Our Fearless Leader Ashton Carter has proclaimed a proclamation today, that all positions in the military will be open to women.
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said Thursday that he is opening all jobs in combat units to women, a landmark decision that would for the first time allow female service members to join the country’s most elite military forces.
Women will now be eligible to join the Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces and other Special Operations Units. It also opens the Marine Corps infantry, a battle-hardened force that many service officials had openly advocated keeping closed to female service members.
“There will be no exceptions,” Carter said. “This means that, as long as they qualify and meet the standards, women will now be able to contribute to our mission in ways they could not before.”
This, of course, is pure idiocy from an equalist who has exactly zero experience being in the military he ostensibly leads. While undoubtedly a bright man, his ivory-tower background has made him so smugly self-assured that he is blind to what actually happens in the military, and makes him think without reason that his judgment is superior to the people who actually do the job.
The reasoning for this change is that, as the President said,
“As Commander in Chief, I know that this change, like others before it, will again make our military even stronger. Our armed forces will draw on an even wider pool of talent… I know that, under the leadership of Secretary Carter and Chairman Dunford, our men and women in uniform will implement this transition — as they have others — in a responsible manner that maintains military readiness and the unparalleled professionalism and strength of our armed forces.”
and from Ash,
Carter said the important factor in him opening all jobs to women was to give the military access to every American who can add strength to it.
And rest assured that this won’t have any bad effects:
Studies carried out by the services since 2013 found that some of the standards the military previously used to determine whether a service member was fit for a job were outdated or didn’t reflect the actual tasks required in combat, he said.
Despite some other qualified individuals’ disagreement:
As the Marine Corps commandant, Dunford recommended to keep a number of jobs in infantry and reconnaissance units closed….In particular, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus took issue with a Marine Corps study that found that the average woman struggled to keep up with men, according to a number of metrics. The study did not track individual performance, drawing fire from Mabus and others in favor of full integration.
Even some Senators got into it:
Other members of Congress applauded Carter’s decision. Rep. Martha McSally (R.-Ariz.), a retired Air Force colonel and A-10 attack jet pilot, said in a statement that the move recognizes that the military is strongest when it prioritizes merit and capability.
“It’s about damn time,” McSally said in the statement. “Women have been fighting and dying for our country since its earliest wars. They have shown they can compete with the best of the best, and succeed [Ed: No, they haven’t.]. We are a country that looks at people as individuals, not groups. We select the best man for the job, even if it’s a woman. [Ed: A correction: What we should do, in the case of the military, is optimize the military for winning wars against determined enemies. In this case, we should look at group effectiveness, which womens’ contributions to, in a combat unit setting, is net negative.]”
Another female combat veteran and member of Congress, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D.-Ill.), released an even more pointed statement of support reflecting her time as an Army helicopter pilot in Iraq and injuries suffered there.
“I didn’t lose my legs in a bar fight — of course women can serve in combat,” she said. “This decision is long overdue. [Unasked and unanswerable at this point is whether a man in her role would have gotten shot down, but Tammy Duckworth is a living reminder that “Serving in combat” is not the same as “winning in combat.”]”
The argument that opening up these roles to women increases the available talent pool that we need for a more effective military is really the only somewhat plausible one for increasing military effectiveness with this change. Indeed, it’s the only one that proponents use when challenged on whether the change is good for the Army and not just for the individual womens’ careers.
Now, I like numbers, and I’m glad that the President and SecDef made a claim that can be investigated numerically – specifically, that making this change opens up 50% of the population’s talent for the Army. What do the numbers say?
About 220,000 jobs and 10 percent of the military remained closed to women before Thursday’s announcement, Carter said. Another 110,000 jobs in careers like artillery officer were opened in a series of decisions since 2013.
The United States has about 31.5 million military-age (18-35 year old) men. The formerly-male-only 330,000 jobs constitute approximately 1% of that amount. It doesn’t seem to be an issue of “we’re running out of men to fill these jobs”; this is a recruiting problem. But maybe the pool of women provides an adequate talent pool that we’re missing out on?
The available pool of women (from the same source) is 31 million women.
Further, females as a group tend to have the distribution of the top 5% of women meeting the median (50%ile) male ability. So this means that, given a set of standards that filters for the top 50% of male ability, we have:
15.8 million available men
1.6 million available women
Not only is this just going to the upper half of ability (not even getting into whether that is sufficient for the roles in question), but these raw numbers convincingly belie the President and SecDef’s statements that we need the extra talent pool in these positions. We have 10x as many men as women to draw from to fill these roles, so the additional talent pool is clearly not a factor in actual military effectiveness here. It’s of marginal value at best, with, charitably and at the outside, 10% of additional potential talent to be tapped in these combat positions.
10% is a far cry from the promised 50% of additional available talent. Further, with 220,000 jobs being opened up, the ratio of men:jobs is ~72, and the ratio of women:jobs is ~7. In short, we don’t need the additional talent for these roles.
What Fearless Leaders also don’t account for is the opportunity cost to the Army and to America.
For every woman in a combat role, there are 10 other men who could do it, and probably do it better. Those 10 men are more likely to be more durable and better suited to war, especially as we go further up the “talent” or ability distribution curve. If we’re in a pinch and actually need to fight, the likelihood of sub-optimal talent of having a woman instead of a man in the role becomes high.
Further, fertile women are a thing of short supply and are invaluable economically and socially. The number of men who can work (period) greatly exceeds the number of women who can have kids. Every woman who spends her time going into the infantry represents a high social opportunity cost, so policy shouldn’t encourage that. To put it in terms of the edge case, if your society doesn’t have kids, you wipe yourselves out. (As an aside, if the argument holds that women should go into combat roles because they add to the combat effectiveness of the Army AND that they should be free to leave for maternity while men can’t, then the arguer is, to put it charitably, logically challenged.)
I’ve written a number of other posts about why allowing women in combat roles is a stupid idea without any functional positives and a lot of obvious, predictable, and avoidable downsides (culturally, readiness-wise, and then the discrepancies between male and female physiology in actual combat enironments). Now we’re going to see it in action.