Maitre, H. Joachim, The American Spectator
The Kinder, Gentler Military: Can America's Gender-Neutral Fighting Force Still Win Wars?
Scribner /300 pages l $25
Our armed forces have been slipping toward endangered species status for quite a while now. The United States Army, which fell 6,290 bodies short of its 1999 recruiting goal of 74,500 needed to guarantee the mandated 485,000 active-duty personnel strength, recently decided to switch advertising agencies. Apparently, the shopworn challenge to "Be All That You Can Be!" fails to ignite the career ambitions of today's Generation Whatever. Worse, retention hovers as low as recruitment: For the last two years, 35 percent of Army recruits did not complete their first tour of duty.
On an emergency mission earlier this spring our Secretary of Defense and Janet Langhart, his spouse, jetted to Hollywood to recruit a dozen movie stars, directors, and producers to do public service announcements promoting the military on radio and television. Among the celebrities approached were Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. And Miss Julia Roberts, of course. Demi Moore, ideally suited after her fling with the Navy SEALS in the flick G.I. Jane three years ago, was not available but "interested in helping out," SECDEF said afterwards. It remains to be seen what impact his clueless Hollywood Blitz will have on military readiness, combat effectiveness, and unit cohesion.
All of our military services are experiencing critical shortages of skilled personnel. Moreover, non-commissioned and mid-level officers-those essential sergeants, captains, and majors-are hanging up their uniforms at an alarming rate. Will catchy new slogans spread by glitzy multimillionaires keep them in? Can mere advertising gags and public relations gimmicks keep America's allvolunteer force afloat?
A major calamity besieging our Army is the gender-integrated basic training mandatory for all recruits, the blatant double-standards applied, the dumbed-down performance requirements, and the service's adamant denial of anything being wrong with both program and process.
Defense Secretary William S. Cohen himself is in stubborn denial. Three years ago he had announced the appointment of a Federal Advisory Committee on Gender-Integrated Training, chaired by former Senator Nancy Kassebaum. Their goal: "To determine how best to train...to ensure that they are disciplined, effective and ready." When the Kassebaum Committee reported-unanimously-that discipline, effectiveness, and readiness were not achieved under the mandated training regime, Cohen rejected the report-and asked for yet another committee, this one not federal but congressional, whose more up-beat report met with Cohen's approval. He gave the green light for the genderintegrated calamity to continue.
Cohen would do himself a great service if he browsed through Stephanie Gut mann's observations on gender-integrated training as conducted at Army Base Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and at Great Lakes Naval Training Base, Illinois. He might conclude that the four-volume final report, issued in July 1999 by the Congressional Commission on Military Training and Gender-Related Issues, costing the American taxpayer roughly $5 million, is the result of a time-wasting, useless activity. Based on the illusion that interviews with active duly soldiers and officers could produce reliable insights or even "the truth" about the gender-integrated Army, the commission operated on faulty premises. One commissioner even voted "undecided" on the question if genderneutral training was good or bad for the Army. And Cohen signed off on the farce.
Yet another Pentagon-driven "survey," this one conducted under the cover of the Washington Center for Strategic and International Studies and released recently, finds Army morale at a ten-year lowbut cannot come up with a single conclusive reason for the depression other than the military's inescapable obligation to compete for quality manpower within a robust civilian economy, and coming up short. …