Fox guest Robert Maginnis baselessly speculated that allowing women in combat occupations would lower military standards, contradicting research that shows the decision will not degrade the combat effectiveness of the military.
In January 2013 Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey signed an order rescinding the exclusion of women from ground combat explaining "[f]or occupational specialties open to women, the occupational performance standards must be gender-neutral."
In a July 29 Washington Times op-ed Lt. Col. (ret) Robert Maginnis claimed that incorporating women into the armed forces combat units is the "real 'war on women.'" Maginnis further claimed that the "decision to put women in combat bespeaks our deep confusion over manhood and womanhood." The op-ed included an image of a silhouette of a woman in a camouflaged dress riddled in bullets:
On the July 30 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade introduced an interview with Maginnis by claiming "the reality is our military might have to lower its standards in order to help" women qualify for service. Maginnis attacked the "radical feminists" in the Obama administration adding "there are differences between men and women and we have to maintain our fighting edge."
But military officials have maintained that high standards are important and service members must meet gender neutral qualifications for their occupation. USA Today explained that military leaders want standards that meet the qualifications of the position:
"The department's goal in rescinding the rule is to ensure that the mission is met with the best qualified and most capable people, regardless of gender," Panetta said.
"I'm not talking about reducing the qualifications for the job -- if they can meet the qualifications for the job, then they should have the right to serve," he said.
That does not mean the standards may not change. Army Gen. Robert Cone said the physical standards will be studied and set and be the same for men and women.
Army spokesman Lt. Col. Stephen Platt explained that gender-neutral occupational standards "will enable us to select those best qualified for positions and may reduce non-combat related injuries for both men and women." A Bloomberg article quoted Army Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg who stressed that the Army is "prepared to respond to misperceptions that standards will be lowered." Bromberg noted that the "use of valid, equal standards for men and women should make clear the fairness of job qualifications." Juliet Beyler the Defense Department's director of officer and enlisted personnel management agreed, "We're not going to lower standards," saying it's "not a matter of lowering or raising standards. The key is to validate the standard to make sure it's the right standard for the occupation."
Military research has also shown that women are capable of serving in combat. The Military Leadership Diversity Commission reported that research has not shown that women lack the physical capacity to perform combat duties "or that gender integration has a negative effect on unit cohesion or other readiness factors." A December 2012 report released by the Congressional Research Service highlighted the Under Secretary of Defense's report that physical demands and co-location of ground combat forces would not adversely affect the mission:
Hypothetically speaking, if a female soldier carries 70 pounds of equipment five miles and exerts the same effort as a male carrying 100 pounds of equipment the same distance, the differing standards could be viewed as 'gender-neutral' because both exerted the same amount of effort, with differing loads. Such differing loads, in certain scenarios, may or may not matter, particularly in terms of ammunition, medical equipment, communications equipment, and medical supplies, commonly carried by foot soldiers. (According to a U.S. Army Report, a rifleman in Afghanistan can be expected to carry an average fighting load of 63 lbs. to an average Emergency Approach March Load of 127 lbs.
The proposal allows commanders to co-locate women in open occupational specialties with ground combat units noting that the "[r]emoval of the co-location operating restriction responds to the current operational environment."