Conservative Spotlight: Center for Military Readiness


Elaine Donnelly has a vision. She wants the U.S. military to pursue policies designed to promote maximum military readiness and effectiveness, not fashionable social causes. Most recently, she revitalized the cause against the current U.S. policy of allowing women to serve near the front lines, arguing that this harms effectiveness-and violates the long-standing moral imperative that men must protect women from physical harm.

“Equal opportunity is an important consideration in the making of personnel policies, but if there is a conflict between career considerations and military necessity, the needs of the military-and the nation-must come first,” says Donnelly’s Center for Military Readiness (CMR). “The armed forces should not be used for political purposes or social experiments that needlessly elevate risks, detract from readiness, or degrade American cultural values. Sound personnel policies are as crucial as advanced weapons systems in preserving readiness and a strong national defense.”

“There is no demographic or military reason for putting women close to the front lines,” said Donnelly in a recent interview. The Clinton Administration abolished the “risk rule” that kept military women on the ground out of harm’s way as much as reasonably possible. Now, they cannot be assigned to actual combat units but to almost anything else, and two servicewomen became POWs in Iraq. Another was killed. Military women-as opposed to feminist interests-are not clamoring for equality. “A 1998 General Accounting Office report, quoting a Rand study, found that only 10% of female privates and corporals agreed that ‘Women should be treated exactly like men and serve in the combat arms just like men,’” says CMR.

Political correctness also caused the gender integration of Army basic training (the Marines still segregate by gender) during the Clinton years, producing widespread reports of decline in the standards and discipline faced by male recruits, whose drill sergeants must now accommodate the females next to them. Donnelly thinks that the Bush Administration may reverse that decision. “The Army has already admitted that co-ed training is inefficient,” she said. “The experts have spoken on this issue.”

Donnelly said that the proportion of women in the military, now at 15%, keeps rising due to artificial efforts that don’t make sense. Recruiters make special efforts to get women, she said. “We know that it’s more expensive to recruit women,” she said. “They leave [the military] at a rate twice that of men. . . . We have to stop subsidizing single parenthood.” Single mothers in the military get various benefits, she said. “The military is the largest child care provider in the world,” said Donnelly.

She feared that the Air Force Academy scandal in which senior officials are accused-though little evidence of this has yet come to public light-of systematically ignoring charges of sexual assault would become another Tailhook. At that debauched party, women were supposedly assaulted by drunk Navy aviators, and feminists launched a crusade that led to the promotion of unqualified female pilots and the driving out of large numbers of innocent, experienced male pilots. “I think that the secretary of the Air Force, Jim Roche, is trying to do the right thing,” Donnelly said. CMR’s reporting on what they considered unqualified female aviators led to a lawsuit against the Center for Military Readiness and Elaine Donnelly in 1996 that is still going on. U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth dismissed the case in August, but the plaintiffs in Lohrenz v. Donnelly & CMR have appealed. Said Donnelly, “The cost so far is $550,000. That’s the way the courts are, it’s a form of political destruction being wreaked on me.” Former Navy aviator Carey Dunai Lohrenz claims that CMR’s critical reporting on her record as a pilot ruined her career.

CMR also supports the restoration of the pre-Clinton policy on homosexuals, who are currently not allowed to serve openly in the military but who are no longer screened out at application time under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. This has led to an increase in the number of discharges due to homosexual behavior. “They could restore the screening question by executive order or regulations from the Defense secretary,” said Donnelly.

She hopes that President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will have the wisdom to restore sensible if politically incorrect personnel policies. The question of women near the front lines, especially, goes to the heart of America’s cultural values, which say that “violence against women is not to be accepted as the norm,” said Donnelly. (See May 19 HUMAN EVENTS cover story.)

CMR may be reached at P.O. Box 51600, Livonia, Mich. 48151 (202-347-5333; e-mail:; website: