Defense & National Security

U.S. Army Continues to Defy Bush

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker, speaking at the American Enterprise Institute on April 11, raised eyebrows when, responding to a respectful question from retired Navy Capt. Robert Miller, he dismissed the women-in-combat controversy as not a “gender issue” and confirmed a supposedly “unofficial” plan for women in combat, which was previously described here at HUMAN EVENTS.

In his question, Miller had rightly praised the courage of female soldiers, but expressed concern about the unprecedented number of women being maimed or killed in Iraq (32 to date) and Afghanistan (5).

Schoomaker’s remarks confirmed the substance of a four-page “Women in the Army Point Paper,” prepared by the office of Army Secretary Francis Harvey on January 24, that includes a subtle but significant change in the wording of Defense Department regulations.

Current regulations exempt female soldiers from land combat units “assigned a direct ground combat mission” [emphasis added], such as the infantry, and from smaller support companies that “collocate” (stay 100% of the time) with land combat troops. The new, unauthorized wording narrows the “collocation rule” so that it applies only when a combat unit is actually “conducting an assigned direct ground combat mission.” [Emphasis added.]

Schoomaker recited Defense regulations, but claimed (without justification) that the Army has separate rules that exempt female soldiers from collocation with land combat battalions “at the time that those units are undergoing those operations.” [Emphasis added.]

By adding the words “conducting” or “undergoing” (a direct ground combat mission) to the DOD collocation rule, the Army has created a new regulation that has not been authorized by the secretary of Defense or formally reported to Congress in advance, as required by law. The new Harvey/Schoomaker language means that when infantry battalions begin “conducting” or “undergoing” land combat, female soldiers assigned to forward support companies embedded with them will have to be evacuated and taken elsewhere.

Execution of such a plan would disrupt combat missions and demoralize the troops, but the general seemed unconcerned. Instead, he rambled on with words straight from the feminist lexicon:

“[T]his is not an issue of whether or not women will become injured and maimed any more than anybody else will, any more than children will or elderly or males. The fact is that I think we have a moral responsibility to prepare those women that are serving in our armed forces to †¦ have the very best chance of surviving by providing them with the warrior skills and tasks that are required. . . .”

So, the assumption is, after a few weeks of “warrior ethos” training, black-bereted male and female soldiers will be essentially identical and interchangeable on the battlefield. To the contrary, several tests have revealed gender-normed “warrior ethos” training to be an oxymoronic concept. Starting in 1998, the British armed forces changed “gender fair” (or gender-normed) training standards “appropriate to women’s physique” to a “gender-free” system consistent with expectations of “equal opportunity” with men. According to the London Times, treating everyone the same caused female injuries to more than double, from 467 to 1,113 per 10,000 trainees.

Noting that many parents teach their sons to be protectors of women, Miller respectfully asked Schoomaker in a follow-up question whether it is possible to reconcile that moral upbringing with the Army’s current policy of sending women into hostile circumstances to kill or be killed.

Admitting that he hadn’t thought about that question, Schoomaker seemed to equate Miller’s moral reservations with the attitudes of conscientious objectors or with people who would say that “men and women can’t even share the same tornado shelter in Oklahoma”–whatever that means. Then the general suggested that he would not be fully candid about his real opinions until he leaves office. What sort of leadership is that? (Transcript available here.)

The law requires advance notice to Congress of policy changes regarding women, accompanied by an analysis of proposed revisions on women’s exemption from Selective Service obligations. Notice has not been given. Members of Congress, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and President Bush should intervene to enforce the law.


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