The Disaster of 'Gender Norming' Ground Combat

The Obama administration's plan for a new military quota system and lowering standards.

AFP 511470058 I ACF AFG HEThe Center for Military Readiness (CMR) has released a 64-page report analyzing ongoing research by the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) about the effectiveness of integrating women into direct ground combat (DGC) units. The Interim CMR Special Report pokes a giant hole in the Obama administration’s assertions that standards of effectiveness can be maintained irrespective of the biological differences between men and women.

In January 2013, with all the attendant fanfare, Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta lifted a 1994 ban on women serving in smaller DGCs, insisting that "women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military's mission of defending the nation.” The move was recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and each branch of service has until January 2016 to seek special exemptions to the change. Panetta argued that women already make up 15 percent of the military and have already faced “the reality of combat.” He further insisted everyone is entitled to see if they can meet the qualifications for being in a DGC.

As it is with so many leftist agendas, the meaning of words can be manipulated to meet them. As the CMR explains, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey "has suggested that standards too high for women should be questioned” and has called for a “critical mass” of women in DGC units, a percentage that apparently ranges from 10-15 percent. To achieve this critical mass, the Obama administration has embraced “gender diversity metrics” that could lead to higher-preforming personnel being replaced by those meeting minimum standards characterized as “lower but equal.”

All of this is code-speak for quotas.

In 2012, Gen. James Amos initiated USMC research aimed at finding a way to integrate women into combat units. While physical strength was not the only issue of concern, it is the one where the disparities between men and women could not be obscured. Data collected in 2013 from 409 male and 379 female volunteers by the USMC Training and Education Command (TECOM) revealed several inconvenient truths during the five “proxy” tests designed to simulate ground combat element (GCE) tasks. In conjunction with data from Physical and Combat Fitness Tests (PFT and CFT), the greatest disparity between men and women was demonstrated in tests that measured upper body strength, which is considered essential for both survival and the success of missions involving direct ground combat.

The numbers are stark. In pull-up tests, men averaged 15.69 pull-ups, compared to a 3.59 pull-up average for women. Clean and press tests that involved lifting progressively heavier weights ranging from 70-115 pounds produced a passing rate of 80 percent among men at the 115 pound level, compared to only 8.7 percent of women. In a 120 mm Tank Loading Simulation drill, less than 1 percent of the men failed, compared to 18.68 percent of women. Less than 1 percent of men failed the 155 mm Artillery Lift and Carry, compared to 28.2 percent of women. And in the Obstacle Wall With Assist Box test that used a 20 inch box to simulate a “helping hand,” less than 1.2 percent of men could not get over the obstacle course, compared with 21.32 percent of women.

Enter “gender norming.” Gender norming is the idea that the military should have different (read: lower) standards for women than men. In practice, this has been going on for a long time. As a 1995 article written by Walter Williams reveals, “Army fitness standards call for 80 push-ups for men and 56 for women. Male soldiers ages 17 to 25 must run two miles in 17 minutes and 55 seconds. Females are given 22 minutes and 14 seconds. Male Marine trainees must climb 20 feet of rope in 30 seconds; women are given 50 seconds.” Nonetheless, proponents of gender norming say any concern that it will lead to lowered overall standards is unwarranted—because female soldiers will have to meet stringent guidelines before they are deployed in DGCs.

Not quite. "If we do decide that a particular standard is so high that a woman couldn’t make it, the burden is then on the service to come and explain to the secretary, ‘Why is it that high?  Does it really have to be that high?’” Gen. Dempsey contends.

The CMR further illuminates the machinations taking place, citing a June 2013 report to Congress by the Marines, noting that “gender-neutral” events in the PFT, CFT and obstacle courses “would be gender-normed for score…to account for physiological differences.” The CMR further reveals that researchers see the USMC project as a way to question whether tests such as the PFT and CFT serve as “valid predictors” of success in “combat-related tasks.” All of this is designed to downplay the conclusions reached by the CMR’s evaluation of the study: that "gender norming" is a contradiction of "gender neutral," and despite the Pentagon’s insistence that those eligible for DGCs will have to meet gender-neutral standards, “data compiled so far indicates that this expectation cannot be met.”

How does the military plan to sidestep the issue? The CMR reveals the insidious concepts being employed in that regard. “Gender Diversity Dividends” could allow women to use “gender scoring tables” to accumulate points or dividends leading to 3rd, 2nd or 1st class status, that may even include extra points for women only. "Lower But Equal Standards" is the idea that the “worst performing decile” (one-tenth) of soldier performance should be used to calculate minimum passing test scores. “Training to Task” is the idea that women could improve their performance in pre-screening and other upper-body strength tests.

As the CMR notes, there is no specific study to support that assertion. A 1997 effort conducted by the Army revealed that specialized training could strengthen women on a temporary basis—but strengthen men even more, while retired expert in military medicine Rear Admiral Hugh Scott explained that androgenic hormones “that are not going to change” account for the differences in muscle mass and endurance training between men and women.

Military women have noticed. A recent survey conducted by the Army revealed that only 7.5 percent of the 30,000 who responded said they would want one of the combat jobs that would be made available. Even more telling, when the Army polled men and women about the physical standards, both groups said they should remain the same. "The men don't want to lower the standards because they see that as a perceived risk to their team," David Brinkley, deputy chief of staff for operations at the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, told the AP. "The women don't want to lower the standards because they want the men to know they're just as able as they are to do the same task.” Regardless, the article further noted that "Brinkley's office at Fort Eustis is filled with charts, graphs and data the Army is using to methodically bring women into jobs that have been previously open only to men.”

The CMR notes the effort is being aided by organizations such as the RAND Corporation, who have produced studies that are “not independent or objective, or likely to challenge the administration’s group-think on military-social issues.” It is group think that is seemingly determined to advance the agenda that methodology can eliminate biological differences between the overwhelming majority of men and women.

However, the military remains determined to try. The CMR notes the Marines will stand up “Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Forces” (GCEITF) that include a 25 percent rate of participation by women and will engage in simulated combat experiences. The CMR warns that the exercise might include “task-shifting” that could conceal deficiencies that would be unworkable in smaller DGC units.

They further warn that Congress needs to get heavily involved in reviewing the research, to consider the many “unresolved controversies that are barely mentioned in the current research.” They include disparities in injuries sustained by women, unit cohesion, the potential for sexual misconduct, readiness, recruiting, retention and reassignment costs, cultural ambivalence with regard to violence against women, and eligibility for Selective Service obligations tied to DGC units.

In conclusion, the CMR’s bottom line is clear: “None of the USMC research results produced so far support the activists’ theories that women can be physical equals and interchangeable with men in the combat arms.”

Unfortunately one suspects such reality is irrelevant. Speaking with Front Page, CMR President Elaine Donnelly noted that gender integration is driven by the idea of “how to make it happen, instead of whether to make it happen.” “The military should not be forced to achieve an agenda the president’s base demands,” she explained. “If you’re going to have a critical mass of women in direct ground combat units, standards have to be lowered. That’s the only was you can achieve that.” Donnelly also explained how such agendas are sustained. “Nobody holds the policy-makers accountable,” she said. For the sake of current and future soldiers who go into harm's way to protect the nation, Americans must do exactly that -- and demand an end to this dangerous, ideology-driven military policy.

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