Some recent media reports about the lifting of the combat exclusion for women have been confusing, so I want to clarify our plan for the USSOCOM enterprise.
As you know, the SECDEF rescinded the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule. Simply put, this means that women are cleared to serve in units whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the ground.
Consequently, we are in the process of implementing the SECDEF’s guidance to integrate women in all combat Military Operational Specialties (MOSs) no later than January 2016.
However, as we begin the implementation process, if we determine that there are SOF unique issues affecting the successful integration of women into SOF, then and only then, will I submit a request for exemption to the SECDEF.
We have had women attached to our combat units for several years as Cultural Support Teams, Civil Affairs, Military Information Support Teams, Intelligence and a host of other MOSs and they have performed magnificently!
The question for SOF is whether we can absorb women into those Special Operations units whose job generally entails small teams, operating for long periods of time, in close proximity to the enemy or behind enemy lines and in close quarters with other soldiers. And, can we achieve this level of integration without lowering our SOF standards?
This is what we must find out.
I want to briefly summarize for you the basics of the assessment that we are conducting, which will ultimately provide a single, consistent procedure for execution throughout USSOCOM. Once the studies are complete and the facts and data are collected, I’ll make a recommendation in conjunction with the Service Chiefs via the Chairman to the SECDEF.
Our analysis will focus on the special operators in eight SOF specific occupational specialties:
* Special Forces as well as the Infantry positions assigned to the Ranger Regiment
* SEALs; Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen
* Marine Critical Skills Operators
* Special Tactics Officers; Combat Controllers; and Special Operations Weather Personnel.
We will also look at the 46 additional enabling occupational specialties that are not SOF-specific, but are assigned to our formation. The analysis will require close coordination with the services before a decision is made on which specialties, if any, will require a request for exemption from the integration policy.
Our Components are in the process of conducting a thorough review with emphasis on our organization, training, education and leader development programs. They will report their findings in July 2014.
SOF standards have always been gender-neutral; they are just “the standard.” Our review will be a good opportunity to verify this assumption. And we will look at every task in each of our entry level qualification courses to be sure they are decisively tied to an operational requirement. Gender-neutral occupational standards will be validated not later than September 2015.
We have asked our Joint Special Operations University to conduct multiple studies, including one primarily focused on the social implications of integrating women at the team level. Their findings are due in July 2014, as well.
Additionally, we have commissioned RAND to provide analysis on both the behavioral and cultural aspects of integrating women into our formations that operate in remote environments, in order to get a non-biased third party analysis of our qualification course standards.
RAND will also report their findings in July 2014.
All positions will be identified as either open or exempted by the Secretary of Defense by 1 Jan 16.
I want to reiterate that we are not predisposed to any particular course of action, and no decisions have been made regarding our course of action. I am committed to maintaining the highest standards and delivering the most qualified SOF operators to this Nation, regardless of gender.
Adm. William H. McRaven