Women in Combat: Legislation and Policy, Perceptions, and the Current Operational Environment [open pdf - 404KB]
"Restrictions on the roles of women in combat have a long history in the U.S. military. However, opportunities for women to serve in combat roles have increased over time, reaching a critical juncture with the recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In light of female servicemembers' success in these recent operations, the application of DoD and Service assignment polices for women -- often referred to as 'combat exclusion' policies -- have received increased interest by Congress and other groups. This issue paper (IP) provides some historical background of the current DoD and Army assignment policies for women and discusses the confusion about their meaning and application, and identifies some of their possible impacts on women's career opportunities, mission-readiness factors like unit cohesion, and women's abilities to physically and mentally perform in combat roles. Regarding the latter, the research evidence has not shown that women lack the physical ability to perform in combat roles or that gender integration has a negative effect on unit cohesion or other readiness factors. Research has also not revealed that women are necessarily more likely than men to develop mental health problems from combat exposure. However, some research suggests that the assignment policies contribute to women's reduced career opportunities, particularly in the officer corps and more so in the Army and Marine Corps."
Military Leadership Diversity Commission Issue Paper No. 56
Department of Defense Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity: http://diversity.defense.gov/