Women in the Armed Forces: The Future of the Military

Friday, April 22, 2016
Tami Chappell/Reuters
Agnes Gereben Schaefer

Senior Political Scientist, RAND Corporation

Juliet Beyler

Principal Director, Force Resiliency, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel & Readiness, Department of Defense 

Kimberly Dozier

Contributing Writer, Daily Beast

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, CFR Senior Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy, Agnes Gereben Schaefer, Senior Political Scientist at the RAND Corporation, Juliet Beyler, Principle Director of Force Resiliency, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel & Readiness, Department of Defense, and Kimberly Dozier, Contributing Writer at the Daily Beast, discuss the Pentagon’s recent decision to allow more women in combat positions and what the implications are for the future of women in the military. The speakers reflect on the hurdles women face as they try to integrate into combat roles, the misconceptions that exist both inside and outside of the military regarding women’s role in combat, and the potential benefits of including women for the military, national security, and diplomacy. 

DOZIER: So welcome to today’s Council on Foreign Relations meeting on “Women in the Armed Forces: The Future of the Military.” We’re starting things promptly at 8:30.

Today we have with us Juliet Beyler, who is the principal director of force resiliency of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness at the Pentagon. Gayle Tzemach Lemmon; she’s the senior fellow for women and foreign policy at CFR and author of “Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield,” just now out in paperback. And she said that three of the women from the book are in the room, so we will be putting you on the spot later. And we also have Agnes Gereben Schaefer, who is a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation and has done many studies on the issue at hand.

So, we start with the first question. Last December, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter opened all combat roles to women. Can you give us an update? Where does it stand?

BEYLER: Sure, absolutely. Thank you.

DOZIER: Bringing policy into action.

BEYLER: Yes, absolutely.

So, good morning, everyone. Thank you for having me.

So, as Kimberly said, so the secretary announced in early December that he was opening all remaining positions to women. And during that announcement, he directed that the services kind of develop detailed implementation plans to come back to him by the 1st of January, explaining exactly—articulating exactly the details on how they were going to make this happen.

We stood up an implementation group that was co-chaired by the deputy secretary of defense and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and they combed through—we had several meetings with the vice chiefs and the leadership of the department, looking through each of the services. They cross-briefed each other on the details of the plan, looking to make sure that they—there were no issues, and that everything was covered, and that they had all addressed all of the secretary’s concerns that were laid out in his December memo.

Then, in 9 March, the secretary, we briefed those up to him. He reviewed all of the plans personally himself, and he approved all of the plans on 9 March. And he said everyone go forth and open everything no later than April 1st, which we are past that date. Positions are open, and people are starting to assess and recruit and assign women. And so that’s where we stand today.

DOZIER: Got it. So, I guess the shorter version of that question is, when are we going to see a woman Navy SEAL? (Laughter.)

BEYLER: (Chuckles.) Well, so the short answer to that is probably in—at the absolute earliest the summer of 2018. So the SEAL pipeline is very long, so the next enlisted SEAL course doesn’t start until this summer, and the officer SEAL course later in the year. So, of course, the assessment and selection process is very long to even get into the pipeline. And then, given the length of the training, it takes about two years. So if we have a woman in one of the first two classes, you still won’t even see the first one until ’18.

DOZIER: And same for Rangers?

BEYLER: So, the—as this group knows, the Ranger course is significantly shorter. So there are—so the Army did recruit their first female enlisted infantry woman. She signed up. She’ll go to—she’ll go to the course later this summer. It depends.

So, for instance, the academies, when they graduate, there are a number of women, both at West Point and at the Naval Academy, who have identified that they’re interested in possibly going into these career tracks. So, of course, they’ll get commissioned here shortly, and then they will go to their courses. So each course is different, based on the service and the occupation.

DOZIER: I taught at the Army War College last year, so if I didn’t ask about the Army I’d be in trouble.

So, but we were talking about beforehand that there’s a certain fiction that women haven’t already been in combat, because in the past decade-plus war they have. And, Gayle, you said you just covered some remarks that—where they—where the commander brought that out.

LEMMON: Yeah, so, first off, good morning. I’m really delighted to be here and to have all of you here in an early morning. So thank you. Thanks to this incredible panel.

And really, for me, from a storytelling perspective, it’s been a huge privilege and really a journey to bring a story about which I was entirely ignorant to life, which was that, you know, back in 2011 there were women out on nighttime operations alongside Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, and other Special Operations teams, you know, seeing the kind of combat experienced by less than 5 percent of the entire United States military, all while the combat ban was very much in place. And for me, this story was never simply a war story; it’s really a friendship story, because so many times we forget that what we haven’t seen is the connection among women in the same way we’ve seen the connection among men and that Kim has covered, you know, beautifully for years, which is this bond of war, which we often associate only with men, actually has been experienced by women. And at the end of the day, it’s really about service and sacrifice and patriotism and serving a cause greater than yourself, and gender is secondary to it. And it’s really now that our stories are catching up that we’re starting to see the reality of that.

And I was at a(n) event for “Ashley’s War” paperback launch last Wednesday at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Georgia, which some of you might know, right next to Fort Benning. And Colonel Fivecoat, who opened Army Ranger School to women, talked about the charade to which we had all been accustomed of the ground combat rule. And I thought it was just very powerful because the truth is the commanders in the field were working around these rules, and, at war, trying to figure out how to get the best people in the jobs they needed. And working around systems—you know, one—(chuckles)—one of the soldiers who’s here, one of the young women from “Ashley’s War,” was in a job that was coded for men for years before the combat ban was lifted—like, officially, a female could not be in that role when you tried to put it in the system. But her commander wanted the best person for the job.

And so I think really, for me, the best storytelling simply takes us into a world we didn’t know that already existed, and “Ashley’s War” for me was just a way to tell a story about the fact that there was an exceptional group of soldiers who answered when their country asked well before they officially were there.

DOZIER: Allowed to do it.

LEMMON: Correct.

DOZIER: And of course, if you were an MP and—

LEMMON: Absolutely.

DOZIER: —escorting a convoy from one—point A to point B in Iraq or Afghanistan, you were frequently under fire and having to fire back, so.

LEMMON: Absolutely. And also, the MPs have long been integrated, which is something I think doesn’t come—military police, for folks who aren’t super-familiar with this conversation, right?—have long been men and women, and women have been leading in that arena. And so I think that sometimes we talk about these issues as if, you know, we just discovered them yesterday night at 11 p.m. when the truth is that many of these conversations have been going on for years, and women have been very much a part of America’s post-9/11 wars.

DOZIER: Agnes, you did some of the studies on this, including studies of certain organizations like the Marine Corps that didn’t want this integration to happen—were on record saying we want to exclude certain jobs to women. So what were some of the drawbacks that people brought up?

SCHAEFER: Well, so RAND did a large suite of work on this, and we did work for many of the services as well as some work for Juliet on the standards piece. And we didn’t, you know, look so much at drawbacks, per se, but we were really focused on implementation in much of our work. And as a result of that, we sort of focused on lessons learned.

So this is not new, and we have had these previous waves of integration, of not just women but other out-groups such as gays and lesbians. And there are some similarities between those out-groups and those previous waves.

So we tried to draw out some of those lessons learned, especially from previous occupations that were opened, such as engineers, aviation. And what we found is that we really didn’t do a very good job at documenting that process and identifying those lessons learned. So we really emphasized to the services that, as they do this, they really need to focus on monitoring this implementation along the way so that they can identify issues quickly and adjust course, and that they can learn from the process. So the process needs to be flexible enough for them to be able to adjust along the way.

We also looked at lessons from foreign militaries. And one of the major things, especially with the Marine Corps work, we really tried to emphasize—initially they came back to us and said, well, we have this goal. If we’re going to do this, we have this goal of very large numbers. And we empathized to them that nowhere in the world are we seeing large numbers. We’re talking—

DOZIER: So nowhere in the world that has done integration are you seeing large numbers of women in a combat role.

SCHAEFER: That has done this, right. Yes. So single—low single percentages. Those are the types of numbers we’re talking about. And in the special operations community, that’s even smaller. And so we emphasized to them that, you know, if you’re trying to define success in this integration process, and you’re defining that based on numbers, you’re setting yourself up to fail, because the likelihood is so small that you’re going to be able to, you know, recruit these large numbers. So and that’s—you know, we dug into that a little bit more. And that’s—there were two main reasons the numbers were so low in foreign militaries. This may not be the case here. It may be different. But in foreign militaries it was because women weren’t really interested in these positions, and secondly they couldn’t make the standards. So they were twofold there.

DOZIER: So that brings us back to you and the question of, as the policymaker, do you have a quota of women that you want to try to absorb into the combat roles? And how do you keep people from—the mantra I keeping hearing over and over, I’m conscious of the fact that there are four women up here discussing this, so I’ve got play devil’s advocate—I keep hearing from male officers: You just know that there’s going to be pressure on the bureaucracy to lower the standards to make the numbers.

BEYLER: Right. And so we heard that also. So the short answer to the question is no, there are no quotas and there are no goals. I want to come back to it. I do want to make a point, though, about the Marine Corps. I think what gets lost in this a lot is that there’s this narrative that the Marine Corps was opposed to integration. And I don’t think that’s true. As somebody, again, who’s—as a retired Marine myself, and who has lived this, and have watched the Marine Corps, the Marine Corps did a significant good-faith amount of work here. And I think it’s important to kind of recognize it. They asked for exception, but a very discrete exception.

So the Marine Corps actually recommended opening armor, opening artillery. The Marine Corps recommended opening the vast majority of their positions. And they requested from the secretary kind of a very discrete exception in infantry and long-range reconnaissance. So I think, again, that’s really important. And the concerns that the Marine Corps raised, again, all of the services—the Air Force, the Navy, SOCOM—had very similar. So the Marine Corps was not that far off from everyone else. They were just the only ones that chose to request an exception. So I think that’s an important point that gets lost.

But with regard to the standards, yes, we hear that all of the time. And so that’s why when you look at Secretary Carter’s memo and he has his guiding principles, he specifically talks about, one, right, the need to make sure that we have the right standards, that they’re occupationally specific, that they’re current and they’re operationally relevant because, again, that’s the core, the standard of everything that we do. And then once we—that was why it was so important to review and validate the standards, because now we have an ability to kind of definitively stand behind a standard that’s unemotional, that we can explain and articulate, and it is what’s required to do the job.

Recognition also, right, that the number of women that are going to want to do these jobs is small, and then the number of women that can meet the standard beyond that is even smaller. So there’s a full recognition that the numbers may be very, very small, or not at all. And that’s what the secretary said. So equal opportunity doesn’t mean equal participation. We recognize there may be very—you know, very small or there may be none. So how do you guard against that, right? By having a solid standard that everyone—

DOZIER: And are you publishing that standard, so that everyone knows what it is and can tell if it’s changes?

BEYLER: Oh, yeah, absolutely. So all of the services—well, let me back up. So all of the services have—this is, again—I don’t want to—the services have had standards. But we’ve never drilled down in the manner that we had this time over the past three and a half years. So each of the services, again, went through every single occupational standard. And they clearly defined what the standard was for entry into the occupation, and then also what the standards are for not only an entry-level soldier, but also then a sergeant. And then the standards for a sergeant first class or a gunnery sergeant are different than the standards for a PFC. So they have laid out very clearly in their manuals what are the standards for accession—we call them accession—and then the standards for retention. So those are out there.

I would also say that they have institutionalized the process that we went through over the three and a half years, because they learned a tremendous amount on how to do this right. For instance, right, the direct ground combat role said you could close an occupation of women if the vast majority of women couldn’t do it. So what did that mean, right? That was very subjective. And so now it’s a definable standard. Does that make sense?

DOZIER: It does. It does.


DOZIER: And of course, the critics out there are going to say, all right, well, let’s see it in operation.

LEMMON: Yeah, and just one to that point. It was really fascinating, I covered the opening of the Ranger School to women. And I was in pre-ranger in March, I guess, and then in Florida and swamp phase in August. And you know, I went to write one piece, which was just sort of a straight, you know, Army. And I ended up writing a piece that had standards in it probably 79 times, because it was the only word anybody wanted to talk to me about, whether a woman or a man. Our advisors, the women who were serving as Ranger School advisors, would come up to me and say: We never want the standard lowered. Make sure your piece reflects that.

And all of them I would talk to, some of whom I had known from the process of reporting “Ashley’s War,” would say: I don’t care, but no standard can be lowered. And there were lots of questions around that. I mean, I think that’s why they brought reporters in a couple different times, trying to show, look, there is not going to be a different standard. And at the end of the day, any time humans are involved there is a level of subjectivity, but I think they worked very hard from Fort Benning leadership to show that this is a transparent process and the standard is the thing that’s most important.

And the one bit of humor is that at 4:45 a.m.—which I know you know those mornings—when I met some of the Ranger School leadership at the Benning gate, this one very storied retired ranger said to me: You know, what’s amazing is I never heard people show this much love for the standard when I was active duty. (Laughter.) You know, so I think it was interesting to hear his perspective that, you know, the standard has always been something that’s shifting. But I think now when everything else is shifting around it, it’s even more important for that standard to be something that everyone understands and that is not changed for anyone.

BEYLER: Well, I do want to—to your point about—standards will shift, right? So equipment will change. Requirements will change. And so standards will change, but it has to be—

DOZIER: So standards will change because the equipment changes and therefore the ability needed to operate that equipment will change?

BEYLER: Exactly. But we have clearly defined what it takes to be successful on the battlefield. And the standard is derived from that. And it’s derived from what’s required today. So we do recognize there’s going to be pressure. There will people that will ask questions about why not enough.

DOZIER: But you’ll always have to be able to drag a comrade who weight 200-plus, plus their 80-pound pack and their gun, wounded, out of the line of fire. Isn’t that one of those standards that just never stops?

BEYLER: Absolutely. We often use the example of tankers, right? The round weighs what it weighs. And you have to take it out of the rack, you must have the upper body strength to turn in the seat and load the round into the breach. It’s a defined weight, it’s a defined height, an it’s a defined distance. And it doesn’t matter—I often use the term man, woman, giraffe, bunny rabbit—that is what it takes to do that. And so—

DOZIER: So what about the fact that some studies have revealed that women do have a higher incidence of injuries after some of these heavy weight-bearing occupations? So you might have a high dropout rate from these combat positions, where they might wash out after a year or two. Will the military find a way to absorb them back into another role?

SCHAEFER: Yeah, I think that they’re working through that. But what we found from foreign militaries is that there are ways to mitigate against those injury rates.

DOZIER: Like what?

SCHAEFER: Equipment is one of those. And I think there—just as they were drilling down to the standards, which I think really—this issue of really nailing down those standards is one of the real benefits that came out of this whole process, both for men and women, because they really thought through rationally what does somebody, regardless of their gender, need to do for that occupation? But they’re now drilling down into what kind of equipment changes they can make, again, both for men and women. So for instance, carrying your pack. You know, you can adjust the waist belt for people who have shorter torsos, men or women, you know, those kinds of issues. I know they’re working through, you know, the armored plates and things like that, again, for people with shorter torsos. So I think they’re working through those.

DOZIER: So rather than making it gender specific, they’re just thinking about integrating smaller people.


DOZIER: But there are women-specific injuries that I’ve heard about, like the hip displacement from long marches because the hips are shaped differently in men and women.

SCHAEFER: Right. So again, four militaries have gone through this process. Some of them have integrated 20, 25—

DOZIER: Like which ones? Since you said you looked at four?

SCHAEFER: So Canada has been integrated for a long time. We looked at 55 countries initially and then narrowed down to our allies. But so, you know, you can train women over longer distances and longer times. So you can sort of graduate their training so that they’re not—they’re training over a longer period of time and they’re conditioning their bodies over a longer period of time. And that allows them to strengthen—

DOZIER: So the bones have time—I’ve heard something about this—that you slowly increase the weight that the bones are bearing so they get thicker instead of stressing them early and causing them to fracture.

SCHAEFER: Exactly. And they build their core and their upper body. So—

DOZIER: But that is slightly changing training and standards.

SCHAEFER: It is. It is. So there is a tradeoff there. You know, they—four militaries have kind of had them train before they enlist, or before they start some of these combat occupations. So you could do that training ahead of time.

DOZIER: And so that brings us back to the question that I heard brought up, for instance, for SEALs and BUD/S, you’ve got to now add in a women’s room, women’s quarters, et cetera. There’s an added cost associated with equality. There’s an added cost associated with this extra training that you’re talking about, and these equipment changes. Is that worth it to the taxpayer?

BEYLER: And so, first, I think that there is a lot of discussion that there’s added cost, but when we actually had—when all of the services actually looked at that, what they found was there really wasn’t. Most service members live in rooms right now, they’re barracks, they’re not open squad base. So actually, there was very little on the facilities side of the house that had to be done—

DOZIER: So they’re not in a room full of a bunch of bunks, like we’ve seen in the old movies.

BEYLER: Exactly. So the only—for instance at BUD/S, at the SEAL training school out in California, they just had to build one new restroom. So that was the extent of the facilities modifications that needed to be done. And they wanted—they needed to do some stuff to the barracks, but the costs there were very minor. And the same thing, both the Marine Corps, the Army, and the Air Force all came back and said they didn’t need to do any facilities modernization, that they were good where they were.


BEYLER: So on the training side of the house though, I would say that—so especially on the special operations side, they have always had these pre-accession courses. So these courses have always been there. So nobody is developing any new courses. So with regard to, was there a cost to develop something, no, actually, not. And so the benefit, though, is huge for both men and women. We learned better ways to prepare people to succeed at the school. Again, so again better ways to make sure, again, we’re strengthening bone density and bone mass, and making sure—teaching them ways to do things so that they don’t injure themselves, use the core, the things that Agnes said. So again, all of those benefits go to both men and women.

DOZIER: So in the few minutes before I open it up to the members, I wanted to discuss some of the emotional questions that get brought up. Now, you’re a former serving Marine. You mentioned as we were chatting before this that there was a little bit of trepidation when you took a commanding role at one point, among some of the people working for you.

BEYLER: Yes. So I was privileged, I guess, to get commissioned after the Gulf War. So I was in that first year group of female combat engineers when the Marine Corps opened that to women. So, of course, I experienced firsthand what it was like to integrate into an MOS that had been completely closed. And what I found was, same thing, right. So there was a lot of emotion, a lot of concern, a lot of people calling my Marines to express consternation about the fact that they were being now led by a woman, and what the concern was. But I think, like, my own personal experience was there were a lot of myths, there was a lot of confusion. But once they understood who I was and what I did, and that I did exactly what they did, everything was fine. So we see that in the special operations community. We see that across the board.

When we first started talking about this in 2010, we saw a lot of those same concerns across the Army, and these misunderstandings of what a woman could or could not—

DOZIER: Misunderstandings or misconceptions?

BEYLER: Misconceptions, actually. Yes, thank you. That’s better. Of what they could or couldn’t do. And I think—again, I felt—once you get there and they get—they understand, and they see you, and they see you operate those things over time go away.

DOZIER: So how about the other two sort of lightning rod questions, how men respond when a woman is under fire and what happens to esprit de corps when you have women in the mix and all of a sudden you’ve got guys flirting with women, et cetera? These are two things that are always brought up after the first beer when you get a group of special operators together.

LEMMON: Well, maybe I’ll just make a couple points on this. First one is, and as this came up in the interview with General McChrystal when we were working on “Ashley’s War” is that women have been in Delta for a long time. Right, so a lot of this—

DOZIER: In Delta Force.

LEMMON: Right. And so, you know—

BEYLER: Clandestine.

LEMMON: Right. And quietly, and obviously. But you know, he brought that up. Is like, you know, this is not a terribly new conversation. But the second thing that I think is really important is that oftentimes I don’t think we give enough credit to men alongside whom these women are serving. And it was something I saw in two years of working on—you know, trying to talk, and talk, and talk to people who had been on the front lines in the special operations community, some Rangers who had done 12, 13, 14 deployments in the post-9/11 wars, with a country that barely knew people were doing one, right? And you would talk to them. And what they would tell you was: I want somebody next to me who is competent, who is skilled, and who will make sure that they can do the job. And if you, you know, pay your rent out there night, you earn your seat on the bird, period.

And I think that, you know, the demands of combat, the very life and death stakes of these wars, erases so much of this discussion that goes on in nice rooms in, you know, cities where power goes on when you flip a switch and the roads are smooth and there’s infrastructure that works, right? When you’re in a very tough parts of the world when there is a very real war going on, what these guys were focused on was can you do your job, will you slow me down, and do you make a difference out there every single night and find what we need?

You know, one of the MPs who was in—military police—who’s in “Ashley’s War” was telling me the story about the SEAL team she was working with, that actually wasn’t terribly excited to get her when she first showed up. But you know, one of the first night out she found the intel item they were looking for in a baby’s wet diaper in the quarters that would never have searched, which mean that they found the person, they got the thing, and everybody got home safely without having to be out there any longer.

And for the SEALs, you know, then they train—even when there were regulations about when there were regulations about whether women could fast rope or not, they actually trained their CSD to fast rope because they were like, look, if you’re going to be on mission with us, then you need to know everything we do. And we decide if you’re ready. And so I think what you see is people who’ve seen a lot of war, which is a huge percent of a 1 percent, are much less focused on these kinds of discussions, and much more focused on whether you can deliver on the battlefield. And I don’t think they get enough credit for that.

DOZIER: And, Agnes, you were—in studying the different militaries, we have to bring up the Israeli example, they took women out of their combat units because the men fell apart when they saw the women injured.

SCHAEFER: Yeah. I mean, there—a lot of people put up the Israeli example as kind of the poster child. But they have a lot of constraints on their women as well, in terms of rules of engagement and things like that. And they couldn’t be on the frontlines and those kinds of things. So you can’t—it’s not directly analogous to what we’re talking about here in the U.S. But I mean, we definitely covered and studied this issue of cohesion, because that was a major concern across the services, because they were concerned that if cohesion deteriorated that would impact mission effectiveness.

And what we found is that really, you know, during these previous waves of integration of women into these MOSs, there was no degradation of cohesion. And the reason for that is that really it was this focus of task cohesion. People were concerned about whether you could do the job or not, regardless of whether or not the person to your right or left is a man or a woman. And so, you know, that task cohesion was really the center. People don’t necessarily need to like each other to work together, but they really care about whether the person can do the job. And this gets back to the standards piece, I think. So this is why standards are so important.

DOZIER: So the survey—the SOCOM survey that you did, when you asked, you know, what do you feel about women joining combat units, and there was a highly negative response, was there a way to differentiate between who had served alongside women and who hadn’t?

SCHAEFER: Yes, we found that. And this is actually very similar to the work that we did when we were looking at, you know, the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” We looked at cohesion issues and we did a large survey then, which at that point it was—you know, they couldn’t openly admit that they were gay or lesbian, but we were able to find a way to survey them. And we found that, you know, when we talked to service members, those that had served along with women, in higher headquarters in particular, and in the case of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” those who had interacted with gays or lesbians, were much more amenable to the fact that this would be OK. And so this is—this is very typical of when you, you know, integrate these outgroups. If you’ve had contact with them, you tend to be more—the survey data indicates that you tend to be more amendable to that.

DOZIER: OK. Well, it’s 9:00. So at this time, I’d like to invite members to join our conversation with their questions. A reminder that this meeting is on the record. And also, please speak into the microphone that are in front of you, and state your name and affiliation. Please limit yourself to one question and keep it concise to allow as many members as possible to speak. And while people think of their questions, I will ask one more.

Selective service. Now that combat roles are open, is it time for every young woman to go into the Post Office and sign up for a potential draft?

BEYLER: So what Secretary Carter said is that the issue of selective service has got to be part of a broader national discussion that’s not just DOD. So we’re—we think it’s time to have that conversation. We’re prepared to do that. But that’s—

DOZIER: OK, well, saying let’s have a conversation is not stating which way you think the conversation should go. That’s very careful.

BEYLER: Oh, absolutely. And the secretary’s been very clear to say this is outside the purview of just the Department of Defense. And so we’re not there yet. That’s something we absolutely need to look at, but again it’s beyond just this very discrete issue. So we need to make sure that we take everything into consideration before that decision is made.

DOZIER: So, let’s see, I wanted to ask members to tilt their placards up when they have a question. I haven’t done one of—ma’am.

Q: I don’t know if the mics are—

DOZIER: Can you lean into that mic? Thank you.

Q: Sure. Sure. So I’m Jen Leonard. I’m with International Crisis Group. Thank you so much for your comments. It’s not an issue I dug really deep into, but tracking in headlines.

We’ve talked a lot about standards, everyone meeting standards. I’d be great to hear from you whether anecdotally or research, evidence driven, about exceeding those standards and unique qualifications, and whether and how in your research, in terms of looking at allies, et cetera, there have been bit of evidence that have shared with you why women might excel at a particular category, set of issues, resilience, troubleshooting, et cetera? If there’s not, where are we going to track that too? Thank you.

DOZIER: Who would like to take a stab at that.

BEYLER: Or I can. So, yes, a lot of people talk about a concern about don’t lower standards, but you’re absolutely right. So we identified places across the board where perhaps the standard was too low and needed to be raised. We use often the airborne example. The pack weight had been historically 45 pounds, and that had been around since World War II. That’s not reflective of what you need to carry on today’s battlefield. So that was an example of a physical standard that actually needed to be raised in this particular case.

Now, with regard to the things that you were saying, kind of more on the cognitive, resilience side of the house, so for instance in the special operations community there are—they do test and assess people for decision making skills, emotional stability, all of that type of stuff. But those are already standards that have been in place, so again, right, but there are certainly areas where women will excel. And we’ll see that, hopefully, come out as we move forward. I don’t know if you want to add anything to that.

SCHAEFER: Yeah, so the data on this is really kind of mixed. And this is why we emphasized to the services that as they do this they really need to monitor where there’s progress and see where they’re seeing those areas. And you know, in deficiencies they may be able to, you know, do things to help them. So yeah, unfortunately it’s very mixed.

DOZIER: OK. Sunil? Oh, Laura.

Q: Thank you. Laura Liswood. Three years on DACOWITS, so some sense of this, and 13 years a reserve sergeant Metropolitan Police Department.

DOZIER: And can you remind people what DACOWITS is?

Q: Oh, yes, the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services. It’s been around since the Korean War, and has looked at various elements. One of the elements that we looked at was women on submarines. And some of the out-group objections to blacks on submarines, you could have just taken the language out of that and said why women shouldn’t be on submarines—unit cohesion, too close, wives don’t like it, et cetera, et cetera. My question is, in addition to this issue of the value added of diversity, which is getting more and more play in corporations and things like that, and therefore tracking that, which I think could be incredibly interesting to see different perspectives, do you see that there’s going to be any diminution, increase, around issues of sexual harassment and issues of that nature?

DOZIER: Because these women are in units that have never had women before, or something?

Q: Yes. And so is it more of, oh, now we respect them and we understand what value that they have, et cetera, versus, well, we have these close quarters and we have these issues?

BEYLER: Oh, sure. So I would say do we expect an increase? I certainly hope not, but I think we recognize that that’s something we need to look at. That’s what each of the services—to the point that we were talking about surveys before—that’s why all of the service—you hear a lot of discussion about the SOCOM survey—but all of the services did surveys of one sort, right? Why? Because we need to identify where there are those misconceptions. And then we need to development training or we need to make sure that explain where those things are incorrect, so we don’t have that, and as well to identify any potential issues that need to be addressed.

But we don’t view this issue as anything—you know, sexual harassment and sexual assault, it’s not tolerated in the department. It’s not acceptable. And so this is no different than any other effort, and we view it no differently.

DOZIER: I was going to say, Gayle, can you point out some of your folks in the crowd who—

LEMMON: Yeah. And there are two things I want to just get out that we were talking about before. So the program, they have the cultural support teams, which was a very benign name for a pretty groundbreaking concept, was created by Admiral Olson, who was the first Navy SEAL to lead Special Operations Command. And you know, I had CSPAN caller the other day say that, you know, is this part of the feminist agenda? And I said, well, I don’t think Admiral Olson was known for his feminist agenda. I think he was really focused on the security gap that his forces were facing in the field.

And when I had the pleasure of talking with him in the process of reporting, he was asking me about these soldiers, the young women who are here, who were part of this team. And he was asking me what they were like, and I was filling him in, because he had retired just before the program had been in full swing. And he said, so they’re just like the men? And I said, yeah. He said, you know, what I look for in special operations is physical fit problem solvers. He said, people want to ascribe all kinds of superhuman traits to the special operations community, but that’s at the core of what we’re seeking. And I think that was really important.

And to Laura’s point about African Americans and other integration, it was really interesting talking to one of the Rangers who did pre-mission training with the soldiers in “Ashley’s War.” And he was very skeptical when they said he had to go train girls—that was his official assignment from when he was at Benning at go down to Fort Bragg and—or, to go to Bragg to train members of this team. And you know, really at the end of eight days, this guy who by no means would he care about any kind of equality or agenda, you know, that is not his world, you know, he said: You know, I looked around and I thought, you know, these may be one day be our own Tuskegee Airmen, right? Like, these people who are going to make history and no one knows they exist.

And I do think that there are a lot of parallels. And it’s hard to see that in the moment. I think it’s hard for all of us who chronicle it to see it in the much wider picture. But I think 50 years from now, this moment will look very different than it does right now.

DOZIER: Oh, and—

LEMMON: And I wanted to just point out, there are three of the soldiers who are in “Ashley’s War” who are here, and maybe you could just stand up for a quick moment, yeah.

Q: Hi. My name is Amy Sexauer. I’m still active duty captain serving at Fort Bragg.

DOZIER: Oh, sorry. Microphone, please.

Q: Oh. Hi. Captain Amy Sexauer, still active duty Army, serving at Fort Bragg.

Q: Captain Rachel Washburn, also serving at Fort Bragg.

Q: Captain Meghan Curran. I’m in the Massachusetts Army Reserve now.

DOZIER: And can I put the three of you on the spot? Have any of you encountered sexual harassment when you were in these unique jobs, when you first entered them?

Q: I think, to Gayle’s point, we don’t give enough credit to the men in this conversation a lot of the time. I think that what we have to remember, especially with the groups that we worked with, the special operations community, they’re consummate professionals. And I think from my personal experience I never saw anything to that effect. And I really just—I think that that conversation is not—is not addressed as much, that we need to give more credit to the men in these situations. And they are there do a mission and we were there to enable a mission. And it’s almost as simple as that. And a lot of this other conversation really doesn’t matter when you’re in a high stakes environment. So that’s my personal experience. I don’t know if—

DOZIER: Thank you very much.

LEMMON: Can I just add one thing? It was really fascinating. When I was working on—actually, I was just telling Laura Sullivan this—when I was working on “Ashley’s War,” you know, it’s Washington, so you don’t talk about what you’re working on very much. And occasionally I would. And I’d say it’s a special operations story. And people would be like, oh, that’s awesome. Oh, I love “Lone Survivor.” And I love “American Sniper.” And you’d say, oh, and there are women in it. And it was like crickets. And inevitably, the next question from men and from women, was: Oh, is about rape or PTSD? And that was really eye opening for me, the first, second, third time I heard it. And by the end I was kind of prepared, because it is absolutely urgent that the issue of military sexual assault is front and center, 100 percent. But when the valor story is missing, it affects the rest of the conversation about service, period, whether it’s male or female.

DOZIER: But I thank Laura for bringing it up, though, because that’s one the reasons that DACOWITS was originally founded, was to represent women in the military writ large. So it’s a question that needs to be asked, but it’s great to have it just knocked on the head, especially by somebody who served out there.


Q: Hi. My name’s Sunil Desai. I’m a retired U.S. Marine as well, infantry officer.

I love the book. I read the whole book and was intrigued by it. And I appreciate everything that I’ve heard. I agree with pretty much everything. And just wanted to make two small points. Just my perspective. You know, I married an Army officer who could do more push—pullups, pushups too, that most of the Marines that I knew. And so I respected that, amongst a lot of other things.

But the first point would be, regarding the standards, and I never bought into the idea that that was some of the reasons that women shouldn’t serve in combat roles, even when I was a young officer. But one point that didn’t come up is, while there is a pass/fail standard, I mean, you have to meet some bare minimum, the standard still exists on a scale. And the military, in addition to the requirement for, you know, tactical execution on the battlefield, there’s this inspiration that comes from the people who can achieve even more, right?

And I think even the women in the book, you see that from them. They really admire people who are super fit, and even more than necessary. And so there’s an element of that that should be added to the conversation. I mean, the senior—you’ve spoke with some of these special ops leaders who are physical—I mean, well-beyond, even as they get older they don’t hold themselves to the sliding standard that will allow for the aging. They hold themselves to the original, the highest standard. And that’s admired and valued and respected.

And then the one other—just a small one. And you touched on it with your last question about the draft, and I have a daughter now too. But I think beyond that, this subject, and the experiences, speak to the even broader question of what’s happening not only in our country but in our society writ large, just in terms of how families are evolving, how work is evolving. And there’s several other current books that are hot in the CFR world, whether “Lean In” or “Unfinished Business,” right? And then there’s another one called “The End of May.” So I think all these dynamics are happening. And they all have to be thought of holistically together if we’re going to get to the right answer for everybody.

DOZIER: So one of the things I hear you saying is that physical fitness might be one of the ways just to put all doubts to rest, if you’re more fit than everyone else. But going back to this question of participation in society and are we uneven—it’s the question that Ash Carter doesn’t want to be the only one asking. But do we need women in the draft to follow through with this—you know, if you’re going to allow women to be in combat roles in the military, shouldn’t they be part of the wider communities—while serving the wider community? I guess I’m stumbling around on this one, because it’s such—it’s such a—like, I can see my own parents would have freaked out about it, but then you look at some of the discussions brought up by people like General Stanley McChrystal, that shouldn’t we have at least a wider national service? So where does that stand, that discussion?

BEYLER: Well, right, again, that’s the crux of the issue, right? We need to have a larger national discussion on, right, public service, national service, and where do we need to go from there.

I think from our perspective, right, we have an all-volunteer force, and we’re meeting the requirements that we have right now. Now, whether we have a draft, or don’t have a draft, or whether they expand Selective Service, or they don’t expand Selective Service, we think certainly we need to be part of that discussion. But it doesn’t—we are—we have what we need, and we have great people coming in. And that was what Secretary Carter was kind of focused on, on the all-volunteer force. He didn’t want to restrict his ability to recruit to only half the population.

DOZIER: But isn’t that, in a sense—well, it’s ducking the question, that if you’re going to make this a touchstone of your administration that you fought for this level of equality for first having gays in the military and then allowing women to go into combat roles, why not follow it through with, and we believe—if we’re backing these two principles, why not take a stand on having women in Selective Service?

BEYLER: So, right, I understand the question. I guess—I guess we’re—again, where we are is we’re at—we’re at the beginning of that discussion. And I think it’s just—to kind of take a position on it before we’ve actually even had the full-blown conversation is probably premature.

LEMMON: But one thing I think is so interesting is that we talk about equality, and I think it’s also really about talent, right? It’s about finding the right pool of the right people for the right jobs. And I think that’s the national security discussion. That’s the national security question. It’s not about social programs, right? I think it’s about security gaps and about having the best force.

And I think the draft question is fascinating because what—the Selective Service was abolished in ’73, and then brought back in 1980 when the Russians invaded Afghanistan. And, you know, that was a long time ago now, and think about how much war has been fought since then. I think whole conversation should be updated. You know, should 18-year-old young men have to register? Should 18-year-old young women? What are the options for—I mean, you know, one parent told me, I would much rather have my daughter defend my country than my son—(laughter)—you know? I mean, parents come up to you all the time and tell you sort of very colorful things. But, I mean, I think it goes to the fact that it’s a sort of an outdated way of viewing a world that has fundamentally shifted.

Because, to your points, you know, about looking at things in siloes, this is a much bigger conversation about a world that is on fire in many different places, with a shape of a threat that has changed and, I think, an international architecture that hasn’t changed with it, and, going to that, a national infrastructure that hasn’t really kept pace with the time. So how do you think of the broader question about how you defend and protect and serve?

DOZIER: So you’re say that the policy was really changed because it’s about getting access to talent for the mission at hand rather than an issue of overall fairness and equalizing the playing field.

BEYLER: Oh absolutely. Secretary Carter was very clear about that. He was about recruit—about the all-volunteer force. He said, you never know where your next Olympic athlete is going to come, so why would I voluntarily just cut my recruiting pool in half? It made no sense to him.

DOZIER: Agnes, in your study of other militaries, did you find—were there other militaries that draw from the whole pool of the population in terms of a draft?

SCHAEFER: Yes, yes. And, you know, the reason for integrating these combat roles was different across the countries, too. Many of them were forced to. They had equal opportunity issues, lawsuits, things like that.

So it was interesting because—you know, it was interesting to see those various reasons. And some of them thought that, you know, this was the right thing to do for equality reasons. We took a different route. And so, you know, their strategies have been different, too, that kind of shaped the way that they actually implemented this. And some of them had quotas, which we found actually didn’t work. They never met them—(chuckles)—because their numbers were so small. And, you know, that sort of set back the process.

DOZIER: So what were the numbers? Like, what can we expect? What was an average of numbers of women in combat roles?

SCHAEFER: So in no—yeah, in none of the countries that we looked at did we find anything above low single percentages in these—in these roles.

DOZIER: You’re saying 2 percent or 9 percent?

SCHAEFER: Like 5 (percent). Six (percent) was the highest. So—

BEYLER: Canada’s at—

DOZIER: Absolutely.

SCHAEFER: Yeah. I mean, some of them are just very, very low.

BEYLER: So, for instance, Canada, which integrated their infantry almost 25 years ago?


BEYLER: Twenty-five years ago, and their numbers hover around the 1 percent range right now. So, again, but those, right—so that was informative for us. And back to your question about the standards, so we need to kind of continue the discussion about low numbers or no one is fine, right, because you have to meet the standard. And so, right, we have to continue to make sure that people understand that we are fully comfortable with having low numbers.

DOZIER: So, to play devil’s advocate, that it’s interesting you’re—Gayle just talked about you want to open up all of the force to look for talent, but then it’s only filling 1 percent, or will probably only fill 1 percent of those roles.

BEYLER: Right.

DOZIER: To play the devil’s advocate, it’s a lot of churn and a lot of expense to look at this, to open everything up, to get only 1 percent of those roles filled.

BEYLER: Well, you could say that, or, again, we don’t know who’s out there that may—we have no idea what it’s going to look like. So you don’t know what those young, young girls in high school are capable of and wanting to do moving forward. So we may see increased numbers. Again, as we look at training properly, like better ways to—and fitness, and building that body mass, looking at BMI and bone strengthening, you never know. We may actually have more numbers in the United States.

LEMMON: It was fascinating. So I was at West Point in the fall, and one of the things that was really fascinating there was, you know, you come in and you’re supposed to give this talk. And I said, well, I just have a question for you, you know: how many of you want to go into—into infantry and to—and, you know, hands shot up. And just to think that they are on the cusp of this change, right?

There are young women at West Point who would come up to you and say, I’ve always felt like there were two tiers: jobs that, you know, everybody could do, and then jobs that, you know, women couldn’t, and I have always to be in infantry. There were a couple of the—(chuckles)—young women who were soldiers in “Ashley’s War” who actually didn’t—enlisted and didn’t know that women couldn’t be in the infantry. Or ROTC cadets who were, you know, at the top of their ROTC corps but actually couldn’t be in infantry when they came out.

And so, you know, you see all kinds of what I would call inefficiencies in the system in some ways, right, that are being leveled out. But I have never heard anybody talk about huge numbers, but is there a talent pool out there? You do see it.

DOZIER: Well, hey, I went Wellesley. I’m just—I’m trying to—(laughter)—this is not a very skeptical audience, so I’m trying to channel the skeptics who are out there.

LEMMON: No, absolutely. And all the questions—all of these questions come up. And I think it’s really important to have discussions about them, because otherwise people feel like, well, gosh, you know, they’re just having a conversation divorced from reality. And the truth is you just want to have a reflection of what’s already happening.

SCHAEFER: So, if I could say quickly about the cost piece, we actually ran a very detailed cost analysis in our Marine Corps work. And we looked at attrition rates for women and, you know, how many women you would need to bring in to keep the infantry at the same level it is today, and those kinds of issues, and we found that it’s less than 1 percent of the overall personnel budget. So, again, this—I think that there’s this misconception that it will be very expensive. And that mirrors what the other services have found, too.

DOZIER: So less than 1 percent of the overall personnel budget, what are we talking? Because you guys have big budgets. (Laughter.)

SCHAEFER: Yeah, I can’t—it was very small. I mean, I—sorry, I can’t think of the—

DOZIER: Tens of millions?

SCHAEFER: It was—I think it was—yeah, I’m not sure. But it was—overall, in the scheme it was very small.

DOZIER: Very small.



Q: Damon Porter with the Association—

DOZIER: We can’t hear you.

Q: I’ll start again. Is it this one? Thank you. (Comes on mic.) Damon Porter with the Association of Global Automakers.

We know oftentimes that policy decisions are not made in a vacuum. And clearly there’s demonstrable evidence, as we’ve discussed today, why women should be in combative forces. But can we talk a little bit from the historical perspective? We’ve raised the issues of physical standards. How much, such as Title IX, were shaping the ability of demonstrating the physical dexterity and ability of women to serve in combative roles?

And I guess the other point to that question is, how much can women in combative forces help shape the policy discussions outside of armed services, such as equal pay?

DOZIER: So suddenly we have a whole bunch of questions with only six minutes left.

LEMMON: I know. (Chuckles, laughter.) Always happens.

DOZIER: So I’m going to ask a couple of people—yeah, couple of people to do a couple questions in a row. Can we take your question?

Q: Hi, yes. I’m Sally Adams, and I’m here on behalf of the Women in Military Service for our America Memorial, called WIMSA. And we’re the only memorial that honors all women across all services in the nation.

And in 2014, a DOD report came out and said that DOD spends about $90 million on 87 military service museums, and not one of those is dedicated to women. And I just wanted to know, during this time of unprecedented progress in the military, if the time is ripe for support for this institution as well as other memorials and museums that honor women?

DOZIER: OK. And one more?

Q: Oh. Hi, good morning. My name’s Christine (sp). I’m an undergraduate student at Georgetown University, but I just transitioned out of the Marine Corps. I was a corporal. I transitioned out in July. I was an Arabic linguist. And right now at school I do a lot of research on understanding the Muslim world.

And we’ve talked a little bit about the unique advantage that women bring to the battlefield. And, especially as the decision’s already been made for integration, I hope to switch the conversation to, like, OK, it’s decided now, so what are we uniquely going to bring to this—to this arena. So my question is, do you think women will provide a unique advantage? And how can we capitalize on that, specifically when we’re talking about women in encountering violent extremism, which I know a lot of NGOs and think tanks are focusing on? And so I’m wondering if the DOD specifically has looked at how we can integrate women specifically to capitalize on women’s unique skills in that arena.

DOZIER: So we have three questions and three minutes left. Starting with that one, unique skills that women can provide, are there specific things you’re recruiting them for within combat roles that help in those areas?

BEYLER: I mean, I think—I think that goes to one of the earlier questions, right? So there are—there are—women and men, there are differences, and so perhaps there are the things can women can bring to the discussion. And I think it gets to “Ashley’s War.” There were very unique skillsets where the Special Operations community, you know, realizes they need help. So this was just really—this was a recognition of what was actually already going on in the fights and in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So, I mean, to answer your question, yes. But again, that’s part of that entire discussion. That was the reason behind all of this. We wanted to be able to use the skills of the women that were out there.

DOZIER: And the Title IX question? Sorry, go ahead.

LEMMON: Title IX, I think, is fascinating.

One thing, if—I noticed a couple things that were across the board on the soldiers who were part of “Ashley’s War,” and the Rangers were really taking specifically the direct actions that were taking, you know, the most fit. And as one Ranger said, if nobody else liked you, we did. You know, they were looking for people who were ready to go out and be fit and fierce, and be able to keep up on those kinds of Special Operations missions.

And almost all of them were track athletes. Almost all of them had been raised by fathers who had always treated them the same as their brothers. Or, if they had no other siblings who were brothers, they were held to the highest of standards. And athleticism and sports was very much a theme across the board. And they can talk to you about that more afterward, but you really did see that across the board in terms of always having been fit, always having trained to a very high standard.

And Amy, who’s here, actually played high school football all four years. She’s going to be mortified when I tell you that—(laughter)—and didn’t want to after the first couple years, but little girls would come up to her at games and say that she wanted—they wanted to be like her. And that—it was sort of hard to quit after that. So, you know, I do think Title IX very much played a role in the physical athleticism and the opportunities.

DOZIER: You had something to add.

BEYLER: I wanted to add one quick point. I think something that was fascinating for me is about—you ask, how are these women going to affect—a lot of the senior men that were involved in this conversation, right, they have daughters. And a lot of their thinking on this issue was formed by those daughters and what they wanted to see, you know? Their daughters were phenomenal, and why shouldn’t my daughter be able to do this? And many of those daughters are serving in uniform as young captains and lieutenants now.

So I absolutely think—and they may not be on the cusp. They may not be, but they are out there and they are absolutely the ones that continue to inform this discussion. I think that’s fascinating about all of the dads.

DOZIER: And last quick point, the women institutions or museums memorializing women in the military.

BEYLER: Right. So, absolutely, WIMSA does some phenomenal work, and we thank you for what you do. I can’t exactly, but budgets are tight and we certainly support the work that you do. It’s fantastic.

Q: Thank you.

DOZIER: Thank you very much. I want to thank the panelists for answering some tough questions and showing the public out there that the tough questions have been asked before enacting this policy.

And thank you all for attending this session on “Women in the Armed Forces: The Future of the Military.” That concludes this CFR session. (Applause.)


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