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Rushing to Failure Impacts of a Gender-Neutral Military on Combat Effectiveness

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Technical Report

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Air War College, Air University Maxwell Air Force Base

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Profoundly influenced by two post-911 protracted wars which highlighted the expanded role of women in combat, civilian leaders have pursued a gender-neutral military. The premise is women are not only qualified but bring a wealth of diverse talents that should be applied across all disciplines within the Armed Forces and, as true equals, women should be afforded the opportunity to ascend to more senior ranks in greater numbers. However, policy makers appear to have overlooked decades of medical research and evidence that strongly counter this seemingly straight-forward logic. Arguably, integrating women in the Marine Corps infantry will degrade readiness, deplete a talented pool of women from the total force, and erode combat effectiveness. Physiological differences affect attrition and readiness when exposing women to training that accentuates the disparities between genders. Given the Marine Corps distinct approach to its mission, and comparatively small size, it already has the lowest percentage of women across all the services. As such, the Marine Corps methodology of training its force, coupled with the physical demands of the direct ground combat arms specialties, will lead to a talent management issue. The potential outcome is a further reduction in the number of women in the service resulting in a less integrated and less diverse force. Ramifications of failure include high attrition, which will ultimately drive the redress of standards to correct discrepancies and disparities between genders, thereby degrading combat effectiveness. As an alternative, Congress should enact law prohibiting women from integration into direct ground combat arms specialties and allow military leaders to channel resources for recruiting and retaining women in the roles where they are best-qualified and fully capable of performing. This would permit the services to capitalize on their strengths and afford servicewomen the opportunity at more senior levels.

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