[CRS Issue Brief for Congress]

92008: Women in the Armed Forces

Updated December 12, 1996

David F. Burrelli
Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division





Current Status
Military Women in Combat Actions Abroad
Should the Armed Forces Expand Recruitment of Women?
Should Women Be Barred from Combat Positions?
What is the Status of Single-Sex Military Academies?
What Provision for Motherhood?
Sexual Harassment
Authorization and Appropriations Laws: 104th Congress
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997

APPENDIX Active Duty End Strengths Enlisted Women Officer Women Distribution of Active Duty Women by Rank and Percentage of Total Personnel


Women have become an integral part of the armed forces, but they are excluded from most combat jobs. Several issues remain. One is whether to reduce, maintain, or expand the number of women in the services as the total forces are being reduced. Difficulties in obtaining enough qualified males led to increasing recruitment of women during the 1970s and 1980s, and women now comprise more than 12% of the armed forces. The percentages vary among the services from less than 5% for the Marines to 16% for the Air Force. A planned reduction of armed forces, in response to a changing world situation and budget pressures, and the availability of enough qualified males, could change the perception of need for military women.

A second question is to what extent women should continue to be excluded from some combat positions by policy. Women are not assigned to certain jobs including many that form the core of defense in actual battle, such as the infantry. All legal barriers have been removed. In 1991, Congress repealed the law prohibiting women serving on combat aircraft in the Air Force and Navy. In 1993, Congress repealed the law barring women from Navy combat ships. Policy on assignment of women to combat was left to the Air Force and Navy, as it already was to the Army, which excludes women from combat jobs. Congress in P.L. 103-160 also required advance notice of changes in policies to open or close assignment of women to combat units, indicating its intent to monitor policy on this issue. U.S. military actions in Grenada, Libya, the Persian Gulf, and Panama revealed numerous inconsistencies in policy among the different branches and practical problems in having a growing number of persons in the armed forces prohibited from combat posts but representing a substantial part of the forces and serving in combat support units. The deployment of approximately 40,000 women to Saudi Arabia provided the most extensive experience to date.

Some observers contend that additional military jobs could be opened to women. Others contend that adding more women to non-combat posts reduces the number of rotation slots available for men in combat units. In either event, since the main mission of the armed forces is to deter war by being prepared to wage one if it occurs, there is a limit to the extent to which the armed forces can increase the number and expand the assignments of women as long as there are restrictions on assigning women to combat posts.

The two basic considerations involve national security and the role of women in American society. Would national security be jeopardized or enhanced by increasing reliance on women in the armed forces? Should women have equal opportunities and responsibilities in national defense? Or do role and physical differences between the sexes, the protection of future generations, and other social norms require limiting the assignments of women in the armed forces? Opinion in the United States is deeply divided on the fundamental issues involved.


On June 26, 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (7-1) that the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) can no longer exclude women and remain a publicly funded institution. Both VMI and the Citadel have begun to comply. Officials at VMI have reported that VMI would not adjust its physical standards to accommodate coeds. VMI has begun to recruit women.

Reports of sexual harassment, including assault and rape, at a number of Army facilities, have brought about increased scrutiny of military policies concerning the treatment of women.


Two major factors led to the expansion of the role of women in the armed forces. First, after the end of the draft and the beginning of the All-Volunteer Force in December 1973, the military services had difficulty in recruiting and retaining enough qualified males, thereby turning attention to recruiting women. Women were recruited in increasing numbers and assigned to a wider variety of occupations as one method of meeting shortfalls in enlistments by qualified men.

Second, the movement for equal rights for women led to demands for equal opportunity in all fields, including national defense, and a gradual removal of restrictions against them. The Armed Forces Integration Act of 1948 (62 Stat. 356-75) had given women a permanent place in the military services by authorizing women in the regular Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. However, it had limited the number of enlisted women to 2% of enlisted strength, the number of female officers (excluding nurses) to 10% of enlisted female strength, and the rank a female officer could achieve to Lieutenant Colonel (or Commander in the Navy).

During the 1960s and 1970s, the movement for equal opportunity for women gave new momentum to efforts to eliminate discriminatory treatment of women in the armed forces. Changes were brought about by policy directives from the services, court decisions, and legislation. In 1967, P.L. 90-130 repealed the limitation of 2% for female enlisted strength. In 1974, the age requirement for enlistment of women without parental consent was made the same as for men (P.L. 93-920). In 1976, women were admitted to the three major service academies: Military, Naval, and Air Force (P.L. 94-106); women had already been admitted to the U.S. Coast Guard and Merchant Marine Academies by administrative action.

In 1978, P.L. 95-485 modified Section 6015 of Title 10 of the U.S. Code, which had precluded women from serving on Navy ships, to permit women to be assigned to permanent duty on vessels not expected to be assigned combat missions, and up to 6 months of temporary duty on other Navy ships. In 1991, the Defense Authorization Act for FY1992 and FY1993 repealed the limitations on assignment of females to combat aircraft in both the Air Force and Navy. Congress in the Defense Authorization Act for FY1994 repealed the last ban, the ban on women on combat ships.

Current Status

Women have become an integral part of the U.S. armed forces. The percentage of women in the armed forces steadily increased from less than 2% at the end of FY1972 to 12.9% at the end of September 1995, although the total number decreased from 210,048 in FY1992 to 196,116 in September 1995 as part of a general reduction in military force levels. The percentages of women vary among services: Army, 13.4% (68,046); Navy, 12.8% (55,830); Marines, 4.6% (8,093); Air Force, 16.0% (64,147). (See tables at end, Active Duty Enlisted and Officer End Strengths.) Also, the number of career fields and military jobs open to women has steadily increased.

Although women have not achieved the status that some would like, others believe the services have gone too far. In addition to remaining a minority, the percentage of women in the higher officer and enlisted ranks continues to be lower than the percentage of women in service. (See table at end, Distribution of Active Duty Women By Rank and Percentage of Total Personnel in Each Rank.) The disparity is much greater if medical officers, which includes nurses, were excluded. The Department of Defense has explained that the clustering of women in the middle to lower officer grades is a reflection of women entering in the lower ranks in large numbers beginning in 1972, and that with time the distribution of women officers has begun to approximate that of men. However, as long as combat jobs are closed to women, there is likely to be a lower proportion of women in the senior officer grades, as these tend to be filled by officers whose careers have been involved in the central mission of the armed forces, which is combat.

A primary barrier to the expansion of the number of women in the services has been that women are not allowed in most combat jobs and many combat-related jobs. Under Defense Department policy, they have been excluded from many other combat-related assignments and occupational specialties. In 1988 the General Accounting Office (GAO) reported that about half of the active duty military positions were open to women and half were closed. The GAO concluded that "the services limit the number of jobs that women may hold beyond the requirements of the combat exclusion and related program needs. As a result women may not compete for all jobs identified by the services as unrestricted by the combat exclusion or their program needs." Some of this exclusion is related to the need to maintain a rotation base for personnel returning from sea or overseas duty.

In February 1988, the Defense Department adopted a "risk rule" that excludes women from non-combat units or missions if the risks of exposure to direct combat, hostile fire, or capture are equal to or greater than the risk in the combat units they support. It permitted women to be assigned to noncombat units or positions if the risk is less than comparable to the combat units with which they are associated. In September 1988, the Secretary of Defense said that to protect combat readiness, decisions of the Military Departments to assign women to certain units must be made with the understanding that they would be so assigned in times of peace and conflict. On Jan. 14, 1994, then-Secretary Aspin announced that the risk rule would be lifted in October 1994. The new rule would be replaced by the following three criteria of direct ground combat, all of which would have to be met to exclude jobs from women: "Women may not serve in units that engage an enemy on the ground with weapons, are exposed to hostile fire, and have a high probability of direct physical contact with the personnel of a hostile force." On July 29, 1994, Secretary of Defense William Perry announced the service would open more than 80,000 additional positions to women, effective Oct. 1, 1994, after which date more than 92% of the career fields and 80% of the total jobs would be open to women. As more women have been recruited, the rate of women failing to complete basic training has increased above that of men.

In the past, exact policies on combat-related assignments have varied from service to service. The Army, Navy, and Marines all set separate recruiting goals for men and women based on program needs; the Air Force did not. Secretary Aspin established an implementation committee to ensure that policy on the assignment of women was applied consistently across the services, including the reserves.

Military Women in Combat Actions Abroad

Considerable experience has been gained in recent years with the deployment of women in the armed forces to military actions abroad. According to the Department of Defense, over 1,200 females have been stationed in Haiti. Women were included in actions in Grenada in October 1983, Libya in 1986, the Persian Gulf in 1987, and Panama in December 1989. More than a thousand women troops were stationed in Somalia during the operation there from December 1992 to 1994. The largest deployment was to Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf in 1990 and 1991, Operation Desert Storm, so it is discussed here to illustrate both the progress women have made in the military services and the policy dilemmas.

Women were included in the forces sent to Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf soon after the U.S. deployments to halt Iraqi aggression against Kuwait began on Aug. 8, 1990. From that time and throughout the hostilities that started Jan. 16, 1991, they served both in traditional roles such as nurses and non-traditional roles such as aircraft ground crews, intelligence , and communications specialists. According to the Defense Department, 7% of the service personnel in the area were women. This is less than the 11% that women comprise of the forces as a whole because of the exclusion of women from specified combat units, and because services with a smaller percentage of women -- the Marines, Navy, and Army -- were overrepresented; and the service with the largest percentage of women -- the Air Force -- was underrepresented, compared to their overall percentage of the armed forces. Women comprised 22% of the enlisted medical and dental specialists and 19% of the enlisted personnel in functional support and administration. The following is the Defense Department breakdown by service of the total number of women deployed during Operation Desert Storm, as of July 11, 1991.

***TABLE or GRAPHIC not shown here***

Operation Desert Storm showed that women could satisfactorily perform many jobs traditionally held by men and that they could be in danger even if restricted from combat posts. The action also called into question the belief that the American public would be unable to accept female casualties or the idea of female prisoners of war. Casualties among female military personnel, which included 13 deaths and two prisoners of war, appeared to be viewed in the same spirit among the American people as casualties among males. A GAO study of July 1993 found that health and hygiene problems were minor for both men and women and had no negative effects on mission accomplishments. But Operation Desert Storm also dramatized there were broad social issues involved as mothers, as well as fathers, were separated from their children for long periods during the deployment. Moreover, one of the female prisoners of war testified that she had been sexually abused by an Iraqi guard. In addition, the Army Times revealed that at least 24 U.S. Army servicewomen had been raped or sexually assaulted while serving in the Persian Gulf region.

According to an Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR Fact Sheet released by the Pentagon, women assigned to duty in the former Yugoslavia "can be assigned to positions already open to them in the air and ground units and Naval vessels. Current assignment policy does not allow women to be assigned to units below the brigade level whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the ground."

Should the Armed Forces Expand Recruitment of Women?

One issue is whether to expand the number of women in the armed forces. As the total size of forces decreases, an increase in the number of women would rapidly increase the percentage of women. The question of whether the percentages should be increased or decreased could become more acute during the 1990s as active duty military personnel strengths decline greatly, and the military services can meet their recruiting requirements with men as qualified as any women applicants. Thus far, the proportion of women has been increasing even while the total force number declined. From 1989 until 1995, the active duty female strength declined from 232,823 to 196,116, but the proportion of women increased from 10.9% to 12.9%.

At issue are the qualifications needed for modern armed forces, whether women meet these qualifications, the effect more women in the services would have on the ability of the armed forces to carry out their missions, and the effect on society.

One qualification is education, which some believe is becoming more important with the growing complexity of modern weapons systems. The services have been able to achieve higher standards for women recruits than for men because of the small recruitment levels for women. A principal argument in favor of increasing the numbers of women in the armed forces has been that it would be better to raise the number of women recruits who are better educated than to recruit less educated men. If the number of women recruits is increased, however, and the male recruiting requirements decline, the differences in education level between male and female recruits might be expected to narrow. Moreover, some argue that while educational credentials may indicate a recruit's likelihood of completing an enlistment term, they are not necessarily an indicator of ability to perform a military mission.

Another qualification is aptitude for the needed jobs. In aptitude tests given by the Army, men as a group have consistently scored higher than women as a group in three areas: electronics, general mechanics, and motor mechanics. Men and women have scored roughly the same in the general technical and clerical composites, with women scoring slightly higher in the clerical. Some contend that these differences might be expected as a result of differences in the educational and cultural backgrounds of men and women, and that the tests do not reliably predict the performance of properly trained women in fields such as electronics and mechanics. Others note that the issue is not one of the origins of aptitude differences, but the assignments of individuals to the military position for which they are best suited, and that aptitude tests correlate interest, ability, and speed in learning skills.

A related question is the kind of jobs to which women should be assigned. Should jobs be assigned on the basis of aptitude testing without regard to gender, or should special effort be made to train women for jobs in the traditionally non-female occupations even if they do not initially have high aptitudes in these fields? Most women have traditionally been assigned to the administrative and medical occupations in which their aptitudes and preferences are higher. Some favor continuing this policy since most women prefer these jobs and there is room for more women in these areas. Studies by the Department of Defense have shown that enlisted women have much higher rates of retention in the service when they are assigned jobs in the traditionally female skills (administrative and clerical, and medical and dental) and lower retention rates in traditionally non-female occupations (mechanical and electrical equipment repair.) Other observers believe that assigning women in the whole range of military jobs is required for equal opportunity in the military services and, with proper training, women will demonstrate they are capable of performing most military jobs.

A third issue involves the entire range of physiological differences between men and women. One aspect is physical size and strength. The average female recruit has from 50%-70% of the strength, stamina, and muscle mass of the average male recruit with the greatest disparity existing in the female's upper body strength. Since the major physical capacity requirements for many military jobs are deemed to be lifting and carrying, upper body strength is a limiting factor for women in these jobs. The Army has developed criteria for determining whether individuals could meet the strength requirements for each job. Section 543 of the Defense Authorization Act for FY1994 required that for any military occupational specialty for which the Secretary of Defense determines certain physical qualifications are demanded, the Secretary must prescribe specific physical requirements and apply the requirements on a gender-neutral basis. It also required notice to Congress when changes in occupational standards are expected to result in an increase or decrease of at least 10% in the number of females assigned to that occupational field. The U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine conducted a study showing that a physical fitness regiment can substantially increase the strength of women. The study has been criticized because it did not include men under the same experimental conditions, thus making any comparisons futile.

Another aspect of the physiological differences involves pregnancy and childbirth. There is concern that because of these uniquely female conditions, and the related traditional responsibility of mothers for child care, women will lose more time away from duty, be less able to deploy rapidly, and have shorter service careers. (This, in part, explains the lower number of women in senior positions.) With more women, the services are likely to be faced with an increasing number of persons who have sole or primary responsibility for children or dual military couples in which both parents are in the military. Some believe that the military services could meet this challenge by providing adequate child care facilities. Others argue that assuming responsibility for child care would be too costly and is not a part of the defense mission.

Some look beyond individual qualifications to group performance and contend that even if they meet all necessary qualifications and can perform the necessary tasks, women will decrease the efficiency and effectiveness of the armed forces. In their view, having women in large numbers might impair the morale and efficiency of men who have taken pride in the masculinity of their profession. According to reports, a U.S. Army Research Institute conducting unit cohesion tests in 1993 found that cohesion levels were best in all-male units, lower in integrated units, and the lowest in an all-female company. Critics contend that the United States already has a greater percentage of women in its armed forces than almost all other countries and view this as a weakness.

Should Women Be Barred from Combat Positions?

Since the main mission of the armed forces is to be prepared to wage war if it occurs, there is a limit to the extent to which the armed forces can increase the number and expand the assignments of women as long as there are restrictions on assigning women to combat posts. Operation Desert Storm brought new attention to the subject, and the Defense Authorization Act for FY1992 and FY1993 (P.L. 102-190) and for FY1994 (P.L. 103-160) repealed the legislated limitations on assignment of females to combat aircraft and ships. It is now up to each service Secretary to set policy and assign personnel according to needs and abilities. Currently, women are still barred from many combat positions by service policies. Secretary Aspin asked the services to reconsider the exclusion of women from other combat jobs outside of front-line infantry and armor units, and on Jan. 13, 1994, announced new rules that would allow women in more combat support roles but continue to bar women from direct ground combat units.

Section 542 of P.L. 103-160 requires 30-days' advance notice to the Armed Services Committees of Congress before implementing personnel policy changes made to allow women to be assigned to any type of combat unit or class of combat vessel that was not already open to women. Section 542 also requires 90-days' notice before making any changes to the ground combat exclusion policy, including any changes in categories of units or positions open to women.

The services are in a period of revising and adjusting their policies. On July 29, 1994, Secretary of Defense Perry announced plans to open additional jobs to women as a result of the rescinding of the previous Risk Rule effective Oct. 1, 1994. Secretary Aspin had announced the rescinding in a memorandum of Jan. 13, 1994, along with the following new direct ground combat rule and definition:

A. Rule. Service members are eligible to be assigned to all positions for which they are qualified, except that women shall be excluded from assignment to units below the brigade level whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the ground, as defined below.

B. Definition. Direct ground combat is engaging an enemy on the ground with individual or crew served weapons, while being exposed to hostile fire and to a high probability of direct physical contact with the hostile force's personnel. Direct ground combat takes place well forward on the battlefield while locating and closing with the enemy to defeat them by fire, maneuver, or shock effect.

Those who emphasize equal rights and responsibilities say women in the armed forces cannot advance to the top without combat experience. Some carry the argument further to say that women cannot be equal in society as long as they are barred from full participation in all levels of the national security system. In their view, modern weapons have equalized the potential for women in combat, since wars are less likely to be fought on a hand-to-hand basis, and have made it impossible to protect women from the destructiveness of combat; in any event, properly trained women would be able to fight successfully and exempting them from combat is not fair to men.

Those opposed to women in combat contend that national security would be jeopardized because women are not as strong or aggressive as men and their presence would impair the individual and group effectiveness of men. They note the Canadian experience in which women were recruited for the 16-week infantry training course which was identical to the men's course. Forty-five of the 48 women recruited, failed to complete the course. The male failure rate was 30%. Critics also point out that countries such as Israel and Russia, in which women have fought in emergencies, do not now place women in combat positions.

Since women themselves are divided on the issue, one option is to permit women who meet the criteria to be assigned to combat positions, but not unless they volunteer for such assignments. Some women believe this would provide equal opportunity for those who want it while respecting the views of those who see a different role for women. Critics contend that it would be unfair to permit women a choice that is not available to men, and that to make the choice available to both men and women would make it difficult for the services to function, especially in the event of war.

What is the Status of Single-Sex Military Academies?

In July 1976, the U.S. military academies began admitting women. In so doing, a number of accommodations were made to facilitate the living spaces and training of women. In recent years, attempts have been made to integrate women into statesponsored military academies, particularly the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and the Citadel. These attempts have produced mixed results. Following legal challenges to VMI's single-sex tradition, an alternative program for women was established at nearby Mary Baldwin College. Although the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Baldwin program was an acceptable alternative to integrating women at VMI, the Justice Department sought an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. On January 17, 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the VMI case.

Shannon Faulkner applied and was accepted to the Citadel after she had all references concerning her sex removed from the application process. Upon learning that she was a female, the Citadel withdrew it acceptance. After a two and one-half year legal battle, she gained admittance into the state-funded military academy. During her first week, and prior to taking the oath, she fell ill, spent a few days in the infirmary and resigned. In August 1995, 22 women entered an alternative leadership program at Converse College in South Carolina. The Court also rejected the Citadel's appeal to remain a single sex institution.

On June 26, 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (7-1) that the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) can no longer exclude women as a publicly funded institution. Both VMI and the Citadel began to comply. Proponents note that the entrance of women into these academies will end officially-sanctioned discrimination in public academies and provide women with the same opportunities that men have enjoyed. Opponents note that any effort to restructure these programs to accommodate women, including softening or eliminating "adversative training," destroys the very programs that women sought to join. As a result of the VMI decision, the Citadel admitted four women in 1996. Special accommodations have been made at the Citadel. On Sept. 11, 1996, the Washington Post reported that the Justice Dept. was seeking a court injunction to force VMI to begin the process of admitting women. On September 22, 1996, VMI's governing board voted 9-8 to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling. The school's Superintendent stated that it would be unfair to create separate standards, particularly in the areas of physical fitness and dress, for women. Recent reports state that women will be allowed to wear skirts as part of their uniforms.

What Provision for Motherhood?

Secretary of Defense Aspin also asked the implementation committee he established on Apr. 28, 1993, to review the services' parent and family, and pregnancy and deployability policies, in connection with his emphasis on opening more assignments to women and maintaining readiness and effectiveness.

Some opponents of women in combat believe a major issue is the role of women in society as mothers and that keeping them out of combat is a method of safeguarding the human race. Proponents of allowing women in combat agree that safeguarding infants and children is essential, but they believe this can be achieved through flexible deployment policies and adequate child care arrangements. Another view is that women in the military make up such a small proportion of the population that the impact of on society of allowing mothers in combat would be slight, so the issue should be based on the impact on operational effectiveness of the armed forces.

Both men and women may have the primary responsibility for young children who would have to be left behind if they were deployed in combat and orphaned if they were killed. The potentially harmful effect on children was perhaps the principal issue raised by the deployment of women to the Persian Gulf. Many hardship stories were published concerning single parents or military couples sent to Saudi Arabia, leaving their children in the care of relatives, neighbors, or whomever they could find. Defense Department figures indicated that on Feb. 13, 1991, 16,337 single parents and 1,231 military couples with children were deployed in Operation Desert Shield. Thus, in all 17,500 families, children were separated from their parents by the war. (The Services seek to assign military couples to the same post to the extent possible and ordinarily couples would favor this policy, but the war in the Persian Gulf presented a new situation.)

In connection with the war, some Members of Congress sought to bring about policy changes, and Congress directed the Secretary of Defense to study the policies on deployment as they affected family responsibilities and to report to the Armed Services Committees by Mar. 31, 1992. (Section 315, the Persian Gulf Conflict Supplemental Authorization and Personnel Benefits Act of 1991, P.L. 102-25). The House also stated its sense that the armed services should strive for a uniform policy with respect to the deployment of mothers of newborn children, and that to the maximum extent possible such policy should provide that mothers of newborn children under the age of 6 months should not be deployed (Section 317, P.L. 102-25.) On Aug. 21, 1991, the Defense Department directed that military mothers should be deferred from assignments necessitating separation for 4 months after the birth of a child.

In February 1995, Secretary of the Navy John Dalton updated Navy policy concerning pregnancy aboard ships. These new guidelines state that pregnancy is compatible with Navy life and that it cannot be used to shirk sea duty. In addition, any woman who is transferred from ship to shore as a result of pregnancy is expected to be returned to the ship or to an equivalent billet.

In August 1995, the Naval Academy modified its position on midshipmen who become parents. Under the former policy, a midshipman who becomes a parent (or becomes pregnant unless the pregnancy is terminated within 30 days) would be expelled. Under the new policy, midshipmen would be granted a one-year leave of absence. Under the new rule, midshipmen who take a leave of absence would be required to reapply to the academy and provide proof that they are not legally responsible for the child. (Midshipmen therefore are still prohibited from having dependents while attending the academy.) The new policy was praised by women's advocates and family advocates as well as abortion opponents.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment has been a recurrent issue for women in the military, as in civilian occupations. As in other occupations, a main issue is how to prevent and deal with sexual harassment. Some observers believe sexual harassment may be a bigger problem for women in the military, however, because of the traditionally male environment and the smaller proportion of women than in many occupations. Recent data show that the level of criminal behavior in the military, including crimes against women, is lower than in the general population.

In addition to problems during Operation Desert Storm discussed above, incidents concerning the Tailhook Association, a private group of retired and active-duty Navy and Marine Corp aviators, in Las Vegas in September 1991, brought the issue to the forefront. Approximately 25 women, 13 of them naval officers, reportedly were forced to run a gauntlet of men and encountered various assaults. The Navy's initial investigation of the incident was criticized as slow and ineffective, and the Navy turned the investigation over to the Defense Department's Inspector General. On June 26, 1992, Navy Secretary H. Lawrence Garrett 3d resigned his post, saying he accepted full responsibility for the handling of the incident. P.L. 102-638, the supplemental appropriations act signed Sept. 23, 1992, provided an additional $3,400,000 for the Department of Defense Inspector General to expedite the investigation. A report issued Sept. 24, 1992, by Deputy Inspector General Derek J. Vander Shaaf said senior Navy officials had undermined their own investigation to avoid negative publicity, and some officers were reassigned to other duties or forced to retire. The final report, issued Apr. 23, 1993, described the situation as "the culmination of a long-term failure of leadership" and recommended disciplinary action against approximately 140 Navy and Marine officers. On Oct. 15, 1993, the Pentagon announced that Navy Secretary John H. Dalton had ordered one retired Navy admiral reduced in rank and had censured two others for failing to prevent the Tailhook incidents, and had ordered non-punitive administrative actions against 30 other admirals. Administrative penalties were levied in approximately 50 of 140 cases stemming from Tailhook.

On Feb. 8, 1994, military judge Captain William T. Vest Jr. held that Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Frank B. Kelso had manipulated the investigation to shield his involvement, and the court dismissed charges against three Navy officers. (For decision, see Congressional Record, Feb. 10, 1994, p. H460.) On Feb. 10, 1994, the Navy decided not to appeal the dismissal of the last three cases arising from the Tailhook incident. Representative Patricia Schroeder called on the Secretary of Defense to act because no one had been held accountable for the incident. On Feb. 15, 1994, Admiral Kelso announced he would retire two months ahead of schedule. The Senate on April 19 voted to approve Kelso's retirement as a four-star admiral by a vote of 54 to 43; all seven women Senators voted in opposition.

After the Tailhook incident, the Navy established a Standing Committee on Women to assess policies on sexual harassment, and all Navy and Marine personnel were required to complete a 3-hour training course on sexual harassment and Navy policy, which Admiral Jesse Hernandez described as "zero sexual harassment tolerance." The Defense Department and the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services were already monitoring and defining policy on complaints of sexual harassment. On July 20, 1988, the Secretary of Defense issued a memorandum defining sexual harassment and stating Department policy that "sexual harassment is unacceptable conduct and will not be condoned or tolerated in any way." Sexual harassment was defined as "a form of sex discrimination that involves unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when (1) submission to or rejection of such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of a person's job, pay, or career, or (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by a person is used as a basis for career or employment decisions affecting that person, or (3) such conduct interferes with an individual's performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment. Any person in a supervisory or command position who uses or condones implicit or explicit sexual behavior to control, influence, or affect the career, pay, or job of a military member or civilian employee is engaging in sexual harassment."

On July 12, 1991, Secretary Cheney issued a memorandum calling for each component of the Defense Department to implement a program to underscore that sexual harassment would not be tolerated. The program was to include annual statements that explain sexual harassment and policy toward it; training programs to teach how to identify and prevent sexual harassment; priority for prompt and thorough investigation and resolution of each complaint; procedures to hold every manager accountable for providing guidance; and informing personnel that failure to comply with the guidelines would be reflected in performance rating and fitness reports and could lead to loss of benefits and imposition of penalties.

Despite these efforts and the Tailhook incident, sexual harassment has continued to be a problem. In November 1994 several male West Point cadets were disciplined for sexual harassment of female cadets, and the Navy was investigating charges of sexual harassment by male instructors at a Naval Training Center. A GAO report of January 1994 found that nearly 97% of military academy women in 1991, and 80% in 1993, reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment, such as sexist or demeaning comments. At hearings on Mar. 9, 1994, four women, representing each of the services, complained that often the services penalized the women who complain of harassment rather than the men who allegedly harassed them. Conversely, Cmdr. Robert Stumpf was denied promotion to Capt. despite the fact that he was exonerated of wrongdoing at Tailhook. The Senate Armed Services Committee requested "certifying" promotion files for officers suspected of being involved in Tailhook by the Navy when such files are sent to the Committee for consideration. Stumpf's "unflagged" file was submitted and approved by the Committee and the Senate. Later, the Navy notified the Committee of its error and the Committee reversed itself. Navy Secretary Dalton then removed Stumpf's from the promotion list, despite conflicting opinions concerning the Secretary's legal authority to do so. Cmdr. Stumpf filed a suit in Federal court in Alexandria VA, accusing Secretary Dalton of improperly blocking his promotion. On April 19, U.S. District Judge Albert Bryan, Jr. dismissed the suit stating that military promotions are "not the court's business." It remained possible that Cmdr. Stumpf would have been promoted since he was selected by promotion selection board earlier this year. However, following a three-hour discussion with a Navy attorney on June 13, 1996, Cmdr. Stumpf announced his decision to retire from the Navy, effective October 1, 1996. Although the Navy states the three-hour meeting was in preparation for a congressional review, Stumpf and his attorney said it was a confrontational interrogation intended to harass him. Former Secretaries of the Navy and some Navy retirees view Stumpf as a scapegoat for "political correctness."

Stumpf retired on October 1, 1996. Since then, the Senate Armed Services Committee has modified it promotion review process. Under the new process, "Tailhook officers" who previously had been reviewed and promoted will not be subjected to further "Tailhook flaggings" in future promotion considerations.

In spite of the above efforts and policies, charges of sexual harassment have not disappeared. Recent reports of senior military personnel harassing subordinates have surfaced. At a number of Army facilities, including Aberdeen Proving Grounds and Fort Leonard Wood, investigation and court martials are underway or have been completed concerning harassment, fraternization, assault and rape. The Army has acted quickly in investigating these charges, and has established a "hotline" to determine the extent of these behaviors. Although some believe the Army is acting prudently, others have criticized it for acting too slowly and not preventing the harassment in the first place. Still others contend that the creation of the hotline is nothing more than the vehicle for a "witch hunt" employed to mollify feminists at the expense of the accused. Recent data show that the level of harassment reported by service personnel has decreased. Nevertheless, the ability to eliminate harassment entirely may be unattainable.

Authorization and Appropriations Laws: 104th Congress

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996. The House National Security Committee has included language that would revise and codify the Military Family Act of 1985 and the Military Child Care Act of 1989. In addition, the National Security Committee recommended increases in funding for the Family Advocacy Program and the New Parent Support Program. In a departure from previous authorization reports over the last few years, language pertaining specifically to women in the military is noticeably absent in the report.

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997. The House National Security Committee has included language that would require the Secretary of Defense to obtain two independent studies concerning efforts to expand the role of women into the combat arms. In addition, the Secretary is directed to report to the Committee on efforts to expand the role, as well as to explain why "risk of capture" considerations have been excluded from the criteria. This language was excluded by the conferees. The bill has been passed into law.

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