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The Registration and Drafting of Women in 1980
Position Paper of the National Organization for Women
February 6, 1980
I. NOW's Position on the Current Proposal to Institute a Compulsory
Registration of Young Peopl.
The drive to reinstate compulsory registration of young people
and to ultimately reinstate the draft was begun almost immediately
after the draft was ended and the All-Volunteer Force (AVF) was crea-
ted in 1973 (registration of young American males ended in 1976).
Four reasons generally appear in arguments to reinstate the draft:
(1) it would be required in the case of a major war; (2) the declining
youth population will create serious problems in meeting personnel
requirements; (3) should a national youth training and work program be
instituted, military service would be part of the program; and (4)
considerable savings in costs could be realized. Underneath the sur-
face of these arguments are the racist and sexist attitudes which
pervade our society, coupled with undisguised economic exploitation.
A fear frequently expressed is that the army is rapidly becoming
a black man's army--34% of Army recruits in 1978 were black--with the
unstated racist views that blacks,are inferior "raw material" and
therefore inferior soldiers. Hand-in-glove with these racist attitudes
are the sexist attitudes towards women in the military. Female par-
ticipation in the military has increased dramatically under the AVF
to a projected 13% of the active forces in 1983. Women constituted
less than 1% of the draft army.
Poverty has always been one of the features of military life,
especially in the lower ranks. This situation has been somewhat miti-
gated in the AVF by the pay increases required to attract volunteers
with the result that personnel costs, in the view of some, have made
serious dents in funds available for hardware. A return to the draft
is viewed, again by some, as the easiest way to reverse this trend.
Myths about the All-Volunteer Force are abundant. Contrary to
myth, the active forces of the AVF have been within 1.5% of the con-
gressionally authorized limits since 1974. The AVF has superior mental
ability, is better educated, has less discipline problems, and has pro-
portionally the ;ame number of people from the lower economic levels,
but a higher percentage of minorities, compared to the old conscripted
service of the Vietnam War period. The Department of Defense itself
in a December 1978 report stated in unequivocal terms that the AVF was
superior to the drafted force.
Why then the need to register? -We are told it will show the USSR
that we mean business, and that it will increase our ability to mobi-
lize. Actually, registration saves only a few days. And although it
sounds strong to Americans who want to show that we are serious, in
reality it proves nothing to the USSR which appreciates fully how little
names on a list actually mean.
NOW is against the registration of young people precisely because
it is a response which stimulates an environment of preparation for
war. Too many of us still remember the senseless killing and destruc-
tion in Vietnam--which we also protested--and believe that violence is
the "ultimate solution" taught most typically to males in our society.
We reject that solution, and believe that too many are willing to wage
war with others' lives. National defense and self defense is one
thing; aggression for economic self-interest is quite another. To
fight a war for oil is to deny that the inherent rights of all human
beings must take precedence over the economic self-interest of a very
few. We are committed to working' for the day when our nation and our
world priorities will be people --a day when our domestic problems are
not solved by military aggression.
If the objective is really to increase the number of people capa-
ble of being mobilized in a short period of time and to improve the
quality of the national defense, the easiest way to accomplish this
without increasing the war atmosphere in the world and without involun-
tarily disrupting the lives of young people is to remove the sex
discriminatory restrictions on women in the military. Without these
discriminatory practices,women recruits would be in far greater supply
and of a higher caliber than additional male recruits. Under existing
practices, female numbers are depressed to a current 8% of the armed
forces (programmed to increase to about 13% by 1983). The current dis-
criminatory practices are based upon outmoded concepts of both women's
role and combat. Today's military is highly technological. The mili-
tary is more in need of brains than brawn. Moreover, physiological
limitations go both ways: a small, agile person is more advantageous
than a large, heavy person in many situations.
What is the impact of sex discrimination on women in the current
military? Women are given fewer educational, training and advancement
opportunities than men in the largest single vocational'training insti-
tution in our country, the military. Approximately 83% of enlisted
women are in the four lowest pay grades as compared to 68% of men. The
four highest pay grades hold 23% of enlisted men and only 3% of enlisted
women. Officer training programs and many specialties are closed to .
women except in token numbers. Using even the most inclusive measures,
75% of the positions in the military are unavailable to women because
they are defined as combat-related or because they are reserved to pro-
vide rotational and career progression slots for men.
What would be the impact on women and the nation if women were
excluded from the registration or ultimately from a draft? Currently,
more women are capable and willing to serve than are recruited. Many
more will be turned away to the detriment of women and the military if
the limited progress toward equality in the armed forces is halted.
Female numbers in the military would decrease or be held to current
projections. During the last draft, women were held to 2% of the armed
services. A signal would be sent to the armed services that women do
not have to be treated equally. Women serving in combat areas would
simply be classified once again as non-combatants or civilians and
asked to serve for fewer benefits and lesser training, as was done in
Women have always served. The question is whether they will serve
equally or at greater risk to themselves. In modern warfare, the front
line and combat zone are difficult to determine. People behind the so-
called front lines are nevertheless serving at great risk. Women are
serving at even greater risk because they have less combat training.
The modern military depends upon a high degree of technology.
Not only in the modern civilian labor force do women fill many of the
technically trained positions, but also in the current military. Women
are simply necessary and the need for w mnin is increasing as the supply
of men decreases and the need for highly qualified and trained or train-
able people increases.
The current debate over foxholes in Korea and the trenches of
World War I is as obsolete to warfare in 1980 as the structured lines
of the British Redcoats in the American wilderness. Warfare has changed
and so has the position of women in education, training and the labor
We will serve. We will serve, for one reason, because the military
has difficulty attracting sufficient numbers of people who are educated
and technically trainable. One half of the pool of talented and trained
youth of our country is women. Moreover, many personnel categories re-
quired by the modern armed services--clerical workers, keypunch operators,
computer specialists, communications experts, administrative personnel--
are more readily found already trained in the female population. If
there is a true national emergency we will serve and we will do so in
all capacities. The myth that we are not needed and not first class
citizens must end right now.
Those who oppose the registration and draft for females say they
seek to protect women. But omission from the registration and draft
ultimately robs women of the right to first class citizenship and paves
the way to underpaying women all the remaining days of our lives. More-
over, because men exclude women here, they justify excluding women.from
the decision-making of our nation.
When the word "protection" is used, we know it costs women a great
deal. In this case, it fortifies a pattern of sex discrimination in
our nation which manifests itself in many ways. One rape occurs every
eight minutes. One out of every four American married women is a vic-
tim of wife beating. Eight out of ten murder victims in the United
States are female. Women earn 59 for every $1 a man earns in the same
40 hour week. The 13 million American women 65 years of age and over
have an average income of less than $3000 a year.
Do women know violence? Yes: women are the most frequent victims
of violence. We must not forget that the great wars in Europe have
visited far greater hardship upon the civilian population, largely un-
trained and unprotected women and children, than upon the military
forces of the combatants..
Do women know hardships? Yes: the cost of discrimination to
women is too dear -- we pay with our lives.
War is senseless. Neither the lives of young men nor young women
should be wasted. But if we cannot stop the killing, we know we cannot
choose between our sons or daughters. The choice robs women as well as
men. In the long and short run, it injures us all.
II. The Current Role
of Women in the Military
WORLD WAR II
350,000 women served in many traditional roles
and in non-traditional roles as pilots, truck-
drivers, airplane mechanics, gunnery instructors,
air traffic controllers, naval air navigators,
Women were limited by law to 2% of the total
enlisted services. Women officers were limited
by law to 10% of total enlisted women.
As the result of military regulations severely
restricting the positions available to them,
women remained less than 2% of the armed services.
The draft terminated and the All-Volunteer Force
was established. The armed forces began to in-
creasingly utilize women as a factor in making
the All-Volunteer Force work. The number of
women increased from 2% to approximately 8% of
the total armed services today. Despite these
increases, women continue to be restricted by
law, regulations, practices and policies to a
small fraction of the military. The restrictions
are based largely on the exclusion of women from
jobs defined as combat-related and the reservation
of numerous slots for men for career progression
and rotation purposes.
PRESENT STATUS OF WOMEN IN THE MILITARY
Women comprise approximately 8% of the total armed
services. Women are projected by the Department
of Defense to be 13% of the armed services by 1983.
Increased participation for women in the military
has also meant increased participation for minority
women although the only group of minority women
currently fairly well represented is black women
who comprise 19% of total enlisted women. Hispanic
women are a little more than 3% of enlisted women
and Native American and Asian American women are
less than 2h%. The restricted number of women
officers and the token number of women promoted to
truly significant rank is especially apparent
when it comes to minority women who have not even
reached the level of tokenism.
Women recruits are performing well in diverse
military occupational groups including electrical
equipment repair, communications and intelligence,
other technical, administrative and clerical,
crafts, service and supply, and medical and dental
QUALITY: HIGHER EDUCATIONAL LEVEL
With the growing complexity of'the modern techno-
logical military, high school completion is the
best single measure of potential to succeed in
the armed services, according to the Department
of Defense. A significantly greater percentage
of women recruits have high school diplomas.
% Recruits 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978
Female 93.9 94.4 95.2 91.7 90.6 91.1 NOT 91.0
Male 68.3 66.8 66.5 58.1 62.5 66.7 AVAIL. 75.0
HIGHER MILITARY ENTRANCE EXAMINATION SCORES
Women recruits score on the average 10 POINTS
HIGHER on entrance tests.
EQUAL OR HIGHER PROMOTION RATE
Women are being promoted at the same or higher
rates than men in all military occupations open
EQUAL OR BETTER PERFORMANCE AT MILIT ARY SERVICE
Women have been admitted to the Army, Navy and
Air Force Academies since 1976. In this year's
first graduating clauses with women, the women's
performance has equalled and often surpassed that
of their male counterparts.
FEWER DISCIPLINARY PROBLEMS
The average woman recruit is much less likely than
a male recruit to become a discipline problem.
Women lose far less time than men for absence with-
out leave, desertion, alcoholism and drug abuse.
PHYSIOLOGICAL On the average, American men are taller, heavier
DIFFERENCES: and stronger than American women. This fact is
cited as proof that men should dominate the mili-
tary and be the only ones in combat roles. This
unwarranted assumption ignores four major points:
1. SIZE IS NOT ALWAYS A FACTOR
Technological advances continue to diminish the importance
of brute strength. The "person who pushes the button" may
be in a combat role, but does not require extraordinary
strength to carry out her/his duties.
Even many of the "traditional" combat roles,'such as those
in the Air Force and Navy, do not now and never have required
the brute strength allegedly associated with combat.
If the truth be known, in most close combat a gun is the great
equalizer. Arid our experience in ground combat with Asian
men (who are on the average sina]ler than American women) in
Korea and Vietnam demonstrated that. smaller men can be the'
victor because of skill or training.
2. SIZE CAN BE A FACTOR -- A PLUS FOR WOMEN
There is no reason behind the blanket assumption that "bigger
is always better" in the military arena. The proliferation
of advanced equipment installed in planes, ships, tanks and
other land vehicles is turning "elbow room" into a scarce
commodity. A soldier with a smaller physique becomes a
valuable asset in these situations. In many cases, it is
the small, lithe and agile soldier who can do the job more
proficiently, escape the space more easily, and better fit
the needs of today's (and tomorrow's) armed forces.
3. WEAPONRY AND EQUIPMENT CAN BE ADAPTED TO FIT THE NEEDS
OF THE AVERAGE FEMALE SOLDIER
Our military has already faced similar needs in adapting U.S.
military equipment for use by allied forces whose average
sized male is smaller than the average American male. Amer-
ican industry has made great strides in adapting equipment
and clothing originally,designed for use by men in the con-
struction and telecommunications fields to fit the needs of
the highly productive female worker in non-traditional
4. FINALLY, THE FACT THAT THE AVERAGE MAN IS STRONGER THAN THE
AVERAGE WOMAN DOES NOT MEAN THAT ALL MEN ARE STRONGER THAN
First, it has been proven that the differences narrow or
disappear when women receive adequate training. And, more
significantly, no one disputes that some women are stronger
than some men. Assigning jobs by gender instead of by
ability simply does not make sense. What it does make is a
less qualified military. If the armed services are to oper-
ate to their fullest capacity, they must classify people by
their ability to do the job -- not by their gender.
The first myth to be dispelled is that women have not been in combat.
According to the Women's Equity Action League Educational and Legal
"During World War II, 200,000 military women in the
Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard served as
nurses, mechanics, truck drivers, parachute riggers,
typists, radio operators, technicians and air traf-
fic controllers. They performed bravely and compe-
tently under hostile fire.
American military women landed on the beaches at
Normandy, France as part of the 'D-Day' allies inva-
sion. Army women travelled with the Fifth Army close
to the front lines during the invasion of Italy.
Army women also served in the South Pacific and North
Africa. They received many military decorations for
bravery, including the Purple Heart--awarded to those
wounded by enemy fire.
Nearly 100 Army and Navy nurses were prisoners of war
for three years in the Philippines during World War II.
Over 7,000 women served their country in Southeast
Asia during the Vietnam War and received combat pay.
Some of these military women died as a result of enemy
Women have served and will continue to serve in combat environments
under the same conditions, suffering the same risks and the same in-
juries as men. Playing the language game of classifying an army
nurse or a Women's Air Service Pilot as noncombatant does not change
the fact that they are in combat. The reality is that women have
served and died for their country and will continue to do so. The
question is whether they will do so with the same training, benefits
and salary as mnen.
In contrast to emotionalism and unsubstantiated generalities, many
tests have been done by the armed forces in the late 1970s to assess
the capabilities of women in combat roles:
WOMEN CONTENT IN UNITS FORCE DEVELOPMENT TEST (MAX WAC)
Purpose: To test the effect of placing women in combat
support and combat service support units
Exercise: 72 hours under normal field conditions
Results: The performance of men and women with no prior
civilian experience and equal military training
The units' effectiveness was not impaired by
presence of up to 35% women soldiers.
NOTE: 35% was the maximum tested in this
particular exercise; there is no
evidence it is the actual "maximum."
REFORGER EXERCISES (Return of Forces to Germany Exercise)
To test the performance of enlisted women in
extended field situations
A 30 day field exercise involving 1 weeks of
war games in Germany. Ten percent of the com-
bat support and combat service support units
were comprised of women.
Women's skills were as good or better than the
Women had the stamina and endurance to maintain
performance standards in the field equal to
those of men
Women were highly proficient
Women were highly motivated
NAVY U.S.S. SANCTUARY
To test the effectiveness of women at sea
60 enlisted women served on board the U.S.S.
Women performed every shipboard function with
the same ease, expertise and dedication as men.
Morale was high
Response of male and female sailors was favorable
OPERATION BOLD EAGLE
A guerilla warfare and airborne assault exercise
150 women and 4000 men participated
Women were exposed to the same hardships in the
field as men and they performed very well
ENGINEERING LAB TEST
To test the ability of women to operate 105 and
155mm artillery howitzers
13 women office workers participated in a
three-week physical traiiiin) program and
were then assigned to the "heaviest, noisiest
job in the army." They loaded and fired the
howitzers and met a tough rate-of-fire test of
four rounds a minute for three minutes, then
one round a minute for the 155mm and ten rounds
a minute for three minutes for the 105, followed
by three rounds a minute on the same weapon.
The women were rated "professional, outstanding,
The above tests demonstrate that women are capable of performing
satisfactorily or better in combat-related positions. Those who
would restrict women from combat based on the fear that the quality
of our military would be adversely affected should, rather, advocate
women in the armed forces. Selection and training of soldiers based
on ability rather than gender would result in a better quality mili-
tary than could be achieved by arbitrary exclusion of one-half the
WOMEN SOLDIERS LOSE LESS ACTIVE DUTY TIME THAN MEN
MYTH: Women, because of pregnancy and menstruation,
will lose more active duty time than men.
The evidence is that there is little difference
in the time lost by women and men and that, in
fact, it appears that less time is lost by women.
This is true even when pregnancy, the largest
single factor in lost time for women, is included.
The only definitive lost time study was done in
the Navy and it shows that men lose twice as much
time as women.
THE RETENTION RATE OF WOMEN SOLDIERS IS HIGHER
MYTH: Women are more likely to drop out of the service
(because of pregnancy, marriage, or alleged lack
of ability) thereby wasting valuable training
invested in them.
Women are being retained in the services at higher
rates than men.
COMPARISON OF LOST TIME FOR ENLISTED MEN AND WOMEN IN THE NAVY
Lost Days as a % of Total
Lost Time Category Women Men
Alcohol Abuse .09 .12
Drug Use .02 .12
Unauthorized Absence (AWOL) .05 .24
Returned Deserters .07 .62
Abortion .03 0
Pregnancy .37 0
TOTAL .63 1.10
Percentage of 1971-76 Enterees Still on Active Duty as of 6/76
Year of Entry Female Male
1971 22.8 17.6
1972 28.0 23.4
1973 43.1 37.5
1974 61.6 58.3
1975 75.9 74.6
1976 87.7 87.4
Of those recruited in 1973-1976, 64% of the men remained on active
duty as of June 1978 compared with 70% of the women.
ECONOMICS OF WOMEN IN THE MILITARY
Opening the doors to more women in the military would prove cost-
effective. The simple fact is that it costs far less to recruit
high quality women than to recruit high quality men.
Because of the restrictions on the number of women the services will
accept, highly qualified women are recruited without effort while
less qualified men are sought with incentives and high cost adverti-
sing campaigns. Excluding enlistment bonuses, the costs for an Army
High Quality Men ---------- $ 3,700
High Quality Women ---------- $ 150
Low Quality Men ---------- $ 150
Many people believe that the military spends more money per female
recruit because of "difficulties" in training, housing, clothing
and recruiting women. This is simply not true. The average woman
in the military costs the Defense Department about 8% less than the
average man according to an often-quoted study on Women and the
Military by Binkin and Bach fot the Brookings Institution. The
average annual per capital costs of providing medical care, housing
and transportation are approximately $982 less for women than for men.
Despite the sex discrimination which restricts them to few and trun-
cated career paths, the military is attractive monetarily to many
women. Especially for those women who pursue traditional careers,
the average pay for enlisted military personnel far surpasses the
average pay for civilian women who earn 59' for every $1 earned by
men. The services, unlike the private sector, do pay men and women
equally if they are of the same grade, longevity, and skills. Like
the private sector, however, enlisted women are clustered in the
lower pay grades and are under-represented in the higher pay grades.
Comparison of Mean Annual Earnings of Civilian Year-round
Full-time Wage and Salary Workers with at Least Four Years of High
School but Less than Four Years of College by Sex and Age, and
Military Enlisted Personnel by Age, Calendar Year 1975
. 12000 S Li
8000 Female Civilian
Source: Binkin-Bach Study -- The Brookings Institution
25-29 30-34 35-39 40-44 45-49 50-54
CHARACTERISTICS OF MALE & FEMALE RECRUITS*
Average Age 18.9
Percent Married 11.6
Percent Black 18.5
Percent Hispanic Avl
Percent High School 62.9
Percent Still on Active 64.0
Duty, 30 June 1978
Marginal Recruiting Costfor $3,700
High Quality Army Recruit
*Fiscal Years 1973-1976
Department of Defense Statistics
III. Registration and Draft
Registration means simply compiling a list of all people (male,
female, or both) who happen to fall within a certain age category,
e.g., 18 to 22 year-olds. It does not mean classifying these people
as to suitability for military service. Thus registration is only a
crude first step in generating an effective military force. Registra-
tion at the present time would save only 13 days of the months required
to produce military personnel with even minimal training if a draft
were to actually follow registration. This is the real effect of
registration and its relevance to our military preparedness.
A draft subsequent to registration would mean the classification,
induction and training for military service of a large fraction of all
young people in a certain age group. It is important to remember that
every draft has included exemptions and deferments. Although one can
no longer openly buy one's way out of the draft as during the Civil
War, large numbers of men are exempted because of their physical or
mental condition, because they support more than a certain (arbitrary)
number of family members, or because they possess critical skills.
Deferments have been granted for completion of education and training
and for employment in fields deemed vital to the war effort. Since
our armed forces have been staffed on an all-volunteer basis since
1973, a draft represents a complete reversal in policy.
Some would have us believe that the shortcomings of the All Volun-
teer Force have been so serious that the draft is the only recourse.
How does the AVF compare to the pre-1973 draft military? A 1978 Depart-
ment of Defense study of the AVF showed it to be superior to the draft
military with respect to:
1. Educational Level -- One measure of the increased educa-
tional level is the percentage of high school graduates.
This has increased from 68% of those entering the services
in 1972, the last year of the draft, to 77% of a41 recruits;
in 1978. Other measures, such as the percentage of the
enlisted force with some college education, also show an
increased education level in the AVF.
2. Mental Quality -- Written test scores show that mental
quality of recruits in the AVF is better than that in the
draft era forces. One illustration of this improvement
is the decrease from 14% to 5% of personnel in the lowest
mental quality category during the years the AVF has been
3. Discipline -- Military discipline as measured by court-
martial rates, non-judicial punishment rates and desertion
rates has steadily improved since the inception of the AVF.
For example, desertion rates have dropped from 25 per 1000
in 1973 to 18 per 1000 in 1977.
Initial concerns that the AVF would be less representative of
society as a whole than the draft forces have not materialized. Geo-
graphic representation and family income profiles almost precisely
duplicate those of the draft. In both, the very rich and the very
poor are under-represented.
Since the inception of the AVF, however, minority participation
in the military has increased significantly. The 1978 study of the
Department of Defense on the AVF did not publish statistics on percen-
tages of all minority service persons, but did publish this data for
blacks. In the AVF, the percentage of blacks continues to increase,
both in officer and enlisted ranks. By the end of 1978, blacks com-
prised 17% of total active duty armed forces personnel: 19% of
enlisted personnel and 4% of officers. In the Army, blacks comprised
7% of officers, 29% of enlisted personnel, and 34% of new recruits,
an all-time high. In fiscal years 1964 to 1972, before the AVF came
into existence, blacks comprised an average of 10.8% of total enlisted
active duty forces.
The disproportionate numbers of black volunteers are partially
the result of job discrimination and blocked mobility patterns in the
larger society. Indeed, many civil rights leaders believe that a
return to the draft would in fact threaten job opportunities for blackE
in the military.
As to cost savings, in contrast to the claims that a draft force
would be far less expensive, it was estimated in the 1978 Department
of Defense study that the savings in returning to a draft force would
be only about 0.2% of the Department of Defense budget. According to
the 1978 Department of Defense study: "Considering that the career
force has always been [staffed] by volunteers, the only savings one
should anticipate are those associated with recruiting, paying, and
training the first-term members. Those savings would be partially
offset by the cost of operating the conscription system. Annual net
savings could be as high as $250 million per year, not considering any
change in pay rates."
Pay rates are, however, a critical factor. Draft advocates may
be planning to "save" money in personnel by freezing or reducing pay
at lower enlistment levels. The point is that the major way the draft
could result in significant cost savings would be through gross ex-
ploitation of draftees considering that junior pay is barely at min:.num
Considerable concern was expressed during planning for the AVF
that recruitment alone could not maintain the required staffing levels.
This has not proved to be the case. Since 1974 staffing levels in the
AVF have been within 1.5% of those authorized by Congress.
Other arguments for resuming the draft foc is on the understaffed
reserve forces. Department of Defense statmner. ts indicate that the
origin of this problem lies in the initial issunption by the military
that the major problems in the All-Volunteer F',rce would be with the
active components. These therefore receive,' most of the management
attention and the reserves were left to languish. Defense spokesmen
have stated that increased attention to the reserves will undoubtedly
yield better results and that until such efforts are made it would be
reckless to advocate conscription to fill vacancies in the reserve.
The establishment of the All-Volunteer Force is in line with our
tradition of using the draft only in time of war. Since no case can
be made for any deficiency in the All-Volunteer Force, it is legitimate
to question the motivation of those pushing for a return to the draft.
It is even more difficult to argue for the wasted expenditures and
efforts of registration without a draft.
IV. The Registration and Drafting of Women
NOW opposes the registration and drafting of anyone. The elimina-
tion of sex discrimination in the military would, in and of itself,
markedly improve our national defense. However, to adequately utilize
women, as volunteers or as draftees, sex discriminatory practices must
be eliminated. In fact, if the current restrictive legislation,
regulations, policies and procedures are maintained in the military,
the percentage of women cannot increase much beyond 15% whether or
not there is a draft of women.
If a draft and registration is instituted, NOW believes it must
include women. As a matter of fairness and equity, no draft or regis-
tration that excludes one half of the population in 1980 simply on the
basis of gender could be deemed fair. Young people who have common
aspirations, hopes and education will resent women being excluded.
Women will pay with more limited opportunities and rights. Our nation
will pay by limiting its resources. All will pay by the constant ex-
clusion of females and their priorities from the nation's decision-
Any registration or draft that excluded females would be challenge(
as an unconstitutional denial of rights under the Fifth Amendment. Two
developments since the termination of the Vietnam-era draft weigh
heavily on the question of women's inclusion in any future registration
and draft and lead to the conclusion t.iL excluding women would be
The first of these was the establishmnntt in 1976 by the Supreme
Court of a more stringent review standard for sex-based classification
and the subsequent application of this standard to legislation con-
taining sex-based classifications. The second development is the
consistently high performance of women in all military categories to
which they have been admitted as the result of recent changes in mili-
There is no doubt that any attempt to institute registration and
a draft excluding women would result in legal action. There are also
very substantial grounds for believing that the courts would find any
such attempt in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth
Between 1980 and 1992 the pool of young males will decrease.by
almost 25 percent. This drop, coupled with the increasing complexity
of modern weapons and the even more limited pool of technically
trained or trainable youth, leaves little room for rational argument
against women's increasing participation in the military, on either
a voluntary or involuntary basis. The military simply will not be
able to operate without utilizing women.
Any draft, whether it includes women or not, will have deferments
and exemptions based upon such matters as physical and mental health,
specialized skills, or family dependents and obligations. The draft
has usually been applied to young people, the overwhelming majority
of whom are not married and do not as yet have family responsibilities.
In any case, if women were included, such exemptions would have to be
written to be applicable to either sex. Congress would retain the
power to define the exemptions from compulsory service which then would
be applied to both men and women.
The issues of fairness, legality and need notwithstanding, the
full integration of women in the military cannot. occur until sex dis-
crimination is routed out. The April 1977 report of the U.S. Commis-
sion on Civil Rights found 140 provisions relating to the armed forces
in Title 10 of the U.S. Code which contained sex-based references.
Not until discriminatory regulations, laws, practices and policies
are off the books will women gain equal access to the opportunities
available in the military.
V. Sex Discrimination in the Military
Sex discrimination is rampant in the military. The single largest
reason given is the exclusion of women from combat roles. In reality,
sex discrimination in the military serves to protect male career lives
and is based on stereotypic assumptions about the inferiority of women.
In considering women in combat there have been two basic questions:
(1) Should women be exposed to the conditions of combat and war, and
(2) Will women in combat adversely affect the proficiency of the combat
Clearly, neither men nor women should be exposed to war. It is
obvious, however, that without the establishment of a war-free society
it is impossible to shield women from the violence of war either as
civilians, soldiers, or as relatives or loved ones of both.
Women, as members of the civilian population, have always suffered
great damage as the front lines of war merge with their homes. If
civilian women have been unable to escape from war, it is surely
evident that women in the military have been repeatedly exposed to
combat conditions. Although women have been barred from combat on
paper, they have often served in the midst of it, and been exposed to
the same dangers and hardships as their male counterparts. Women's
Air Service Pilots, nurses, medical technicians, and many more have
served and died for their country. Women are assigned to combat sup-
port and combat service support units, and function side by side with
men. "Behind the lines" jobs are hardly safe in a world where there
are fewer and fewer known "lines."
Moreover, the hysteria at the thought of sending women into com-
bat must be placed in its proper perspective. In the last draft, less
than 1% of the men eligible were inducted and subsequently assigned to
a combat unit. If women were added to the pool, the statistical chance
of an individual being drafted and assigned to a combat unit--whether
or not there was a female combat exclusion--would be negligible.
The second question that is inherent in any plea to keep women
out of combat is whether the presence of women soldiers will lower the
fighting quality of the military. Again, clearly, women soldiers who
have been trained have demonstrated their capabilities. The numerous
tests cited in Section II are proof that those persons who serve in
combat must be chosen on the basis of ability rather than gender if
the military is to be as proficient as possible.
Thus, it is clear that there are no genuine reasons to exclude
women from combat. There are, however, grave effects on the opportu-
nities available to military women based on the unnecessary combat
The chart below, entitled "Service Data Submission on Potential
Use of Women," indicates the Department of Defense's explanation of
restricted positions for women. The single largest reason for closing
positions to women is indicated in line B/C -- combat and combat.
support. Combat restrictions do not now and never have "protected"
women. They do assure that military women can never reach the same
posts as men or follow unlimited career paths. They do serve to
restrict women from 43% of the total military positions. In the
Navy, for example, limiting women to non-combat ships allows only a
fraction of women to serve in a "warfare" specialty, thereby insuring
inequities in career opportunities and assignments.
SERVICE DATA SUBMISSION ON POTENTIAL USE OF WOMEN
A Total Positions 100%
B/C Combat & Combat Support 43%
D Net A-(B/C) 57%
E Rotation Base 7%
F Physiological Limits 0%
G Other Limits 23%
H Open to Women H=D-(E+F+G) 27%
I Women Utilized 1977 6%
Aside from combat restrictions, however, the chart tells a shock-
ing story about discrimination against women in the military. Line E
indicates that an additional 7% of positions are reserved for men to
provide a base for sea/shore and overseas/continental U.S. rotations.
Line G shows that yet another 23% of positions are reserved for other
reasons. What are the other reasons? Slots reserved to provide cEreer
progression opportunities for men. Limitations on the concentration
of women in various units. Lack of available housing--the Air Force,
for example, excludes women from 45% of its overseas.positions because
of "unacceptable" facilities. The Air Force considers it "unacceptable"
for men and women to share a common hall.
Perhaps the most revealing line is line F. .e military there
states that no additional positions are excluded 1 r physiological
reasons. The armed forces are saying that aside from those positions.
restricted because of their "combat" nature, there are no jobs in the
military which women cannot perform because of size or strength.
The bottom line, using even this most liberal of measures, is
dismal--a total potential of only 27% of military positions open to
women, and women today comprise even less at 8% (6% in 1977).
Women's entry into the military is hampered by physiological re-
strictions. Height and weight restrictions serve to assure that women
remain frailer than men by imposing lower weight limitations on women
regardless of their bone structure or muscularity. The maximum weights
for men and women six feet tall in the various branches of the mili-
tary are indicated below:
FOR 72" DIFFERENCE
ARMY Male 227
NAVY Male 227 52
MARINE Male 203 32
AIR Male 196 29
FORCE Female 167
There are clear inequities in the different limitations. Women
are not allowed to weigh the same or even near the same as men regard-
less of their bone structure. An Air Force regulation even allows
further adjustment of the maximum weight allowance for men with large
bone structure, but women with large bone structure are not granted
To illustrate the problems that these restrictions can cause be-
yond the initial problem of being allowed to enlist, there is the
regulation that provides that if a male or female in the Air Force
wants to be a firefighter, he or she must be at least 5'6" and weigh
at least 140 pounds. The maximum allowable weight, however, for a
5'6" woman in the Air Force is 141 pounds. In other'words, an Air
Force woman 5'6" must be within one pound of her maximum weight allow-
ance to be a firefighter.
Yet another source of discrimination is the failure of the armed
forces to provide equipment and clothing adapted for use by women and
men of small 'stature. The Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the
Services (DACOWITS) recommended in the fall of 1979 the adaptation of
military clothing to suit women's needs. During visitations to mili-
tary installations, DACOWITS found that there were "items of present
field work and organizational clothing for women that fit women so
poorly that they constitute health and safety hazards and are inappro-
priate and non-functional."
Finally, there is the problem of sexual harassment of women in
the military which has assumed epidemic proportions. The entire range
from verbal abuse to physical attack can be found at any military
installation. The attitude of some men is often one of resentment --
that "this man's army" is being invaded by women who have no place in
Some service men look upon service women as a sexual convenience
and freely use rank to proposition them. Official response to reports
of sexual harassment is often non-response, the product of a "boys will
be boys" mentality. Refusals on the part of women are often countered
with charges of lesbianism, redeemable for a less than honorable dis-
charge. Discharge may result regardless of the veracity of the charge.
Suspected homosexuality on the part of male and female military
personnel constitutes grounds for discharge, with female personnel
generally prosecuted more harshly than males. The waste of human
talent and potential that results from the military's irrational dis-
crimination against lesbians and gay men is oppressive to the indivi-
duals involved and is not in the national interest.
Beyond the discrimination against w)mien who are actually in the
military, there is lifelong discrimination against those women who
are excluded from the military through no fault of their own. They
suffer discrimination in the pursuit of governmentall civilian jobs
because of veterans preference. Veterans are, by law, given preferen-
tial treatment in federal jobs and most state jobs, both in hiring and
promotions. Currently, because of past discrimination in the military,
only 2% of our nation's veterans are females. Considering that the
federal government alone has three times as many civilian positions as
American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T), the nation's number one pri-
vate employer, this results in massive discrimination against females.
There are more than 2.8 million federal jobs. More civilians work
for the Department of Defense than for General Motors. And the Veter-
ans Administration has almost as many jobs as Exxon and Dupont Corpora-
ation combined. Discrimination against women in the military serves
to injure all women in governmental employment and in salaries for
their entire lives. To make matters worse for women, private employers
are also encouraged by the government to provide preference to veterans
The effects of discrimination acainsi women in the military cannot
be measured in dollars and cents alone. Being told they are unfit for
combat training, that they need "protection," women are more readily
victims of violence of every kind. Without training and the confidence
that they can defend themselves, women live in daily fear of physical
assault. One must ask, also, whether a would-be rapist might be less
likely to attack a woman if he thought she had been trained as a Marine
VI. Registration, Draft and the Equal Rights Amendment
The present discussion about the registering and drafting of women
is without an Equal Rights Amendment and without our nation being at
war. For the past several years, without any international crisis,
the discussion of registering and drafting women has been a serious
part of the drive to return to a drafted military. Whatever happens
about registering or drafting women in the short run, in the event of
a real national crisis or war, women will be drafted (if men are) and
Why? Because they are needed. Women today are an essential part
of our nation's work force and are a key part of the trained and
trainable technical pool of young people required to operate a modern
military. Moreover, because of sex segregation in our labor force
certain work categories, which are essential to the military, are over-
whelmingly female. Women are a vital part of the administrative, com-
puter, communications, medical and other technical personnel of this
nation. Nurses, for example, will serve and will do so in combat area:
They deserve to be trained to defend'themselves and their patients, an<
they deserve to receive all benefits given other combatants.
Discrimination against women in the military costs this nation
literally billions of dollars a year because better qualified women
are not recruited while less qualified males are and at much higher en-
listment bonuses and costs. The combat restrictions serve to bar an
entire sex from a wide range of career opportunities and to deprive our
national security of vital personnel resources. Women in combat-relat'
categories have been in combat, wounded and killed. But they have
served at greater risk to themselves because they have not had adequate
Discrimination against women in the military depresses opportuni-
ties, career paths, training and benefits for women. The military
provides thousands of jobs, training programs and educational opportuni
ties which are, for the most part, presently closed to women. Military
pay which is, on the average, some 40% higher than female civilian
pay, could be the only way out of poverty for countless young women.
Restrictions on women in the military, far from protecting them, serve
to continue their second class citizenship, pay and opportunity. And
this discrimination exercised by the military affects women's employ-
ment opportunities and wages throughout their entire work lives because
of veterans preference.
The inarguable need for women in the military, coupled with the
blatant and crippling discrimination against women in the military,
dramatically demonstrates the need for the ERA. Women in the military
have just as much right to adequate equipment, training, clothing,
benefits and career progression as men do. The Equal Rights Amendment
will guarantee women equal rights and would serve as the basis to
eliminate sex discrimination in the military.
Under the Equal Rights Amendment, the military's practices, regu-
lations, statutes and policies that discriminate on the basis of sex
would be held unconstitutional. People would serve in the armed forces
according to their own abilities. The national defense would gain by
increasing the size of the talented personnel pool at lower recruiting
costs while women would have an increased number of jobs, training
programs, and financial benefits.
In the event of registration or draft under the ERA, men and women
would register and be drafted according to their ability. Exemptions
would be determined along equitable and necessary lines, e.g., physical
or mental fitness, sole parent of dependent child, etc. -- but not upon
the basis of gender alone. Under the ERA, the very possibility of a
need for a draft or registration would be reduced because the numbers
in the available pool of recruits for the All-Volunteer Forces would
The debate about whether women will serve in the military is over.
They must serve, but at what cost to themselves?
The debate over registering or drafting women only serves to
underline the dramatic necessity for the immediate ratification of the
Equal Rights Amendment.
America's Volunteers: A Report on the All-Volunteer Armed Forces.
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Doranse (Manpower, Reserve
Affairs, and Logistics), second edition, September 1978.
Hearings on Women in the Military, U.S. House of Representatives,
Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Military Personnel,
The Role of Women in the Military. Hearings before the Subcommittee
on Priorities and Economy in Government of the Joint Economic
Committee, Congress of the United States, July 22 and September 1,
Use of Women in the Military. Office of the Assistant Secretary of
Defense (Manpower, Reserve Aifairs, and Logistics), second edition,
Women and the Military. Binkin, Martin and Bach, Shirley; The
Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C.; 1977.
Women Content in the Army: REFORGER 77 (REF-WAC 77). U.S. Army
Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences:
Alexandria, VA; May 30, 1978.
Women Content in Units Force Development. Test (MAX WAC). U.S. Army
Research Institute for the Behavio:ral and Social Sciences:
Alexandria, VA; October 3, 1977.
Women and the Military: A WEAL Fund Kit. Women's Equity Action League
Educational & Legal Defense Fund, Washington, D.C.; 197.9.
Women in the Armed Forces. (Issue Brief IB79045); Collier, Ellen
C.; FOreign Affairs and National Defense Division of the Library
of Congress, Congressional Research Service; October 26, 1979.
Women in the Military: Topics for Discussion--1979. Gilden, Nina;
Legislative Assistant for Military Affairs to Congresswoman
Patricia Schroeder (D-CO).
i025 13th St., N.W.
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