Bipartisan Calls for Release of USMC’s Gender Integration Study Grow Louder

Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass. / AP
• October 13, 2015 5:00 am


Over the weekend the Marine Corps Times reported that Rep. Seth Moulton (D., Mass.) has written a letter to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter calling for the release of the full, 900-page version of the Marine Corps' study on integrating women into combat arms units. Moulton is a Marine veteran of Iraq and a liberal member of the House, not to say an outspoken supporter of the Iran deal. Considering his politics and constituency, his request for the public release of the study and willingness to imply some skepticism over the wisdom of opening Marine infantry jobs to women is remarkable. The Marines are believed to be the only service requesting an exception to the order to integrate all ground combat jobs beginning in 2017.

Moulton told the Marine Corps Times:

"This is an incredibly important issue that involves the lives of young Americans on our front lines," he said. "I want to see us make a serious, thoughtful decision based on the available data about combat effectiveness." …

Data collected during the study compared integrated teams with all-male teams as they performed a series of combat-related tasks. Researchers found that the mixed-gender teams sustained higher injuries, were slower and less lethal.

The study has drawn criticism by some over its methodology, most notably by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in a Sept. 25 opinion piece in the Washington Post.

Moulton said releasing the full study would help to dispel these arguments about the research.

He also said the Defense Department needs to be as transparent as possible throughout this process. Any lack of transparency prevents the American public and Congress from weighing in on its Marine Corps’ decision on whether to open combat arms careers to women, Moulton said.

"We already know that women can serve in combat, and they’ve done so admirably, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said. "But when it comes to putting women into units like the infantry, we should be making a decision on what is most combat effective for those units."

Moulton’s experience over four deployments to Iraq as an infantry officer has taught him that integration can be a force multiplier. During two of his deployments, he led gender-integrated teams. Those teams increased his tactical and situational awareness by allowing access to the fifty percent of the local Iraqi population that his men could not reach.

"That is a clear example of where having women in my unit increased our combat effectiveness, but the study is looking at whether women in [military occupational specialties] like the infantry will increase those units’ effectiveness without unnecessarily putting lives at risk," Moulton said. "We need to see the study."

Hear, hear. Moulton joins Representative John Kline (R., Minn.), another Marine veteran, in calling for the public release of the study, and it is hard to quibble with their reasoning. If, as the secretary of the Navy has suggested, the Marines conducting the study were determined to arrive at a predetermined, sexist outcome, then the public deserves to know that what has been made public thus far (a four-page executive summary and a leaked assessment of the study's main conclusions) is not to be trusted. But according to reporting late last month from the Washington Post‘s Dan Lamothe, the Marines are not the ones keeping the survey under wraps. Rather, it is the civilian leadership of the Pentagon:

The Marine Corps, which stands by the study, released the summary with officials saying at the time they planned to release about 1,000 pages of related documents in coming days. But that has not occurred, at least in part because Carter’s office asked the Marine Corps not to until he reviews it, defense officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic.

Carter has until January to make his decision on gender integration, and the request that the full report not be released is suspicious. If there is an effort among civilians at the Pentagon to suppress the Marine study because its release would complicate efforts to open these jobs to women, that is obviously unacceptable. The public, not to mention the servicemen and women who are going to be affected by this enormous decision, deserve to see the details.

Published under: Ash Carter, Defense, Marines, Women