Recently the Army announced that it intends to lower the standards of the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) because “biological differences” between men and women were resulting in an appalling failure rate among women. As reported in Stars and Stripes, this change comes from demands by Democrats like Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthal, (D-CT) that the Army cease implementation of changes to the gender-neutral ACFT until the test could be evaluated for its fairness to women completing the test successfully.
In the 2021 Defense Authorization Act, which provides funding to the military, the Army was ordered to cease using the test except for evaluation purposes pending an independent study on the test’s effects on women, recruiting, and retention. Those who recall the history of the controversial policy of women serving in combat units may recall that it was a Defense Department study that recommended that women be able to serve in combat units if they could meet the physical standards in place at the time.
A Department of Defense press release in March 2011 stated that “A commission established to study diversity among military leaders is recommending that the Defense Department rescind its policy that prevents women from being assigned to ground combat units below the brigade level.” This commission called the Military Diversity Leadership Commission was established under the Obama Administration and was said to be impartial and bipartisan. One of its key recommendations to then-SecDef Leon Panetta was:
“DoD and the Services should eliminate the ‘Combat Exclusion Policies’ for women, including the removal of barriers and inconsistencies, to create a new level playing field for all qualified service members.”