Combat Exclusion Laws for Women in the Military

Gao ID: T-NSIAD-88-8 November 19, 1987

GAO discussed the military services' interpretations and applications of combat exclusion laws for women in the military. GAO noted that: (1) women constituted 10.1 percent of the military forces in 1986; (2) the types of jobs women hold in the military continue to expand; and (3) statutory restrictions limit the jobs available to women, as well as the number of women in the military. GAO also noted that the: (1) Air Force excludes women from fighter and bomber aircraft; (2) Navy and Marine Corps exclude women from aircraft or vessels engaged in combat missions; (3) Army excludes women from positions with a high probability of direct combat; (4) Coast Guard does not exclude women from any position; and (5) services generally apply the provisions to preclude women from the most frequent or severe exposure to the risks of war. In addition, GAO noted that the services' interpretations and applications of the provisions: (1) inhibit womens' career progression by excluding them from some jobs they are capable of filling; (2) may exacerbate recruiting problems and close off an excellent source of high-quality recruits; (3) impede the most effective management and assignment of personnel; and (4) could negatively affect the morale and retention of both men and women.

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