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DoD proposal regarding women in combat could face congressional scrutiny, says CRS

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A February 2012 Defense Department report makes several proposed changes to policies regarding combat roles for women, which “would essentially limit or repeal, in its entirety, the 1994 DOD policy regarding women serving in combat units,” says a Congressional Research Service report (.pdf) dated April 5.

The CRS report, obtained by the Federation of American Scientists April 6, reviews proposals in a DoD report (.pdf) to Congress on rules restricting the service of female members in the military. According to CRS, DoD “intends” to allow women serving in non-combat military jobs to be co-located with combatant units. The DoD report also would allow women to be assigned to combat units but only at the battalion level, versus the previous larger brigade, says CRS.

The third proposal is that DoD “assess the suitability and relevance of the direct ground combat unit assignment prohibition to inform policy decisions.” And finally, the DoD recommends the pursuit gender-neutral physical standards for occupational specialties currently closed to women due to physical requirements.

“The use of the term ‘gender-neutral physical standards’ raises questions depending on how it is defined,” say CRS report authors. “In the past, the Services have used this and similar terms to suggest that men and women must exert the same amount of energy in a particular task, regardless of the work that is actually accomplished by either.”

Anytime the services propose a change, it can face congressional scrutiny, says CRS.

“Congress may accept any proposed changes or seek to subject such changes to certain limitations. Conversely, Congress may consider that any proposed changes remain too restrictive concerning the availability of combat roles for women,” say CRS report authors.

For more:
- download the CRS report (.pdf)
- download the DoD report to Congress (.pdf)

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