Navy Secretary Ray Mabus criticized Friday the findings of a new Marine report that all-male combat units perform better on a number of tactical tasks than mixed-gender units.
Mr. Mabus, the civilian secretary who leads the Navy Department — including the Marine Corps — has called for the Navy to open combat jobs to women, and said the latest report may have been tainted by negative attitudes from the beginning.
“They started out with a fairly largely component of the men thinking this is not a good idea, and women will not be able to do this,” he said in an interview with NPR.
The report, released Thursday, was conducted over a 9-month period at two separate training camps and is part of a Marine Corps experiment to study integrating women into the infantry in order to meet a 2012 order by then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to open all military jobs, including combat roles, to women.
Services must open all jobs to women by January, or else submit requests for exemptions to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter by the end of this month.
The latest study showed women were injured twice as often as men, shot less accurately and struggled to perform tactical operations like removing wounded troops off the battlefield.
Mr. Mabus argued that other studies, including one by the Center for Naval Analysis, show there are ways to mitigate the gaps in performance “so you can have the same combat effectiveness, the same lethality, which is crucial.”
He added that some of the report’s conclusions were based on generalizations and did not take into consideration individual women’s performance.
“Part of the study said women tend not to be able to carry as heavy a load for as long. But there were women who went though the study who could,” he said.
The report argued that women would break down and combat effectiveness would suffer.
“That was not shown in the study, that was an extrapolation based on injury rates,” Mr. Mabus told NPR.
He stressed the importance of setting strict standard for service in combat jobs and repeated his previous remarks that women who meet these standards should be able to serve in those roles.