Women in the Military:

Impact of Proposed Legislation to Open More Combat Support Positions and Units to Women

NSIAD-88-197BR: Published: Jul 15, 1988. Publicly Released: Aug 15, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed S. 581, a bill which would increase the combat support assignments open to women in the military services, focusing on the: (1) positions and units closed to women because of exclusionary laws and policies; (2) ongoing service reviews of positions and units currently closed to women; and (3) potential impact of the bill on those positions and units.

GAO found that: (1) with the exception of some forward support battalion positions that it historically opened to women, the Army excluded women from positions located forward of the brigade rear boundary on the battlefield; (2) although the Navy excluded women from service on aircraft or naval vessels engaged in combat missions, recent policy reviews opened some combat logistics force ships and reconnaissance aircraft to women; (3) the Marine Corps precluded assigning women to any unit that could engage in direct combat, including security guards for embassies and designated naval installations and combatant ships; and (4) the Air Force precluded assigning women to aerial activity over hostile territory where the risk of capture was substantial. GAO also found that the bill would: (1) require evaluation of certain jobs on the basis of performance function, rather than risk involved; (2) direct the Army to provide more efficient utilization of women in assignments which were in direct support of combat units; (3) allow assignment of Navy women to combat-support vessels, but would not change policies for women Marines; and (4) allow the Air Force to assign women to all reconnaissance, training, or transport aircraft missions. GAO could not determine the full impact of the bill, since the services have not completed their evaluations.

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