said that the quality of basic training declines when men and women are in the same units.
The initial results of our surveys also show that Marine graduating recruits score significantly higher on measures of commitment, respect for authority and group identity than recruits in the other Services. Although one cannot draw conclusions from cross-service comparisons, these results suggest that the other Services could benefit from analyzing what allows the Marine Corps to achieve such success in basic training.
(M) Compare the experiences, policies, and practices of the armed forces of other industrialized nations regarding gender-integrated training with those of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.
(N) Review, and take into consideration, the current practices, relevant studies, and private sector training concepts pertaining to gender-integrated training.
As noted above, the British Army has recently returned to gender-separate training at its major training base.
The major lessons I drew from reviewing the practices of other countries and other sectors are these:
Feasibility and Implications of Proposals
(O) Assess the feasibility and implications of conducting basic training (or equivalent training) at the company level and below through separate units for male and female recruits, including the costs and other resource commitments required to implement and conduct basic training in such a manner and the implications for readiness and unit cohesion.
(P) Assess the feasibility and implications of requiring drill instructors for basic training unit to be of the same sex as the recruits in those units if the basic training were to be conducted as described in subparagraph (O).
The Army, Navy and Air Force provided their estimates of the costs and other resource commitments required to conduct basic training at the company level and below through separate units for male and female recruits.
In general I found the estimates unsupported and exaggerated. For example, I was extremely skeptical of the estimates for providing separate housing. A company of recruits is typically housed in a building, or a wing of a building. Converting an existing building for female occupancy should require not much more than plumbing changes. It seemed to me that, had the Services analyzed occupancy rates, they would have seen that new construction is unnecessary.
The latest General Accounting Office (GAO) report validated my views. The GAO concluded that the Services would not incur additional construction costs if they housed male and female recruits in separate barracks.
The major drawback to separate training at the company level is that it would require the services to fill entire companies of female recruits at once. This would take considerable time and coordination because women enter the Services in much smaller numbers than men. Although it might be relatively practical in summer surge months, it could become very complicated and costly to set up all-female companies at other times of the year. Similarly it appears that requiring same-sex trainers for gender-separate companies would not be practical, because of sheer lack of numbers of female trainers and trainer-candidates available at this time.
These reservations would not apply, however, if the level of gender-separation were the platoon rather than the company. The Services effectively fill all-female platoons now, as they fill each sleeping bay in the barracks. Each service has a formal or informal policy of assigning female trainers to companies where there are mixed-sex platoons. Those trainers could be assigned to the specific all-female platoons.
I agree with the recommendation of the Kassebaum Baker committee concerning same-sex platoons / divisions / flights in basic training. Attached to this statement is the portion of the December 1997 Kassebaum Baker committee report discussing that recommendation. Virtually every word still applies today.
Although the Army, Navy and Air Force have implemented almost every other recommendation from the Kassebaum Baker report, they inexplicably refuse even to try same-sex platoon / division / flight training. These Services should realize that they will continue to experience gender-related problems (or "challenges") as long as they pretend that "gender" is not a problem. Here are a few of the unnecessary, costly and distracting "challenges" still posed by gender-integrated basic training:
Successful basic training lays a foundation upon which the operational force can build. Advocates of gender-integrated training claim it will teach recruits proper judgment about dealing with the opposite sex. Good judgment, however, is a function of maturity and experience. Recruits need the foundation of discipline before they can acquire the skills and habits of good judgment. Separating male and female recruits in basic training units will assist them in learning discipline and self-control, the most valuable foundation on which to build maturity and judgment.
Attachment: Excerpt from Report of the Federal Advisory Committee on Gender-Integrated Training and Related Issues (Dec. 16, 1997) ("Kassebaum Baker Report"), pages 15-17.