- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 7, 2001

Pro-military groups are pressing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to follow through on a George W. Bush campaign promise to re-examine the practice of training male and female recruits in the same units and barracks.
Fourteen pro-defense groups, joined by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, have signed a letter to Mr. Rumsfeld urging him to reverse the policy.
"In our view, military policies should encourage discipline, not sexual misconduct," the letter said. "There is ample evidence that training men and women together complicates and detracts from the training mission. Our members hope that you will act quickly to end this and other demoralizing personnel policies that have vitiated discipline and morale."
Among the signers were Bruce Harder, director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars; Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy; Paul Weyrich, national chairman of the Coalitions for America; Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness; and Beverly LaHaye, chairman of Concerned Women for America.
The American Legion, the nation's largest veterans group, adopted a resolution in 2000 opposing coed basic training. It has a policy of not signing group letters, Mrs. Donnelly said.
The letter to the Pentagon chief comes as the Bush administration is sending signals that it has more pressing national security priorities.
Mr. Rumsfeld said in an interview with The Washington Times in July that no one within the military has raised military social issues with him. He said his focus for now is on carrying out President Bush's order to retool the armed forces to confront new, 21st-century threats.
"I've got so many things that are pushed at me that I'm working on that I just don't have any. They aren't even on our schedule that I know of," the defense secretary said.
Mrs. Donnelly, who is opposed to women in combat, said in an interview it is understandable that Mr. Rumsfeld is consumed by the policy study known as the Quadrennial Defense Review. But she said that now that some of the defense secretary's top personnel policy-makers are on the job they should start examining mixed-sex basic training.
"My concern is that without proper attention, the agenda set in motion during the Clinton administration is moving ahead like a battleship on autopilot and something has to be done to change course," she said.
The joint letter quoted candidate Bush as telling the American Legion Magazine in January 2000 that "experts tell me that we ought to have separate basic training facilities. I think women in the military have an important and good role, but the people who study the issue tell me that the most effective training would be to have the genders separated."
One of the experts Mr. Bush was quoting is his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice. Miss Rice told reporters during the campaign that the president would look at separating men and women during the first weeks of boot camp to give them a chance to acclimate to military life.
Miss Rice said in an interview with The Washington Times last week that Mr. Rumsfeld eventually will address the issue.
"It is really only about a month ago that he had anybody in the policy shop at all," she said. "They can't take on everything simultaneously. They've got this huge strategic defense review that they're doing, not to mention missile defense and a bunch of other things. But I do think that it's an issue that will come back, sure, because it's an important issue."
Miss Rice served on a blue-ribbon commission that in 1998 voted 11-0 to recommend to Defense Secretary William S. Cohen that recruits be separated by sex at the small-unit level and that they live in separate barracks.
"The present organizational structure in integrated basic training is resulting in less discipline, less unit cohesion and more distractions from training programs," said the bipartisan commission headed by former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker, Kansas Republican.
But the chiefs of the Army, Air Force and Navy, the three services who mix the sexes in boot camp, refused to follow the commission's recommendation. They said they preferred to "train as we fight." The Marine Corps trains male and female inductees in different units and barracks.
Mr. Cohen then ordered the services to adopt more rigorous training, saying he was alarmed to find that he was in better shape than some recruits.
Conservatives say that now that the chiefs know Mr. Bush favors a switch in policy, unlike President Clinton, they may be more agreeable to some type of sex separation.
Mr. Cohen appointed the Kassebaum commission as a response to persistent media reports that coed boot camp was riddled with lax training and discipline. Drill sergeants complained they were spending too much time policing illicit sex in the barracks and other disciplinary problems.
Critics of same-sex training contend that the problems persist today. "We are writing to express our concern about disciplinary problems in the military, which have occurred in recent years as a direct result of gender-integrated basic training in the military," states the July 25 letter to Mr. Rumsfeld.
Congress also appointed a commission to examine similar training questions. The panel, badly divided along political lines, voted 6-3 to let the services decide how to mold new recruits. The commission's report included polls of trainers who, by wide margins, stated that discipline had fallen since training went coed in the Navy and Army in the early 1990s. The Air Force, the most technical of the four branches, says it has mixed male and female recruits since the 1970s.

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