WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- A group of conservative women has called for the abolition of a Pentagon advisory panel that advocates the sexual integration of the military at almost every level, including the submarine service and units that could be engaged in ground combat.
The driving force behind "gender quotas, pregnancy policies that subsidize single parenthood and create deployability problems, incremental steps to force women into land combat, and Clinton-era social policies that undermine discipline" is the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, Elaine Donnelly told a press conference in Arlington Thursday.
Donnelly is president of the Center for Military Readiness, a Michigan-based public policy organization that specializes in personnel issues. Donnelly is a former member of the committee, which is known by its acronym, DACOWITS.
DACOWITS' Pentagon fact sheet says the committee was established in 1951 by then-Secretary of Defense George C. Marshall. A roster for the year 2001 shows 34 members -- 33 civilian women and a retired male Air Force lieutenant general. The Secretary of Defense appoints members "to provide recommendations relevant to the optimum utilization
of women in America's armed forces and on quality of life issues impacting the mission readiness of our military women."
Members are selected, according to the fact sheet, "on the basis of their strong records in civic leadership and their outstanding reputations in business, education, the professions, or public service." Its budget for 2001 was $240,000, with an additional allocation of $149,000 for travel. These funds do not include the salaries of its military staff of six.
A defense official designated by the Pentagon to answer queries about DACOWITS said the committee of volunteers "remains one of several sources of valued advice to the Secretary of Defense. They generally stay above the fray," said the official, who asked not to be named. "If you had called DACOWITS, they would have just sent you back to me.
"They have a proud 50-year history. They were established by George Marshall, the distinguished soldier-statesman," he said.
Asked to respond to Donnelly's charge that the committee has changed over the years into a feminist lobbying organization whose goals are not necessarily in keeping with the best interests of U.S. armed forces, the official reiterated his statement, adding that DACOWITS is not a policy-making body.
The official provided electronic links to information that included a history of DACOWITS policy recommendations. Recently the panel has urged the Navy to redesign it Virginia-class submarines to accommodate "mixed-gender" crews, has recommended "in the strongest possible terms that the Army open Multiple Launch Rocket Systems to the assignment of women, and that the U.S. Special Operations Command "accept and deploy mixed-gender Special Operations Forces rotary wing (helicopter) aviation crews."
The role of such crews is vividly depicted in the hit movie "Black Hawk Down."
"The Center for Military Readiness is aware that female soldiers are being trained in certain surveillance units of newly forming Army Interim Brigade Combat Teams," Donnelly said. "These are land combat units, designed to fight for intelligence in hostile environments like the caves of Afghanistan or the streets of Somalia. Women are not eligible to serve in these all-male land combat units, but Army resources are being misused to train women in them anyway. The policy started under President Bill Clinton, but President Bush and Secretary (Donald) Rumsfeld must bring it to an end.
"Discontinuing the DACOWITS, and the foolish policies it promotes, would send a message of support for dedicated military women who understand the realities of war. Their interests have not been well served by civilian feminists and their allies whose demands could cost lives in a war that America must win," Donnelly said.
Charmaine Crouse Yoest, national advisory board member of the Independent Women's Forum, noted what she called an "irony." On Sunday, she said, "we will gather as a nation to watch and cheer our gladiatorial substitute (for war), combat lite, the Superbowl. And, of course, there will be nary a women on either team. Were a woman to suddenly join the combatants on the field, the spectators would gasp and, as one, rise up in fear for her safety.
"And yet, we now send women into combat. A truth that we intuitively grasp and automatically accept in the sports arena we blithely ignore and rationalize away for the military."
Yoest said, "Somehow, the DACOWITS lunacy has remained under the media radar. At the same time DACOWITS is pushing for more female fighters, their Equality Management subcommittee is busy sleuthing out any 'sexist behavior' and 'crude and offensive remarks' that might offend our women warriors."
Sandy Rios said that as president of Concerned Women for America, she represented nearly 600,000 women, many of whom have sons of military age "who we are willing to send in defense of our country, but not willing to sacrifice on the altar of political correctness."
She said women in combat put not only themselves but also others at risk. "This is no longer a power game where ambitious women can try to advance their careers. This is a matter of life and death."
Lori Waters, executive director of the Eagle Forum, said, "The feminists have intimidated our military, using a training system based on gender-norming that rewards effort rather than achievement. ... The Pentagon can no longer be a social experimentation laboratory."
Independent Women's Forum President Nancy M. Pfotenhauer said that women in U.S. forces prove their worth every day in many important activities, but the "radical feminist" push for full integration of women into combat roles violates common sense.
Michelle Easton, president of the Claire Boothe Luce Policy Institute, characterized her organization as one that focuses on holding up strong women as role models.
"Since the horror of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, the feminization of the military is no longer just an interesting debate point for talk shows," Easton said. "If we continue to allow the social engineers, the feminists and the politicians to experiment with women in the military, our nation will not have the security and preparation that it needs for the future."