- The Washington Times - Friday, March 8, 2002

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz announced last week that the 50-year-old Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services DACOWITS in the inevitable acronym would be restructured despite pressure from many conservative groups to end its existence. The Clinton administration enlisted DACOWITS in its politics, and the group transformed itself quickly from trusted adviser to feminist pressure group. Now, as reported by Rowan Scarborough of The Washington Times, Mr. Wolfowitz decided to re-establish DACOWITS and control its membership and its work, freeing it from the feminist agitprop that has dominated its recent agenda.

The combat arms jobs where you have to kill people and break things has been the exclusive province of men. In the Clinton years, DACOWITS' membership looked at America's military like the rest of the Clinton administration did not as a force to defend freedom, but as a well-funded playground for social experimentation. The centerpiece of the DACOWITS agenda was its complaint about a "glass ceiling" in the military. In corporate America, some women are supposedly blocked from promotion by a "glass ceiling." Seeing that most generals and admirals had served in combat, and that the vast majority of them were men, the DACOWITS decided that women in the military faced the same kind of discrimination and began lobbying loudly for women to be assigned to combat arms. The professional military resisted limply, saying women couldn't pass the established tests.

DACOWITS' answer was to have two sets of tests, one for guys and one for gals. Right now, each of the military service academies has two sets of physical fitness standards. The girls don't do pull-ups; they do a "bent arm hang." They do fewer pushups and get more time to run the mile. Those different standards are also used in basic training. The men who are held to the higher traditional standards rightly resent the women who aren't. DACOWITS' pressure resulted in mixed-gender training in all the services (except the Marines), in women flying combat aircraft and even the first female graduates of Army sniper school. None of the combat assignments is appropriate, and all should be eliminated. The high standards men must pass to be in the combat arms, and the culture of the warrior, are things this nation cannot afford to "dumb down." The Pentagon fired the 22 Clinton-era DACOWITS members, which is a good start. But it is only a start.

There is every reason to hope that DACOWITS again can be a trusted adviser on women in non-combat positions. To do so, the Pentagon will have to resist considerable pressure from Congress and the media to bring back the feminists who ruled it for the past decade. Better to have done away with it than to allow it to return to that path.


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