Considerations for Integrating Women into Closed Occupations in the U.S. Special Operations Forces
RAND NATIONAL DEFENSE RESEARCH INST SANTA MONICA CA SANTA MONICA
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The elimination in 2013 of the Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule potentially has opened to women some 15,500 SOF positions in specialties such as Special Forces, Rangers, and SEALs. Potential integration of women into SOF raises a number of issues pertinent to effectiveness of SOF teams, both from the perspective of physical standards as well as ensuring the readiness, cohesion and morale essential to high performing teams. This report has two main objectives. It assesses potential challenges to the integration of women into SOF for unit cohesion, and it provides analytical support in validating SOF occupational standards for SOCOM-controlled positions. Based on our survey of SOF personnel, opposition to opening SOF specialties to women is both deep and wide, with high levels of opposition across all SOF elements. This opposition is also deep-seated and intensely felt. The principal sources of this opposition are the belief among SOF that women do not have the physical and other capabilities to meet the demands of their SOF specialties the belief that the current, high levels of cohesion and trust in their units will suffer if women are allowed in and the importance SOF personnel attach to maintaining high standards, coupled with deep concern that performance standards may nonetheless be lowered to enable women to qualify for their specialties. These survey results are supported and complemented by the results of our focus group discussions with SOF personnel. It is important to note that these findings reflect SOF personnels speculation as to the impact of the integration of women into SOF, rather than actual experiences of SOF personnel, because women are not in those units. Similar concerns were voiced in prior integrations of excluded groups, including the integration of women into other units and occupations.
- Military Forces and Organizations