- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2007

A military watchdog group says the Pentagon is failing to uphold laws that protect women in the Army from combat and that the Rand Corp.’s recent report is meant to “whitewash” the whole issue.

The Center for Military Readiness, an independent organization opposed to women in combat, is calling for a congressional hearing to clarify the Department of Defense’s “actual law for women serving in the military.”

Pentagon officials disagree, stating the Rand report “Assessing the Assignment Policy for Army Women,” which was posted Aug. 7 on the Rand Web site (www.rand.org) answered the questions it was assigned. The Rand report was mandated in the 2006 National Defense Authorization Act after a May 2005 House Armed Services Committee oversight debate on women in or near direct ground combat. Rand Corp. is a nonprofit global policy think tank.

“The Rand report completed its work requested by DoD to review assignment patterns by women and their compatibility with current policies,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, a Defense Department spokesman. “The report confirms that the Army has remained in compliance with DoD policy regarding the assignment of women.”

Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, whose group is hosting its 12th annual conference in Washington this week, said the report failed to uphold the objectivity standards for which the research organization has been noted. She said the report deliberately withheld pertinent information from the assessment and convoluted the actual role of women serving in the military.

“Instead of clarifying Defense Department rules, the 2007 Rand report creates needless confusion with misinformation, unsupported findings, flawed assumptions and misguided recommendations that attempt to validate questionable Army practices,” Mrs. Donnelly said.

“Absent public awareness, congressional inquiries and intervention by President George W. Bush, illicit practices are already creating unprecedented problems in land combat units that used to be all male. These include sexual misconduct incidents and evacuations due to pregnancy. Left unresolved, the situation invites more incremental steps in the wrong direction, all without congressional oversight or accountability to the American people.”

Rand researchers, however, found that the rules governing embedding of female soldiers are ambiguous. The Rand report stated that it could not determine whether the policy is actually being violated.

“We looked at Army and DoD policy and both are currently active, neither supercedes the other,” said Margaret C. Harrell, senior social scientist and lead author of the Rand report. “The Army is adhering to the DoD policy for assignment of women, but it is not clear that the Army is adhering to their own policy for the assignment of women.”

The confusion is what Mrs. Donnelly said Congress and the military need to clarify.

Army spokesman Robert Tallman said the report confirms that the Army is “not assigning women to direct combat roles.”

In 1994, Defense Secretary Les Aspin established the current policy for women in the military with a memorandum that stated that “personnel can be assigned to all positions for which they are qualified, except that women shall be excluded from assignment to units below the brigade level whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the ground.”

Mrs. Donnelly argues that the Defense Department policy restricts the assignment of women to units whose primary mission is direct ground combat, whereas the Army restricts assignment to units that have a routine mission of direct combat.

She added in a written argument that Army and Defense Department policies define combat differently: “The Army’s definition of direct combat includes a requirement that there be a risk of capture, but also includes ‘repelling the enemy’s assault.’ ”

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