The Public Interest

Women as soldiers—the record so far

Michael Levin

Summer 1984

IN the last dozen years one of the major aims of military manpower policy has been to place great numbers of women in the services and to direct them toward “nontraditional” military occupational specialties (MOSs). The immediate occasions of this revolution were the end of conscription in 1973, and, simultaneously, the anticipated passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. The end of the draft ended a guaranteed supply of men, and most legal experts agreed that the ERA would end differential treatment of women in the military, particularly their exclusion from combat or any MOS. Faced with these political constraints, the Pentagon prepared to accommodate unprecedented numbers of women. Air Force and Navy women were and still are forbidden combat assignment by Title X of the U.S. Code, and Army women remain barred from combat by internal Department of the Army regulation. This combat exclusion policy was the only limit on the expansion of the female presence in the military between 1973 and 1981.

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