As directed by the secretary of defense, the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) released the 2018 report earlier this month.
Each year, DACOWITS is tasked with collecting data and trends to determine the status and working environment for women in the armed services. “DACOWITS provides the secretary of defense with recommendations on matters and policies relating to the recruitment, retention, employment, integration, well-being, and treatment of women in the U.S. armed forces,” the Department of Defense explained in a March 11 press release.
DACOWITS has been providing recommendations since 1951, after the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act allowed women to join the military in 1948. The initial goal of the Advisory Committee was to focus on recruiting, but as women have integrated into the military (and workforce in general), the role of the committee has grown to include other areas of interest as well.
To determine what should be recommended to the defense secretary, DACOWITS looks at briefs and written responses from the DoD as a whole, specific individual representatives from each service, and SMEs, or subject matter experts. They also hosted focus groups where currently serving military members from all branches were able to provide insight. Academic research from peer-reviewed sources were also included in the analysis. Many of the recommendations made by DACOWITS have been implemented in the past, so collecting accurate and comprehensive data is critical to determining what recommendations to make for the future of the military.
What Was Recommended?
Regarding women in the military, DACOWITS made nine total recommendations to the secretary of defense:
- Marketing Strategies (Recruitment and Retention): Recruitment initiatives and marketing should address misconceptions of military service, including highlighting “realistic portrayals of women who serve.”
- Gender Integration (Employment and Integration): Each military service should “share lessons learned and best practices on the progress of their implementation plans,” including with service members and the American public.
- Marine Corps Recruit Training (Employment and Integration): Currently, women are not integrated into all battalions of Marine Corps Recruit Training Commands, which DACOWITS believes impacts overall readiness.
- Personal Protective Equipment (Employment and Integration): Services should provide appropriate-fitting personal protective equipment to female service members.
- Healthy Unit Climate (Well-Being and Treatment): SECDEF should review each service’s “policies, standards, training, and enforcement to eliminate gender discrimination and sexual harassment.”
- Parental Leave Policies (Well-Being and Treatment): Service members should be able to request flexible family leave, meaning non-continuous, for both the primary and secondary caregiver.
- Parental Leave Policies (Well-Being and Treatment): Secondary caregivers should be allotted 21 days of parental leave.
- Performance Evaluations (Well-Being and Treatment): The Marine Corps should no longer identify whether a female Marine is pregnant on performance evaluations.
- Transition Assistance (Well-Being and Treatment): Services should “improve their support to active duty women transitioning to the Reserve/Guard or civilian sector,” such as implementing some of the best practices of other services (for example, The Women’s Health Transition Pilot Program offered by the Air Force and Department of Veterans Affairs).
- Transition Assistance (Well-Being and Treatment): The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should review the VA motto/mission, which includes outdated language on gender roles.