As the U.S. military ends its long effort to consider how to more fully integrate women into combat roles, a dichotomy has emerged between the two services likely to change the most: The Marine Corps has pressed its case publicly to keep some jobs closed, while the Army has not yet disclosed its research or preferred plans.
Recommendations from each of the branches of service are due to Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter by the end of the month, defense officials said. Following a landmark January 2013 decision, all jobs will be opened to women unless the services seek and effectively convince Carter to keep some closed, citing research they completed.
In the Marines, the story has been dominated recently by the release of a four-page summary of research this month that said a study of a gender-integrated infantry unit found that women are injured more frequently and shoot less accurately than men. The study has been panned by critics, including Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, for focusing on what an “average” female Marine can do, rather than examining whether high-performing women can meet physical standards set for the job.
The Marine Corps, which stands by the study, released the summary with officials saying at the time they planned to release about 1,000 pages of related documents in coming days. But that has not occurred, at least in part because Carter’s office asked the Marine Corps not to until he reviews it, defense officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic.
The Marine Corps may have acted against the Pentagon’s wishes in releasing the summary of its research. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said the process agreed upon by all the services, U.S. Special Operations Command and Carter’s office was to share information with each other and Carter before any public release.
“We fully intend to make public all of the data we can, as soon as we can,” Davis said.
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, the commandant of the Marine Corps, recommended Thursday to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus that the service keep its infantry and at least some of its reconnaissance units closed. But as of Tuesday, the Army would not say whether Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chief of staff of the Army, has had a similar meeting with Army Secretary John McHugh.
“The Service Secretaries are expected to provide recommendations to the Secretary of Defense on all remaining closed [jobs] on or by Sept. 30, 2015,” said Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith, in an e-mail. “The details of recommendations are unknown at this time.”
It’s possible that Milley, who took over as the Army’s top officer in August, may want to have more time before making his recommendations to McHugh. The Army is generally seen as less resistant to opening the infantry to women following the graduation of two women from the service’s grueling Ranger School last month, but the service also could draw a distinction between the two, keeping the school open to women while requesting that Carter keep some combat jobs closed to women.
Ranger School officials insist that they did not lower the standards in the course, and that 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, 25, and Capt. Kristen Griest, 26, earned their coveted Ranger tabs on their own merit. Nonetheless, Rep. Steve Russell (R.-Okla.), a Ranger School graduate and Army combat veteran, has asked for proof, saying the women did not have to carry as much weight and were given opportunities to keep trying that male colleagues were not.
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