A good deal has been written lately about the rising number of families with a single parent or with two parents who work. Among those who have taken note of the trend is the Army, which is worried that in the event of a war or national emergency, these parents will place their family responsibilities above their Army duties.

The Army has already restricted the enlistment of single parents or a parent whose spouse already works in the Army and has considered restricting future assignments and reenlistments as well. But the General Accounting Office says that's a bad idea. "The Army lacks a solid basis" for taking such actions, it said in a recent study. It surveyed first-line supervisors and found that, while some problems exist, most of the parents in those situations have performed satisfactorily. In a letter to the GAO, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary William D. Clark criticized the survey for focusing on the quality of the performance of these parents, rather than on their "deployability," which he says are two different issues. Clark said the Army will continue "on a case-by-case basis" to discharge "those who are unable to perform their prescribed duties due to parenthood."