by John M. Brower || Author's Links
J. Michael Brower is a 15-year civil servant, an Air Guard officer and a Vermont writer. He worked in the Pentagon from 1985-1987 for the Army Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence and again from 1991-1997 for the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army and the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Financial Management and Comptroller). He worked on the staff of several of the Army civilians slain and injured in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack,"and salutes them all. His views are his own.
Operational Necessity and Technology
Transition Servicewomen into Warfighters
"I have absolutely no problem with women in combat units...the idea that women can't make good soldiers is a mindset, not an incontrovertible fact."
-Sergeant Major of the Army William G. Bainbridge (Ret.).
Whatever conservatives planning for the last war may think, women have become indispensable to the victorious militaries of the future. Uninclinded and inadequately equipped to formulate a proper appreciation of the female's historical role in armed conflict, well-funded and well-heeled representatives of U.S. national defense establishment risk failure on future battlefields by continuing the irrational restraint of servicewomen. Advancing societies endorse harnessing the talents of 50% of their brainpower socially, politically and when practicing the art of war. Societies in decline are those which restrict, manical, and shunt talent when the criteria is gender-based.
The progressively evolving society when engaged in armed struggle emerges victorious when its operational decisions are unfettered by political agendas-and in modern warfare, when women are relied upon along with males. Today in the Italian military, for instance, recuiting shortages and recognition that the practice of warfare has changed has encouraged the entreance of women into the armed forces. In 2000, over 150 females became military academy cadets or directly appointed officers-and 288 "were recuited as short-service volunteers," according to Jane's Defense Weekly. One may look to any country and see that in every respected, forbidable and lethal military, women are becoming greater operational factors. On the technology-rich battlefield of tomorrow, the female is the equal or better of any male-this paradigm has matured since the equalizing effects of gunpowder, steadily eclipsing brawn with brainpower on an increasingly complex, if timelessly cruel, battlefield. Today, the art of warfare, particularly in digitized battle space on land, sea or in air and space can no longer be successfully practiced without the meaningful integration of the female warrior.
Restrictions on Servicewomen in the 21st Century
Even as the Information Revolution grows long in the tooth and the threat of weapons of mass destruction obviate many of the old precepts of conventional war, morale and meaningful military justice continue to be fundamental to sound military strategy. The equitable administration of military justice, the impartiality of a merit-based promotion system, and the compassion shown its membership, are among the mile markers of efficiency and effectivness in the armed forces. When leaders decide to initiate armed hostilities, troop morale becomes the most important operational factor, and that morale is based, in the final analysis, on the evenhandedness and equity of military institutions. That evenhandedness is undermined by the artificial exclusion of women from jobs that they are capable of performing. The degrading and, today, operationally detrimental policy of excluding servicewomen from combat and related roles in the U.S. "does not provide complete protection from death or capture: thirteen American women were among the 375 U.S. service members who died, and two women were prisoners of war" remind Ruth H. Howes and Michael R. Stevenson in their fine work, Women and the Use of Military Force. Of course, only a fool desires combat and advocates it for the opportunity to advance a career. No one who understands war wants it. But to have been in a position to have risked it is a prerequisite to command the most meaningful operational elements and that is consciously denied the female in the U.S. armed forces.
Since combat finds women in today's front line-less combat environment, the only useful purpose such restrictions serve is to deprive the female of the opportunity to rise in the ranks to the most operationally meaningful positions. As one of America's greatest, but least known, military talents put it in 1912, "The duration of national existence depends upon a nation's physical power to remain or become supreme over other political entities whose interests are convergent." No longer is it possible for the U.S. to remain such a formidable national power, particularly in the days of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, accessible to a growing proportion of the world's have-nots and sanity-nots, without closer integration of women into foremost military roles.
Women are not excluded from the most important operational roles by accident, but rather by purposeful design of a male-centric mindset that is busily, as mentioned above, preparing to fight yesterday's wars. The public mind, ignorant of the historical and contemporary highlights of female service to their nation, is unconvinced that women should play vital, combat-related roles in the U.S. armed forces. Among that public are women--just like the women's groups that opposed extending the franchise to females in the early 1900s--who are first to argue for their own limitations. But combat restrictions on US servicewomen--a condition not shared by many other militaries around the globe--are eroding internal confidence and the operational edge necessary to prevail against a worthy opponent. In the case of aviation, for instance, which is for practical purposes part of the combat arms, restrictions on roles for women that exist today are the scratch that will later turn to gangrene should conservatives get their wish of wholesale exclusion of servicewomen from combat roles. They stupidly play into the hands of America's enemies with every diversion of women into non-operational positions. At all events, in the practical military world today, women are everywhere performing in combat environments and frequently take part in combat operations, as they always have, to great effect. They continue to perform combat operations in law enforcement, kill and are killed shoulder-to-shoulder with males in revolutionary movements world-wide, and fight as combat pilots and during peacekeeping/nation building operations. The notion that women are somehow inferior fighters has been overthrown in more studies and more historically documented incidents than can possibly be enumerated here.
IT Changes Everything
Just as the nature of warfare and the warfighter have evolved through advances in technique, so women have found new avenues toward leadership in today's military through technology in general and through information technology (IT) in particular. The "digital gender gap" is always closing, particularly in the US where the market research firm Angus Reid Group estimates that over half of Net surfers are female. The global but American-led IT "paradigm shift" has underwritten the so-called revolution in military and business affairs and invests heavily in the unfettered contributions of women. Their support (particularly in the IT milieu), is vital not to fulfill the agenda of liberal politicians, but to secure victory in future armed struggles. For warfighters, this is the acid test--can females make real contributions in future battles-battles that necessarily leverage advanced technology over traditional" forms of combat? The answer uniequivocally is yes, as IT is integrated thoroughly into every military system and every tactical and strategic plan.
The reason for increasing our reliance on women is simple: The best ideas and the best warriors are necessary to win future, generally technology-based battles. The need is operational; nothing more, nothing less; it is certainly not an exercise in social engineering or political correctness. The talent pool that females enrich must be tapped to marshal victory on the technology-dependent battlefields of the nacent century.
Rehearsal For The Private Sector
The military can help the nation recruit its most important IT labor pool, our females and our youth, by doing its share to stress the following:
· Technical training for women (particularly math- and science-oriented tech training) and avoiding the need to contract out for complex skills;
· Take a cue from the private sector by realigning work schedules to be more compatible with family needs (recalling the origin of all future recruits);
· Adopt a continuous retraining regime as military needs change in the direction of battlefield digitization and IT generally;
· Maintain and expand the policy of sex-integrated training which, when properly monitored and implemented, improves unit cohesion and teaches that genderless combat readiness is a first priority;
· Provide military programs to attract women into hard-to-fill IT and technical positions; and
· Continue to make college-level studies (i.e., the G.I. Bill) a priority both while serving and after departing the military.
· End arbitrary restrictions on women by, like the Israeli military, opening all positions to women, based on their individual willingness and ability to perform.
How can women be attracted toward IT jobs in the military, the doorway to operational roles in the new, technology-centric military milieu? While not the most important attraction, compensation (including health and retirement benefits) can be in the military's favor. First, the military offers gender equity in pay that is not the rule today in the private sector. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, female programmers earned 81 cents for every dollar male programmers brought home in 1998, and female operations systems analysts made about 80 cents for every dollar their male counterparts made. According to the annual salary survey conducted by the SANS Institute of Colorado Springs, female IT workers received smaller raises than their male counterparts last year-10.2 percent vice 12.1 percent for males. According to the 1999 Network World Salary Survey published in July 1999 (http://www.nwfusion.com/you), women are victims of an opportunist noblesse oblige, the same-salary gender gap that is the rule in almost all occupational groups. Women earned an average of 72 cents for every dollar a male made in the categories of senior network executive, local and wide area network management, and in other network management and network staff positions. According to the Office of Personnel Management, women in IT positions nationwide are still making around $5,000 a year less than their male counterparts. The private sector will eventually overcome these pay differences, but the armed forces can take advantage of the disparity to attract military and civil service females and to an extent reduce its servile dependence on contractors.
Other steps to attract females to IT positions in the military and supporting civil service jobs include recommending the end of legalized restrictions on females for jobs they can perform. Offering special signing bonuses and creating entrepreneurial pay differentials for IT specialties will also help to retain needed female talent. Finally, an all-out assault on sexual harassment in all its genres must be launched, as the best recruitable female IT candidates have been infected by negative press on this issue and are correspondingly leery of military service. Researchers from Kent State University estimated that the Army, for example, loses $250 million a year as a result of harassment cases. The resultant perceptions can only be cleansed when top leadership endorses the concept that the only limits on service members should be their ability to handle a given task, regardless of their gender.
E Pluribus E-Unum
No one in today's military leadership should retain the impression that women are somehow estranged from computers and the associated technologies. Nothing of the kind! Females have made important historical strides in computer development. For example, a woman wrote the first computer program (Ada Lovelace, writing about Charles Babbage's analytical engine in 1843). In her honor, DOD named its software programming language Ada, and that language remains a giant in the Defense industry's automated information system community, the second most commonly used language after Cobol. During World War II, the code-breaking Enigma machine, used to crack the German's encoded messages to sea commanders intercepting cargo bound for besieged Britain, was often operated by women. Also during the war, though males get most of the credit (the writers of "his-story" defeating history), ENIAC (Electrical Numerical Integrator and Computer), the world's first "computer" built in 1945, was programmed by six women. (Find out more about them at the Women in Technology International (WITI) Foundation Web site at www.witi.org.)
Today, women like the Air Force's highest ranking female LTG Leslie F. Kenne, commanding the Air Force Materiel Command's Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, MA, promote both the integration of females into the military and into IT jobs as keys to winning wars. In the case of Navy Captain Margaret Klee in her role as CIO of the Los Angeles Unified School District, servicewomen in IT can give back to their communities with their military-supplied skills. And in Vermont, IT training for the military has taken a front seat under Major General Martha T. Rainville, the Adjutant General overseeing Air and Army National Guard units there. General Rainville is a 22-year veteran and the first female in the 363 year history of the Guard. Under her leadership, the Information Operations Training and Development Center at Norwich University teaches students to guard networks from increasingly sophisticated hackers, trains computer emergency response teams and offers a tactical course which synthesizes and synchronizes data operations to underwrite digitized battlefield operations. Leveraging IT talent across all Services is the key to military success in future conflicts. The Vermont Guard's emphasis on this area prepositions the citizen soldier to actively contribute to that success.
Just as society is reflected in its armed forces, women entrants into the IT workforce is paralleled by their inroads into technology-harnessing areas of the military. As DoD is reformed to look and function more like the private sector, the trend will be accentuated. Early in 1999, the U.S. Census Bureau indicated in its Statistical Abstract of the United States that IT is the work sector in which women are building their future. There are already 5.6 million more women in IT-related occupations than men, more of them on the upper end of the pay scale than the lower. With the IT and information-related job sectors now making up 55 percent of the U.S. employment picture and information "manipulators" bringing home 64 percent of the available "bacon," women are uniquely pre-positioned to make remarkable social as well as economic advancements. In addition, according to the Census Bureau, more women are attending college than men (70 percent of women, 64 percent of male 1997 high school graduates). Also, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau, almost half of the online population will be female in 2000. The U.S. military ignores these trends to its detriment. The paradigm that features women in a central role in IT gives them a closer position to center stage in a military that must master IT to be fully effective.
Servicewomen as a Bulwark to the Revolution in Techno-Military Affairs
IT offers women their latest, best hope to finish off sexism in the workplace. That sexism is rooted in underpayment of females for their "gender crime." They pay out their sentences daily but not always paid their worth. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, female programmers earned $.81 for every dollar male programmers brought home in 1998, and female operations systems analysts made about the same ($.80). According to the Office of Personnel Management, women in IT nation-wide are still making around $5,000 a year less in IT than male counterparts. This is at the very time when giant IT industries ruthlessly petition Congress to raise the quota on foreign technical workers permitted to work in the United States. But the tight labor gap could be filled, and filled today, with lightening clicks krieg of American women. Fair pay and training for women would obviate most of that artificial need to import computer labor.
The social position of the woman is the benchmark of a society's economic progress. Whatever we may think of it ourselves, the U.S. armed forces is inexorably bound-up with the technical development of its female component. IT is less tradition-shackled and more results-oriented-fertile fields for women developing technical talent. No, IT is not terra incognita for servicewomen. New female recruits to the military have the panache to perceive a passage through what remains of the cracked and gapping glass ceiling-the path is through IT. Females are engaging in the IT clickskrieg with all keyboards blazing-and the automation of battle space signals a mass leveling of the playing field. Given a fair chance (the promise of IT), women have a historically unparalleled chance for permanent gains when so many times they have been legislated in peacetime out of the advances they earned when desperately turned to in wartime to make the decisive difference.
To many traditionalist warfighters, the most unpalatable and operationally risky changes concern the female-at-arms. They deny or are blind to the fact that technology is advancing and has redefined the rules of digital battle space and paves the way for women to assume leading roles, as we have seen above. The fact remains that tomorrow's victories in technology-dominated conflicts will be won with women in the vanguard, or they may not be won at all.
The Final (Underwater) Frontier
Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen, France, May 1431, under the general sobriquet of witchcraft. What can the distant mirror of that 19-year-old's execution reveal to us about the Inquisitionesque opposition of American admirals to female submariners? Recall the fatal charge condemning Joan to the fire. Having pledged under duress to take the "dress of a woman," she was "found" during her captivity to have blasphemously resumed the dress of a male as she had during her brief but glorious generalship and while on trial. For that, she was condemned a relapsed heretic. And for the opponents of women-at-arms and females on submarines, the sight of a woman in the garb of a "silent servant" is an impiety, a profane caricature which augers the brave new world of military feminization, reduced morale and declining battle-readiness along the final, submerged frontier.
While so much has happened in the years since Joan's execution to recognize the military contributions of women, in many ways nothing has changed during those 570 years to influence succession of closed military minds, mired in past misperceptions, anecdotes and myth concerning women in the military. It is a mindset defeated by facts in mountains of books, articles, and daily experiences in the field--but preserved by men and women alike, in and out of the armed forces. Today's servicewomen who are qualified and willing to be submariners are condemned as Joan was, for they would dare assume the dress--really, the place and the station--of men.
The Rough Seas of Civil-Military Conflict
The staid Navy leadership that is now passing from the scene, personified by Adm. Jay Johnson and his misogynist opposition to the female submariner, has endeavored to restrain the hands of the clock and help set the stage for the decline of military readiness in the techno-wars of tomorrow. In a September 3, 1999 interview with Dale Eisman of the Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), Adm. Jay Johnson stated "that for me as chief of naval operations, I do not intend to change" regarding his opposition to servicewomen aboard submarines, stating that an all-male force is "the right thing for us." This was followed by Navy Secretary Richard Danzig's October 1999 rebuke of the "white male preserve" that bans females from submarines. Adm. Johnson, has also set the stage for rapprochement with the maligned Tailhook Association whose 1991 convention degraded women, while simultaneously expressing his opposition to women on submarines under any conditions. This both restrains servicewomen from the requisite experience needed for the eventuality of all-female crews and the most consequential Navy leadership positions.
A look below the surface of the issue reveals that prejudice-at-sea is being capsized not by sentiments of affirmative action or the effete whims of political correctness. Rather, restrictions of all genres on servicewomen in the military are being torpedoed by women's heightened economic status and raw abilities since they captured the franchise and direct political power in 1920. Navy Secretary Danzig demonstrated that he understood this when told the Naval Submarine League Symposium on June 3, 1999 that "Congress and political power are changing. More and more, we see the role of women increasingly in that regard. If the submarine force remains a white male bastion, it will wind up getting less and less support when it requires resources, when it has troubles." Danzig poignantly revealed that the female must be permitted to "assume the dress of a man," insofar as her burgeoning political power permits. Clearly, the managerial approach of giving short shrift to females in the armed forces is bankrupt and as flat as decanted champagne today.
Notice something else in Adm. Johnson's refusal to give the idea of females aboard submarines a chance as encouraged by Secretary Danzig-the weakness of the service secretary position, Johnson's nominal boss. Since the days of Secretary of the Air Force Stuart Symington and Secretary of the Navy (and later the first and profoundly unempowered secretary of defense) James Forrestal, the secretariats have slowed degenerated toward anachronism. No less a light than John Kenneth Galbraith in his 1992 work The Culture of Contentment reflected that the service secretariats, reduced to a largely ceremonial and bureaucratic rubber stamp, cannot be bulwarks from which progressive change and bold initiative can be launched. Such is the case today as the chief of naval operations forces his civilian commander to salute smartly and wait on the sidelines for Johnson's retirement.
An informative and insightful front-page story in the New York Times (Nov. 15, 1999) highlighted the opposition to allowing women to serve on US nuclear submarines, and the CNO's seizure of the commanding heights above his civilian superior. Worrisome but revealing in the Times article is this pithy paragraph: " 'If they want to make it happen, it can happen,' one senior Navy official said. Another noted that Admiral Johnson's tenure as chief of naval operations would end in June, and the Navy's civilian leaders could raise the issue again under a new chief." The civilian leader must wait until the "subordinate" admiral has departed even to raise the issue anew, much less resolve it in servicewomen's favor, after publicly stating that women on submarines must be seriously considered, rather than rejected out of hand.
The commander-in-chief of the armed forces, not the service secretary, can make the decisive difference in this debate. Since William J. Clinton became commander-in-chief, tens of thousands of previously restricted jobs to servicewomen have been opened, his successor has the opportunity to seize the day and make a downpayment on future military victories by opening. His successor, George W. Bush, has the opportunity not only prove that the "W." stands for women, but to ensure America's success in future conflicts by permitting women to occupy any positions for which they can (fairly!) qualify. Women were allowed on support ships in 1978 and, thanks to pressure from the Clinton Administration, on combat ships in 1994. Also during this administration, the recognition of women as capable of piloting the technically advanced warships was made with the appointment of five women smaller surface warfare ships since June 1998. That element of the "Revolution in Military Affairs" in 1993-1994 that lifted the ban on women serving on combat ships during the tenures of Admiral Jeremy Boorda and Secretary of Defense Leslie Aspin has been confronted by a counterrevolution as personified by Adm. Johnson in 2000. Now on the edge of the new millennium, both Boorda and Aspin are dead, as is, it would seem, their comparatively progressive stance on this issue among the highest uniformed and civilian leaders at the Pentagon.
For a president looking to leave a progressive mark on the military, yet not damage his legacy and a continuation of his policies, it is advisable to consider a similarly-situated president in the not-too-distant past: President Harry S. Truman. On July 26, 1948, President Truman issued an executive order requiring "equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin." The result was neither military nor political catastrophe. Truman took down Jim Crow in an election year and made history. He even facilitated the passage of the Women's Armed Services Integration Act in June 1948, planting the seeds of fairness. But the harvest is nonetheless a bitter one females in the Navy with the aptitude and interest in under-seafaring in the US military. President Clinton could, like Truman, issue an executive order imbedded with the phrase "without regard to gender," and the barriers to the creation of the female submariners would wash away like cliffs of sand. As was the case in 1948, national security will in no wise be compromised when women are no longer arbitrarily discriminated against-rather, the Navy will adopt and improve. And as in 1948, shrewd politics will ultimately complement doing the right thing.
The Necessity of Female Submariners
Women won't and shouldn't be permitted aboard submarines by political edict alone--their principle candidature to the "silent service" will be posed and pressed from an operational perspective (that is, from the standpoint of quality of performance and military effectiveness in the primary warfighting mission). Consider that half of the top ten graduates of the Naval Academy in 1999 were female-with declining male eligible for submarines duty, can the females like these long be restrained from sub duty when so integral a component of national security is demanding under-sea-worthy personnel? Just as half a man cannot live, depriving the submarine forces of half the nation's brainpower on account of gender forfeits the high quality of the volunteer military, particularly during a tight labor market.
Technology has transmogrified battlespace and ushered in the conditions for leading contributions by servicewomen. The global but American-led Information Revolution has underwritten the so-called Revolution in Military Affairs and invests heavily in the unfettered contributions of women. Their support (particularly in the IT milieu), is vital not to fulfill the agenda of liberal politicians, but to secure victory in future armed struggles. For warfighters, this is the acid test--can females make real contributions in future battles--battles which necessarily leverage advanced technology over "traditional" forms of combat?
Recognition of the contributions of servicewomen encouraged the Pentagon's Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) to urge that females be allowed to serve on submarines in 1999. DACOWITS recommended "assignment of the most highly qualified personnel regardless of gender." (DACOWITS' boldness, despite it's 50 years of existence, endangers its continuation in the George W. Bush administration). Operationally it is important to include women in the pool of potential submariners in part because of the on-going difficulty of recruiting enough men. Not a question of social engineering or social justice, but operational necessity in a technological, digitized battle environment compels expanding the role of the servicewoman. As Adm. Jeremy Boorda remarked as far back as May 3, 1994 in a new conference, "We're recruiting against a much smaller market. We've got to do a better job. One way is to expand the market. Get more women." Critics decried the cost of modifications to submarines to accommodate females--purposefully blind to the fact that changes to Virginia-class attack subs, Los-Angeles-class and Trident ballistic missile submarines would cost $3 million to $5 million--mere fractions of the costs of the submarines themselves. Without doing any cost-benefit analysis, critics of servicewomen aboard subs ignored the fact that allied submarine fleets that do permit women to work alongside men have made minimum accommodations with no negative impact on operations. Their crews have simply adopted.
Women on subs do not constitute an operational threat-they are a threat to extant power relations. While some logistical challenges to women on US submarines exist until such time as all-female crews can be trained, let us not forget that many women are possessed of exactly those attributes actively sought in successful submariners. Submersible crews require sociability, high emotional development, lower aggression levels, compliant physical features (i.e., height, build, etc.), and acute common sense. Ablution, bunk and post assignment management as well as the risks of fraternization and harassment are no more unmanageable for the Navy leadership orders to be part of the solution rather than the cause of the problem. During a briefing on September 13th 1999, DACOWITS was told by Capt. Bob Holland that allowing women to serve in the "silent service" would expand the "talent pool of interested and eligible submarines," but indicated only that the political will behind that evolution was lacking.
Other navies have already proven the viability of female submariners in the face of hypersensitive masculinity. Indeed, the U.S. policy of Talibanization of women on submarines is not universally shared, nor is there an operational requirement that females be built like popular World Wrestling Federation star Chyna. The Australians and their Collins class submarines were altered but little to accommodate females, and then mostly in the ablution department. In 1998, ten women sailors and one officer commenced Collins class submarine training and qualified during the spring of 1999. Women submariners in Australia and other nations have already proved that "hot bunking," or rotating sleeping quarters, is not an impediment to female presence on submersibles. In Sweden, women have been serving on submarines for over ten years and have had no significant resultant problems. Privacy issues are managed by discipline rather than by reconstructing limited submarine space--women and men make due with the available room. And in the Royal Norwegian Navy, a woman has already commanded a submarine. In all cases, going co-ed has not reduced operational effectiveness--they proved that "hot bunking," or taking turns in beds, is not a show-stopper to female presence on submersibles.
Still, women are restricted from many technology-based positions by, for example, limits to the number of women in the Navy's nuclear training program because of the exclusion of women from service on submarines. Again, capable servicewomen are caught in a vicious circle of deliberate construction and self-fulfilling prophecies with no emergency exits. Their interest in a equalized playing field is labeled the "feminisation," of the U.S. military-the charge is a tattered paper tiger. Consider that many of the globe's militaries are moving toward a expanded use of women, toward degenderization. The Israelis, for instance, in early 2000, opened all positions in their military-combat and non-combat alike--to all genders, on the basis of ability alone. Operationally, the historical use of women have not degraded lethality--the reverse is the case. In Israel, females have been engaged in ground combat during the latest conflict with the Palestinians and they have throughout that country's history. It is clearly time to allow qualified women to serve in all capacities for which they have the merit, aptitude and the interest. Such a cultural paradigm shift would help eliminate the de facto separate and unequal approach toward servicewomen and reduce the incidence of sexual misconduct. By focusing on ability over gender, the specter of sexual harassment and misconduct will begin to wither away. For the sake of victory in future wars, we should make a renewed effort to welcome servicewomen aboard as equal partners in the preservation of peace through readiness, not just because it's the right thing to do, but because we need them.
Females Need Not Apply
When America read about one of her destroyers laid low in the Gulf of Aden, it also read about females killed and wounded along with their male comrades in the line of duty. This cowardly, terrorist act executed against the USS Cole on October 12, 2000 underscored what many defense analysts had been saying during most of the 1990s--that post-Cold War confrontations would increasingly feature the disappearance of conventional front lines. Dress rehearsal for that reality began for Western militaries during the brush wars in Asia after World War II. One of the consequences both of the Cole disaster and the sea change in warfare during the last fifty years is both the reliance on and the increased vulnerability of the female-at-arms. How ironic that with an unprecedented dependence on servicewomen by the US military (fully a quarter of the force), and a high level of sacrifice in their blood, the Army elects to announce right on the Office of Personnel Management's Website (www.usajobs.opm.gov) that many jobs are "Closed to Women." The nation that excludes half its potential human resources by fiat sows the seeds of it's own military disintegration as the art of war becomes a technological-rather than a bayonet--centric endeavor.
Necessity of Female Submariners
Of course, women shouldn't be permitted aboard submarines by political edict alone. Their principle candidature to the "silent service" is proposed by operational necessity (that is, from the standpoint of quality of performance and military effectiveness in the primary warfighting mission). Consider that half of the top ten graduates of the Naval Academy in 1999 were female. With declining numbers of males eligible for submarine duty, should females be restrained from sub duty merely on the basis of gender when national security demands the best available talent? Depriving the submarine forces of half the nation's brainpower forfeits the high quality of the volunteer military--and in today's tight labor market, this is particularly perilous policy. According to Lory Manning, Director of Women in the Military Project, Women's Research and Education Institute, there are approximately 195,000 women in the Armed Forces. The success of the all-volunteer force and indeed of meaningful U.S. national defense in the 21st Century demands many more female recruits and their complete integration into all areas of the military for which they can qualify-to include the submarine…
Recognition of the contributions of servicewomen encouraged the Pentagon's Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) to urge that females be allowed to serve on submarines in 1999. DACOWITS recommended "assignment of the most highly qualified personnel regardless of gender." Operationally it is important to include women in the pool of potential submariners in part because of the on-going difficulty of recruiting enough men. As Adm. Jeremy Boorda remarked as far back as May 3, 1994 in a news conference, "We're recruiting against a much smaller market. We've got to do a better job. One way is to expand the market. Get more women." Critics decried the cost of modifications to submarines to accommodate females-purposefully blind to the fact that changes to Virginia-class attack subs, Los-Angeles-class and Trident ballistic missile submarines would purportedly cost $3 million to $5 million-mere fractions of the costs of the submarines themselves. These adaptations to suit tomorrow's indispensable warfighters pale compared to the billions to be spend to convert two Trident -armed Ohio-class nuclear ballistic missile submarines which is to begin October 2003. The cost of conversions is a smoke screen-preventing the female from operational control over the most important parts of the military is the real agenda.
Allied navies have already proven the viability of female submariners. The Australians and their Collins class submarines were altered but little to accommodate females, and then mostly in the ablution department. Women submariners in Australia and other nations have already proved that "hot bunking," is not an impediment to female presence on submersibles. In Sweden, women have been serving on submarines for over ten years and have had no significant resultant problems. Privacy issues are managed by discipline rather than by reconstructing limited submarine space-women and men make due with the available room. And in the Royal Norwegian Navy, a woman has already commanded a submarine. In all cases, going co-ed has not reduced operational effectiveness-they proved that "hot bunking," or rotating bunks, is not a showstopper to female presence on submersibles.
In the case of integrating crews on submarines, the place to start would probably be ballistic missile submarines which are somewhat larger than attack subs and typically provide each sailor with, as it stands today, his own bunk. Gender integration could be accomplished either on a permanent basis as has been the case with other European navies, or temporarily with an eye toward training all-female crews. This latter solution would perhaps placate those that object to women serving on submarines with males during lengthy deployments and extended periods underwater. Such deployment regimes supposedly would severely test the discipline and operational effectiveness of male crewmembers. Trident ballistic missile subs have already had U.S. female officer candidates aboard (for "familiarization" purposes only), and many of the sets of nine-man enlisted bunks areas can be set aside for females. Ablution can be satisfied with the proverbial sign-on-the-door method. The cost is a territorial rather than an operational one.
On active duty, the Navy has almost 50,000 female service members who can serve in 96% of that service's occupations, according to the Women's Research & Education Institute (WREI) in Washington, D.C. But denying women service opportunities aboard submarines keeps them in subaltern positions throughout the Navy and cooperates hand-in-glove with the laws against women serving in combat positions. Consequently, women are barred from reaching the most important operational military posts.
The U.S. Navy's difficulties with including female compliments on submarines could possibly be solved with all-female crews, were it not for the Hellerish Catch-22 utilized by all branches of the armed forces, to wit: Without the experience, women can't earn the post, but females are barred from the post so they'll never have the experience. The result is no prospect for servicewomen commanding an Army combat division, captaining a submarine, becoming a commander in chief of a combatant command (CINC) or a service chief of staff or the Chair(person) of the Joint Chiefs. Males exclusively control those key outposts of policy and privilege and from that high ground navigate the advancement of horseholding, carbon copy subordinates.
In the case of integrating crews on submarines, the place to start would probably be ballistic missile submarines which are somewhat larger than attack subs and typically provide each sailor with, as it stands today, his own bunk. Gender integration could be accomplished either on a permanent basis as has been the case with other European navies, or temporarily with an eye toward training all-female crews. This latter solution would perhaps placate those that object to women serving on submarines with males during lengthy deployments and extended periods underwater. Such deployment regimes supposedly would severely test the discipline and operational effectiveness of male crew members. Trident ballistic missile subs have already had female officer candidates aboard (for "familiarization" purposes only), and any of the sets of nine-man enlisted bunks areas can be set aside for females. Ablution can be satisfied with the proverbial sign-on-the-door method. The cost is a territorial rather than an operational one.
With the end of "front lines," largely defeated by technology, sexism in all forms must be abandoned by militaries bent on achieving victories in the new millennium. And yet, instead of riding and harnessing the wave, many leaders in and around the military wish to oppose the irresistible alterations demanded by technology-driven changes. To many traditionalist warfighters, the most unpalatable and operationally risky changes concern the female-at-arms. They deny or are blind to the fact that technology is redesigning and has redefined the rules of battlespace and paves the way for women to assume leading roles. The fact remains that tomorrow's victories in technology-rich conflicts will be won with women in the vanguard, or they may not be won at all. At day's end, the restrictions imposed on females are not founded on legitimate operational issues-they are grounded in extant power relations.
Joan of Arc was the beginning of the end of the One Hundred Years War. The core of her crime was that she resumed the military dress of a man. But she was vindicated in her mother's time, her trail verdict set aside, and her memory ultimately achieved Sainthood. Today, an equally baseless persecution of servicewomen who would assume the dress of submariners is tolerated because of the entrenched parochialism of a male elite. But it comes down to this. Once servicewomen have put themselves through the most vigorous, combat-related, below-the-waterline, red-badge-of-courage situations, there can be no rational reason to restrain them from the highest levels of command. That is the basis for their denial aboard submarines and everywhere else in the military where they face restrictions-that once proved equal to the task, another doorway to power will have opened to the female. Those that handwring over the question of reduced male morale given female presence forget that morale is precisely reduced when arbitrary restrains are enforced and ability is sidelined. Mixed gender training and co-ed teams have been shown in many military studies to actually enhance unit cohesion, not defeat it. In the last analysis, like the ban on women in professional baseball, the U.S. military's in general and the Navy's specifically is an arbitrary and sexist, rather than skills-based, policy.
Post-Modern Warfare and Servicewomen
The student of military affairs must come to terms with the global-historical ascension of the female-at-arms. Like it or not (and many veterans among us don't), women even in peacetime are becoming more "militarized" and integral to the success of the world's technology-dependant armed forces. For example, Clark University professor Cynthia Enloe explores the causes and ramifications of the militarization of what was once patronizing known as the "fair sex" in an exhaustive study covering almost all of the most controversial aspects of expanded roles for women on the doorstep of 21st century warfighting. The author explains that the globe's servicewomen, increasing integrated into the combat arms, (e.g., a picture and discussion of Bosnian female soldiery charging positions during training with submachine guns is particularly striking) exposes the fallacy, sterility and fervid impracticality of US restrictions on females-at-arms. Professor Enloe points out that "many women have been maneuvered to play a military supportive role," limiting their horizons artificially.
Fundamentally, the same fallacious excuses used to keep women from combat posts-thereby keeping them "on the merits" from the most important operational military positions-are marshaled to keep women off subs. And yet, during Desert Shield/Storm in 1991, 13 American women were among the 375 US service members who died, and two servicewomen were made prisoners of war. In a word, enjoining servicewomen from combat does not keep combat from finding them-from the earliest American armed conflicts in colonial days to the USS Cole In the case of the EP-3E Aries II incident with China in April 2001, for instance, three Navy women found themselves in harm's way along with the rest of the unfortunate spy plane crew.
The most cynical Washington D.C.-produced practice is, of course, to promote conservative females into "top" military positions to placate 50% of America's brainpower into believing that the military is deconstructing the proverbial glass ceiling by acts, not rhetoric. Giving the Marine Corps a female leader in the form of three-star general Carol "Limitations were not part of my vocabulary" Mutter in a personnel role over manpower and planning is an example of this Uncle (Clarence) Thomas-ism writ large. When asked by "Fox Morning News" in April 1996 if women were ready for combat posts, she provided the uninformed establishment response with "I'm not sure that we as a country are quite ready yet for women in the front lines with fixed bayonets." (Interesting that in recent Marine Corps recruiting brochures, women are featured in combat roles.) Certainly those who would roll back the clock urge the conservatives in DoD to "guide the future by the past, long ago the mold was cast." But times change, even as they stay the same in many respects. This is the classic D.C. style, finding someone of a particular social group that espouses the most regressive, conservative positions which are antithetical to the interests of the majority of that group.
The Navy's naming of Anita K. Blair in July 2001 to a top Pentagon job is another example of the degenerate policy of promoting women who are hostile to the advancement of women. Once again in a personnel role (the typical, right-wing favored position for females, as far away from the operational side of affairs as possible), this deputy assistant secretary for personnel is a vice president and general counsel to the roll-back-the-clock ultra-conservative Independent Women's Forum, is hostile to the notion of servicewomen in operational roles in the military. The IWF styles itself to "correct" role finder for the nation's females, with Labor Secretary Elaine Chao on its board of directors and Vice President Dick Cheney's wife, Lynn, a member-emerita. The IWF agenda opposes females on submarines, rejects any notion that women are victims of "oppression," and opposes the court-ordered admission of female students at the Virginia Military Institute, among other anti-female positions. As is the case with Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center of Military Readiness, many women are available to argue for the limitations of servicewomen, despite the volumes of evidence extolling the virtues and values of the female-at-arms.
Women have consistently proved (when permitted) an asset to militaries-hence their unprecedented acceptance and active recruitment today into so many of the globe's armed forces. It is time to allow qualified women to serve in all capacities for which they have both the aptitude and the interest. Gender not only morally should not be an issue, it cannot be in the technology-dependent battlespace of tomorrow. It is a question of operational effectiveness under the rubric of advanced and advancing technology, and the U.S. military can't win future battles, above or below the oceans, without servicewomen. The economics of foreign military sales and the horizontal distribution of military-applicable technology also demands an infusion of the best minds in America to counterbalance the consequences of financial greed over the concerns of national security. Increasingly those minds are housed in female bodies which demand the end of arbitrary restrictions. America's military must chart a course between Scylla and Charybdis, between the detractors of servicewomen and operational failure, and permit those women who can to perform all military assignments now only available to males. And if trends in the submarine forces of our allies and of IT here at home are any indication, gender-neutrality is the tidal wave of the future. For the sake of victory in future wars, we should head off the rush by welcoming women aboard-TODAY-as equal partners in the preservation of peace through readiness.
BROKEN NEWS || CRITIQUES & REVIEWS || CYBER BAG || EC CHAIR || FICCIONES || THE FOREIGN DESK
GALLERY || LETTERS || MANIFESTOS || POESY || SERIALS || STAGE & SCREEN || ZOUNDS
©1999-2002 Exquisite Corpse - If you experience difficulties with this site, please contact the webmistress.