Defense Secretary James N. Mattis says “the jury is out” on whether it was a good idea for the Obama administration to open up traditionally male combat jobs to women in 2015.
It’s been three years since former Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced plans to integrate women into infantry, armor and other close-combat jobs, but there still aren’t enough data to judge the policy shift’s effect on combat readiness.
Mr. Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general, made the remark while speaking at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington on Tuesday.
“This is a policy that I inherited, and so far the cadre is so small, we have no data on it,” Mr. Mattis told a cadet, Stars and Stripes reported Wednesday. “We’re hoping to get data soon. There are a few stalwart young ladies who are charging into this, but they are too few.”
Service Women’s Action Network, a group that advocates for female servicemembers, blasted his assessment.
“His remarks undermine the fearless women who have selflessly volunteered to serve their country in the most dangerous jobs in the military,” the organization said in a statement.
Stars and Stripes noted that the Army has 51 female infantry officers and 253 enlisted women serving in the active-duty infantry.
A spokesman for the U.S. Marine Corps confirmed one female infantry officer and 26 enlisted women serving in infantry roles.
“It’s a very, very tough issue because it goes from some people’s perspective of what kind of society do we want, you know?” Mr. Mattis added. “In the event of trouble, you’re sleeping at night in your family home and you’re the dad, mom, whatever. And you hear glass break downstairs, who grabs a baseball bat and gets between the kids’ door and whoever broke in, and who reaches for the phone to call 911?”