The Marine Corps will face pressure to lower standards, now that women will soon be integrated into all combat roles, Marine Gen. John Kelly said Friday.
Although the Marine Corps lost the fight to receive an exemption keeping some combat roles male-only, its leadership still appears dissatisfied and pessimistic about the future as pushed by Defense Secretary Ash Carter, The Hill reports.
Kelly delivered the candid remarks at his last Pentagon briefing. He’s set to retire later in January.
“My greatest fear — and we see this happen a lot over the 45 years I’ve been in the Armed Forces is, right now they’re saying we are not going to change any standards,” Kelly said.
For Kelly, that stance is fleeting and will soon give way to “agenda-driven” officials who want to lower standards, so as to include more women.
“There will be great pressure, whether it’s 12 months from now, four years from now, because the question will be asked whether we’ve let women into these other roles; why aren’t they staying in those other roles; why aren’t they advancing as infantry people?” Kelly noted.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sowed the seeds for changing standards back in early 2013. At a Pentagon news conference, Dempsey responded to a question about integrating women and said, “Importantly, though, if we do decide that a particular standard is so high that a woman couldn’t make it, the burden is now on the service to come back and explain to the secretary, why is it that high? Does it really have to be that high?”
If standards don’t end up changing, Kelly added, incredibly few women will advance into Navy SEALs or Rangers. But even those women who manage to pass initial screening still face hard physiological limits.
“There’s a higher percentage of young women in the scientific study that get hurt, and some of them get hurt forever,” Kelly said, referring to the Marine Corps gender integration experiment in 2015.
The justification Carter provided for denying the exemption request is that he wants to keep standards consistent across all military services. That is, if one service opens all roles to women, other services must follow. This argument has not been well received by Marine Corps leadership.
Other military officials have followed suit in warning about the inevitable downward pressure on standards that will follow from allowing women into combat roles.
Rear Adm. Brian Losey, who serves as the Navy special warfare unit commander, said in a five-page memo to U.S. Special Operations Command in September that he expects there will strong pressure to downgrade Navy SEAL standards to integrate women. Losey, however, believes that the SEALs will manage to resist the pressure, and as a result, recommended that the SEALs open up to women, despite the fact that inclusion will not increase combat effectiveness. He also argued that spending too much time on gender equality “will channel focus and energy away from core combat readiness and effectiveness efforts.”
Special operators are none too pleased about the decision. A survey from the RAND Corporation found that 71 percent oppose adding women to their units, and 85 percent of respondents said women should not be allowed in their specialties.
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