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DONNELLY: The generals flunk the birds ‘n’ bees test
Extending sexual misconduct to combat units
The latest report by the Defense Department's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office documents the dysfunctional consequences of social experiments with human sexuality in our military over many years. What's worse, the department's plans will extend problems of sexual assault and misconduct into the combat arms.
The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office's 2013 report analyzing 2012 data and surveys of active-duty personnel reveals alarming trends. From 2004 to 2012, sexual assaults of military personnel soared by 130 percent, from 1,275 to 2,949. Numbers of all Defense Department reports nearly doubled, from 1,700 to 3,374. In addition, 17 percent of sexual assault allegations were unfounded, up from 13 percent — a more than 30 percent increase since 2009.
This is not the first report card with failing grades on sexual misconduct. According to the 2012 Army Gold Book report, violent attacks in the Army nearly doubled from 663 in 2006 to 1,313 in 2011, and sex crimes accelerated at an average rate of 14.6 percent per year.
How can this be? Mandatory sensitivity-training programs have consumed untold man-hours, and the military has more sexual-assault response coordinators (25,000) than it does recruiters (19,000). Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the Air Force's highest-ranking sexual-assault response coordinator, who was arrested recently and accused of groping a woman after hours in Arlington, reportedly earned $132,000 per year.
When sexual-assault numbers increase, sexual-assault prevention professionals express satisfaction because more complainants are coming forward. If this is "success," what does failure look like? Indicators appear in Volume II of the sexual-assault report, which sets forth "virtual" findings extrapolated from the Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of active-duty members.
Of the nearly 26,000 survey respondents, 6.1 percent of women and 1.2 percent of men said they had experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact in the past year — far more than actual complaints filed. According to The New York Times, 12,100 of the 203,000 uniformed women and 13,900 of 1.2 million men in 2012 said they had experienced unwanted sexual contact.
If these estimates are used to justify more funding for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office programs, they also should call into question Pentagon claims that repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy implemented in 1993 has been a complete "success." Actual numbers show that in the past two years, military men filed more than 12 percent of sexual-assault complaints.
Charges against all sex offenders, if true, warrant swift punishment. However, Pentagon policymakers also should be held accountable for years of social experiments testing flawed theories of a "new gender order" that exists nowhere in the world. Elitist policymakers keep pretending that human sexuality does not matter, and that men and women are interchangeable in all roles. Instead of re-evaluating the consequences of social experiments testing these theories, the administration is pushing ahead with incremental plans that will extend sexual-misconduct problems into Marine and Army infantry, armor, artillery, Special Forces battalions and Navy SEALs.
Since there is no valid military reason to do this (for decades, military women have been promoted at rates equal to or faster than men), advocates of women in combat have contrived a false argument that was voiced by Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Women would get more respect and experience fewer assaults, said Gen. Dempsey, if they serve in the combat arms.
This meme is a throwback to arguments made in 1991 by then-Rep. Patricia Schroeder, Colorado Democrat. When male and female aviators embarrassed the Navy by partying wildly at the Las Vegas Tailhook convention, the feminist Mrs. Schroeder maintained that if female pilots entered tactical aviation, respect for women would increase and sexual assaults would decrease.
More than 20 years later, experience has discredited the Schroeder theory. Respect for military women is higher than ever, but rates of sexual assault and other forms of misconduct have increased with no end in sight.
What to do? First, do no harm. Congress should exercise its constitutional authority to intervene before the administration imposes irreversible policies that weaken morale and overall readiness. Congress should define and codify women's "direct ground combat" exemption with updated legal language that also recognizes contingent or incident-related combat while serving "in harm's way" in a war zone.
Responsible congressional action laying down a baseline of sound assignment policies would remove the need to impose "gender-neutral" (actually, gender-normed) standards on tough training for the infantry and special-operations forces. This is the only way to preserve women's exemption from Selective Service registration for any draft, while deterring the extension of sex problems into the combat arms.
Some observers want to channel emotion about sexual assaults to radically change the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Caution is advised because the military protects individual rights, but must be governed by different rules. Command authority is essential to the code, which works best when rights of due process are scrupulously protected for both the accuser and the accused.
Congress should show true respect for women by taking these issues seriously and intervening before the Defense Department makes them worse. The answer to a perceived "war on women" is not to treat women like men in land combat or to send our daughters and granddaughters to fight our nation's wars.
Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, was a member of the 1992 Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces.
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