San Diego Union-Tribune

August 12, 2001

No change by Bush seen for coed military recruit training
     Pro-defense groups push separation


By OTTO KREISHER 
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE 

WASHINGTON -- Despite mounting pressure from conservatives, the Bush
administration appears to have no interest in forcing the Army, Navy and Air
Force to change their practice of training male and female recruits together.

The leaders of 14 pro-defense groups, including the Veterans of Foreign
Wars, sent a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld urging him to stop
the services from combining men and women during recruit training. The letter
complained that the coed recruit training promotes sexual misconduct rather
than military discipline.

"Our members hope that you will act quickly to end this and other
demoralizing personnel policies that have vitiated discipline and morale," the
joint letter said.

But David Chu, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness,
said last week he will continue to allow the services to decide how best to
train their recruits, unless he sees evidence that the existing policies are not
working.

"We look to the leadership of the military departments to advise as to what
makes sense from their perspective," Chu told Pentagon reporters.

He said the administration was focusing on results, and "what counts is, we
need to have individuals who are trained and ready to do their responsibilities
properly."

Chu noted the services have different policies on recruit training and he was
not inclined to impose "a one-size-fits-all policy."

The Marine Corps separates men and women in boot camp, but combines
them to some extent in most subsequent training. The Navy and Air Force
integrate men and women in most phases of basic and advanced training. The
Army mingles the sexes in basic training for soldiers going into support units,
where men and women can serve together. But it trains male recruits
separately if they are going into infantry and armored units, from which
women are barred.

Conservatives used a number of highly publicized cases of training supervisors having sex with females in their units to push the Clinton administration to end the coed recruit training.

The services, however, insisted that, because men and women increasingly
serve together, including in combat situations, they must train together from
the start. The Democrats, with the support of feminist organizations, tightened
rules on separated berthing for the sexes, but did not change the coed training
policies.

Conservatives hoped for a change under the Republicans.

But Chu said the Pentagon civilian leaders would not interfere if the services
were meeting their obligations to produce well-trained personnel.

"If, in an important dimension they're not achieving that result or we're
unhappy with that result in some fashion, then that's the point at which we
ought to intervene," he said.

"To my knowledge, none of the military departments is claiming that there is a
problem," Chu said.

"That's not an adequate response," said Elaine Donnelly, president of the
Center for Military Readiness and one of the signers of the letter to Rumsfeld.

Donnelly said she did not think Chu has had time to study the issue in the two
months he has been in his post.

But, she said, "to retain coed training, with all the additional costs and
inefficiencies, is totally inconsistent" with Rumsfeld's emphasis on making the
military more cost efficient and combat ready.

The troops coming out of coed training, Donnelly said, "are less ready, less
prepared."

"It's a matter of a system that encourages indiscipline, rather than discipline,"
she said.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., another vocal critic of coed recruit training,
called it "a prime example of a politically correct solution to a nonproblem that cannot be ended too soon."

But retired Navy Capt. Lory Manning, of the Women's Research and
Education Institute, noted the sailors who saved the Cole after it was
devastated by a terrorist bomb "were products of gender-integrated basic
training. When confronted with a real attack, they performed magnificently."

The failure to reverse the so-called "feminization of the military" policies of
former President Clinton is adding to pro-defense conservatives'
disappointment with the Republican president, who promised the military last
year that "help is on the way."

The conservatives also have been disappointed in the level of defense
spending President Bush has requested.