Downloaded from

Back to Women in the Military and in Combat topic area


Mr. Chairman and distinguished Members,

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today and share the views and findings of our Commission.

Chairman Blair has submitted a comprehensive statement. This statement also represents my views, so I won’t tax your patience or belabor the hearing process with a long statement of my own. I would simply like to emphasize a few salient points and reiterate for emphasis a few of Mrs. Blair’s observations.

The Commission was given a sweeping mandate embodied in a very detailed and complicated piece of legislation, and we made a thorough, conscientious effort to address all the issues Congress asked us to examine – issues of adultery and fraternization in the forces, the state and quality of basic training generally, and of course, the question of gender-integrated Initial Entry Training (IET). The Commission reached a high degree of consensus on all issues but the last. We all know it was this last issue that provided the principal reason for forming this Commission. It is the issue that has received – and will continue to receive – the most scrutiny.

First, I’d like to dispose of one matter right up front – one which is not always dealt with honestly and in the open, but lurks in the shadows, in ambush as it were; and is used, sometimes subtly, sometimes overtly, to attack the views one disagrees with. That is the matter of objectivity and bias.

We live in a culture, and are subject to news and opinion media, largely dominated by a mindset that is Liberal, "progressive," and deconstructionist – that it, it seeks to deconstruct traditional American culture and remake it into something totally different. This is a form of bias in itself. Yet it is so pervasive in the fabric of our world that its adherents, unconsciously perhaps, accept it as the only possible worldview. It is like the default setting of our culture, and anyone who clings to an older, more traditional or historically derived worldview is the one accused of holding a bias.

I want to set this matter straight before I say anything else. Every member of this Commission brought to the table a set of presuppositions and predispositions based on a worldview and on life experiences. That’s understandable and not necessarily a bad thing in itself.

As we got organized last spring, I was very up front about this. I acknowledged my own set of presuppositions and predispositions. They are based upon 21 years as an Army Reserve officer in the combat arms. I helped train reserve component soldiers at Fort Jackson where I followed the first gender-integrated experiment during the Carter Administration. They are also based on my calling as a military historian. And the lessons of history tell me that the principal purpose of basic training is to effect a military re-socialization in which the civilian is transformed into a soldier. (For brevity I’m using "soldier" to denote all service members). This can only occur in a highly focused and rigorous environment, in which that objective is clear and paramount. If it does not occur, or occurs incompletely, then the further skills-oriented training and full integration of the soldier into operational units suffers because the proper foundation has not been laid. You cannot go back and re-do basic training.

I also hold the premise, again derived from history, that warfighting is principally a male occupation. Today’s military women are for the most part impressive and outstanding. And while they make an invaluable contribution to today’s armed forces, history, common sense, and the observable laws of nature tell me that women are not interchangeable with men. They have their strengths, weaknesses, and particular characteristics, and so do men. But historically, armies have always conducted their training, whether for direct combat or support roles, with the principal focus on that male, warfighting population. Thus in my mind, there was a presumption, based on my knowledge of military history and on personal experience, in favor of gender-separated basic training.

I acknowledged this presumption up front, but at the same time pledged to bring an open mind to the process. I was willing to be convinced of the value of gender-integrated training if I could be shown that it was preferable to the way armies have trained their soldiers throughout recorded history. In the event, I did not discover it to be preferable. And while today’s armed forces have done as well as anyone possibly could to implement a difficult policy -- in fact, to implement an unprecedented social and cultural revolution – in the end I had to follow an informed judgment that mixed gender training at the first stages, that is, the "basic" portion of IET, is not producing the best trained personnel and is not in the best interests of the nation, the armed forces, nor the individual service members themselves. If this be bias, make the most of it. But let it also be acknowledged that there is equal bias and vested interests on the other side of this question.

In considering the issue of gender-integrated training, the Commission was presented with a motion that essentially preserved the status quo. In other words, each service should continue to carry out its IET as it is currently training. I would not presume to speak for any other member of the Commission, but I feel it’s fair to say there was some genuine concern about the problems mixed trained has introduced into the forces. Nevertheless, some Commissioners who voted for the motion felt that the cost of rolling things back, in other words, adopting the same position as the Kassebaum Baker Commission, would impose too much hardship on the Army, Navy, and Air Force, which by now are fully committed institutionally to gender integrated training.

While I had some sympathy for that view, having in the past been on the receiving end of the "order, counter-order, disorder" phenomenon, I voted against the motion because I feel that in the long run the costs of mixed training would outweigh the costs of undoing it. Let me briefly enumerate what I believe those costs are, or will be over time:

Loss of military effectiveness. My Commission experience persuades me that the military socialization or transformation is not being carried out completely and sufficiently in mixed training. The success of mixed training itself seems to have supplanted what should be the principal goal – to convert undisciplined, self-absorbed civilians into tough, disciplined members of cohesive units. The inevitable distractions inherent in mixed units degrades the quality, rigor, and focus of basic training.

Erosion of an essential military-institutional culture. A significant number of trainers of all ranks and in all services communicated to me that in order to make mixed training work and accommodate large numbers of females alongside males, the traditional male-oriented culture of the military has to be scrapped, or at least fundamentally altered. This should be self-evident to any open-minded person. Yet the long-term effects of that fundamental cultural shift are not being sufficiently evaluated – hardly even acknowledged, in fact. What does it mean in terms of loss of cohesion, loss of aggressiveness, loss of an overarching sense of military purpose? What is the degree of the general "softening" of the training and military socialization regimen? Hardly anyone in the senior grades seems willing to confront this steady, subtle erosion of the traditional military character of the institutions and what it might mean on a future battlefield.

Failure to achieve stated goals of gender-integrated training. The ostensible, oft-repeated goal of mixed training is to foster right professional attitudes of respect toward members of the other sex. The Army, Navy, and Air Force believe this interaction between the sexes should begin at once, in the very first stage of IET. Proper attitudes and good conduct between men and women are a necessary and highly laudable goal. However, as cited above, it supplants what should be the principal goal of the first six to nine weeks of basic training. Moreover, in order to make it work – or at least to achieve some facsimile of its "working" – the services have had to impose myriad draconian rules aimed at keeping men and women from interacting on the ranges and drill field. In other words, highly impressionable young men and women are thrown together in an intense environment in order to teach them how to behave around each other, and then policed to such an extent that it defeats the stated purpose. As one trainer at Lackland Air Force base said to me, "We have to create a prison camp environment to make gender integrated training work." Today’s news story about the Army’s decision to put surveillance cameras in recruit barracks further attests to this fact. I hardly need point out that it sends a mixed message, and does not support the stated rationale for gender-integrated training.

This "prison camp" environment exists to one degree or other at every IET base we visited – except Parris Island. The Marine Corps does not have this problem, it avoids the unnessesary distractions of gender-integrated training in the first stage of basic, and produces a better product in my view. And yet there doesn’t appear to be any gross deficiency of professional attitudes or conduct between men and women in the Marine Corps.

Loss of mutual trust and confidence. While it is true that many trainers are enthusiastic about mixed training, a significant number feel it’s a mistake. Yet they are not allowed to voice their observations or complaints. Many of them feel coerced by their superiors to assent to a policy they feel is not in the best interests of the services, and they observe these same superiors giving only praise to the policy and ignoring its flaws. In other words, they feel many of their superiors – I hate to say the word – are lying about the success of mixed training. This is breeding a growing cynicism, contempt, and distrust up and down the chain-of-command that is far more disturbing in its long-term effects than the impact of large numbers of women in the ranks and mixed training itself. The American military simply cannot remain healthy is this trend continues. Yet it appears to be increasing, with large numbers of mid-grade and experienced personnel leaving the service. While there are many reasons for the current retention crisis, one reason some of the best people are leaving is because they sense a loss of integrity in the senior leaders of their respective institutions.

Erosion of the physical preparedness and martial ethos of male trainees. Mixed training appears to benefit females more than males. Most of the women I encountered were highly motivated and eager to make the transition to soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine. In fact, I was deeply impressed with the vast majority of the female trainees I met and spoke to. But it appears at the same time that the benefits are not equally distributed. The physical challenge to males – company runs or road marches, for example -- is necessarily diminished in order to accommodate females alongside. And many males in mixed units appeared, in my judgment, to lack the same intensity of motivation, though some individuals were more highly motivated, not wanting to be outdone by females. But in a subtle yet profound way, something seems to happen to the self-confidence, assertiveness, and aggressiveness of many males in mixed unit training.

This list is not comprehensive, but does offer the principal highlights of the problems of gender-integrated training from my perspective. And yet I acknowledge that these problems are subtle. Basic training in the services may appear on the surface to be adequate. To the extent that it remains sound we can thank the best non-commissioned officers in the world. And the best of them serve, often voluntarily, as Drill Sergeants, DIs, RDCs, and MTIs. They are doing as well as anyone could expect to surmount the difficulties of providing effective training for products of today’s culture, as well as deal with the unprecedented and often insoluble problems of mixed training. Every American owes them a debt of gratitude. We can not afford to lose them, to sacrifice them on the altar of Political Correctness. For it has to be noted that many of them believe, and with some justification, that gender-integrated training at the first phase of basic is not mandated by military necessity, but by the imposition from the top down of a Politically Correct social dogma, one which is hostile to the traditional martial ethos.

In conclusion, I have to express the hope that this Commission accomplished something other than to serve as an excuse to derail last year’s Bartlett amendment to the defense authorization bill which would have separated the sexes in basic training – thereby improving the final product, in my opinion. I suspect that was our real purpose, however. Anyone who has been in Washington for very long knows there is the stated agenda, and behind that, the real agenda. In any case, I think it’s noteworthy that we took a lot of trips to military bases, spent a lot of time and money, looked at a lot of data, made a thorough study of the basic training programs of the armed forces and an array of gender-related issues. Yet we really didn’t come to any unanimous, ironclad, and incontrovertible conclusions that would lay this debate to rest once and for all.

In my view, the subtle human intangibles of military organizations are not susceptible to the kind of resolution everyone would like so that we can Move On. As Chairman Blair has observed, an acquiescent military (the Marine Corps excepted) is willing to accept the mixed gender training mandate without question and without subjecting it to any meaningful test, and suppresses negative information about mixing the genders in order to "make it work." Nor can the efforts of this Commission, while strenuous, be regarded as a true test or definitive answer to the wisdom of this policy.

Ultimately the true and definitive test will come, as it always does, in the crucible of combat. There appears to exist an unspoken assumption in today’s military that the United States will never again face a bitter, prolonged conflict against a determined and well-prepared enemy. I fear this will prove to be a fatal assumption. As Plato predicted 2500 years ago, "Only the dead have seen the end of war." And war is the great auditor of military institutions. I believe our forces will be engaged in the next ten years or less in a general conflict that will test them to the limit, and will demand the last ounce of fighting effectiveness. In that kind of contest the subtle human intangibles – unit cohesion, morale, mutual trust, and just plain sheer fighting will – may spell the difference between victory and defeat, and certainly will make a difference in the casualty lists. The margins of combat superiority have already been shaved thin from a military overtaxed, misused, and under-resourced by the current Administration. I believe the gender policies of the armed forces are shaving them even thinner, but only the next war will tell us for certain. That will be the ultimate test.

If our forces should fail the test, or if our soldiers, sailors, and airmen suffer needless deaths because the White House, Pentagon, and Congress felt it more important to carry out an unprecedented social and cultural revolution, then I hope all present will remember the opportunity we had to remedy a fatal error, remember what was said and done here today, and remember who was responsible. My conscience at least will be clear.