Senators expressed deep skepticism Tuesday at assertions from top generals and civilian leadership that the military bureaucracy will not lower standards to accommodate more women now that ground combat roles have opened to both genders.
Trust seems to be lacking between members of the Senate Committee on Armed Services and the military bureaucracy. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Army Under Secretary [crscore]Patrick Murphy[/crscore] repeatedly insisted high individual standards will be maintained based solely on the “requirements of the position and nothing else,” but those reassurances were not immediately well-received.
That standards are maintained carries great importance among members of Congress.
According to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, the integration of women will either maintain or enhance readiness “if and only if we maintain and enforce rigorous combat standards and we apply no quotas and no pressure.” That does not mean integration is an easy task. Milley estimated that effective integration will require up to three years of major effort.
But what happens when women, owing to brute physical realities, don’t pass standards at nearly the same rate as men? Won’t there be pressure to lower standards? That’s exactly what Sen. [crscore]Roger Wicker[/crscore] asked.
Wicker stated that although he is well aware that neither the committee nor military leadership present at the hearing intend to let standards drop, “it’s hard to imagine down the road, five years down the road, ten years down the road, that if we don’t have successful graduations from this program that this conversation won’t take a different tone.”
“I don’t see how we can guarantee that in the future these standards will not be diminished,” Wicker said.
Sen. [crscore]Joni Ernst[/crscore] also brought to the forefront stringent opposition from female Marines, who definitely do not want standards to be lowered since it reflects poorly on them, as well.
“As you know, some of our female marines have voiced concerns that they anticipate there will be pressure to lower standards if not enough of them are able qualify to serve in combat positions,” Ernst began. “While I’m glad that lowering the standards for greater female participation is against your best military advice, I agree with these women that pressure may come, likely from civilian leadership who may have motives other than supporting gender integration to enhance our nation’s ability to destroy our enemies on the battlefield.”
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller emphasized that not only should standards not be lowered, but they should likely also be boosted.
“As the committee members in unanimity have talked about today, we have to do everything possible to not lower standards,” Neller responded. “In fact, we should be looking at how we can raise the standards to improve our capability.”
Civilian leadership seemed to be the committee’s greatest concern, which is rooted not only in Mabus’ savaging of Marine Corps leadership for pushing back against integrating all females into combat roles, but also in what has become known as the Dempsey Rule. In 2013, then-Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said that if women cannot meet the standards imposed, then it likely may be time to have a conversation about why those standards are excluding such a large percentage of the population.
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