Gender Integration in Basic Training: The Services Are Using a Variety of Approaches

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-06-05.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                            United States General Accounting Office

GAO                         Testimony
                            Before the Subcommittee on Personnel, Committee on
                            Armed Services, U.S. Senate

For Release on Delivery
Expected at
9:30 a.m., EDT
                            GENDER INTEGRATION
on Thursday, June 5, 1997
                            IN BASIC TRAINING:

                            The Services Are Using a
                            Variety of Approaches
                            Statement for the Record of Mark E. Gebicke, Director,
                            Military Operations and Capabilities Issues, National
                            Security and International Affairs Division

             Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

             I am pleased to provide a statement for the record on our report on gender
             integration in basic training.1 This statement addresses (1) the extent to
             which the services have gender-integrated basic training and (2) the
             performance of men and women in gender-integrated basic training
             compared with that of men and women whose training is segregated.

             In summary, the military services’ approaches to the integration of men
             and women during basic training range from integrating some training
             units to having separate gender units that share some training venues with
             units of the opposite gender to providing totally separate training.

             Data to compare the performance of trainees in gender-integrated units
             and segregated units is not available from all of the services. Limited
             information on the impact of gender integration from two studies done for
             the Navy and the Army suggests that gender-integrated basic training
             programs do not negatively affect trainees’ performance. A 1992 study
             done for the Navy reported no impact on performance and improvement in
             teamwork for both men and women trained in gender-integrated units.2 A
             1996 study of gender integration in the Army reported that women’s
             performance improved in gender-integrated training units and men’s
             performance was not degraded.3 Because the data available to evaluate the
             impact of gender integration was so limited, we recommended that the
             Department of Defense (DOD) gather more extensive data. DOD concurred
             with our recommendation and is in the process of collecting the data.

             Women have traditionally played a role in the military services. In recent
Background   years, many more career fields have opened to women, and their
             assignment opportunities have expanded considerably. In the past, all of
             the services had different programs for basic training for men and women
             and trained the two groups separately. More recently, however, the
             services have adjusted their philosophy of basic training for women and
             now have programs more closely aligned with those of the men. During

              Basic Training: Services Are Using a Variety of Approaches to Gender Integration
             (GAO/NSIAD-96-153, June 10, 1996).
             Jerry C. Scarpate and Mary Anne O’Neill, “Evaluation of Gender Integration at Recruit Training
             Command.” Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, July 1992.
             Dr. Zita M. Simutis and Dr. Jacqueline A. Mottern, “Basic Combat Training in a Gender-Integrated
             Environment.” Briefing for Assistant Secretary of the Army (Manpower and Reserve Affairs) by the
             Army Research Institute, January 25, 1996.

             Page 1                                                                        GAO/T-NSIAD-97-174
                                    fiscal year 1995, the services trained 179,068 recruits—18 percent of whom
                                    were women. Women comprised 18 percent of the 75,616 basic training
                                    graduates in the Army, 20 percent of the 40,813 graduates in the Navy,
                                    24 percent of the 30,515 graduates in the Air Force, and 5 percent of the
                                    32,124 graduates in the Marine Corps.

                                    The services use different approaches to integrating men and women in
Degree of Trainee                   their basic training programs. The result is a varying degree of integration
Gender Integration                  and interaction between men and women during initial training, depending
Varies                              on the branch of service. In all four services, women and men follow the
                                    same program of instruction, with differences in medical examinations,
                                    hygiene classes, and physical fitness test standards. The degree of
                                    integration within training units in these services, however, does vary. In
                                    the Marine Corps, men and women are trained separately, but according to
                                    Marine Corps officials, the program of instruction is the same for men and
                                    women. Table 1 compares some aspects of the services’ basic training

Table 1: Selected Aspects of the
Services’ Basic Training Programs   Figures in percents
                                                                                                             Trained in integrated
                                                             Program of             Integrated at            operating units, fiscal
                                                             instruction for        operating level of            year 1995
                                    Service                  men and women          training                    Women                Men
                                    Army                     Same                   Yes                              100              49
                                    Navy                     Samea                  Yes                              100              25
                                    Air Force                Same                   No                                  0              0
                                    Marine Corps             Samea                  No                                  0              0
                                     The only differences were in medical examinations, hygiene classes, and physical fitness test

                                    The Army and the Navy basic recruit training programs are nearly identical
                                    for men and women, and in gender-integrated units, trainees are mixed at
                                    the operating level. The only differences are that male and female trainees
                                    are berthed separately, have different medical examinations and hygiene
                                    classes, and must meet different physical fitness test standards. In fiscal
                                    year 1995, the Army trained all of its women and 49 percent of its men in
                                    gender-integrated units composed of 20 to 50 percent women. Many of the
                                    men trained in all-male units were in combat arms specialties closed to
                                    women. In the same year, the Navy trained all of its women and 25 percent

                                    Page 2                                                                       GAO/T-NSIAD-97-174
                        of its men in gender-integrated units composed of about 50 percent of
                        each gender. In forming training units, the Navy considers it important not
                        to have only a few of either gender in a group because those trainees
                        might feel isolated or intimidated. Therefore, because the number of men
                        that can be trained in integrated units is limited by the number of women
                        available to train with them, some units must be all male.

                        As in the Navy and the Army, the Air Force’s male and female trainees
                        follow the same program of instruction, with differences in the medical
                        examinations, hygiene classes, and physical fitness test standards.
                        However, the operating level of recruit training, the flight, is single gender.
                        Each flight is paired with a “brother” or “sister” flight, and the pairs often
                        train side by side, but they do not mingle. Thus, male and female flights
                        may be at the marksmanship range or in an auditorium together, but they
                        do not mix. The exception to this is the physical conditioning program,
                        where men and women are intermingled.

                        The Marine Corps does not conduct gender-integrated basic training—men
                        and women are trained separately. Marine Corps officials told us they
                        changed their basic training program for men and women in October 1996.
                        At the time we did our original audit work, the program of instruction for
                        men and women was different. Men received a 24-day course of Marine
                        combat training after their basic training, whereas women received only
                        an additional week of basic training that incorporated an abbreviated
                        course of Marine combat training. In addition, only the men were trained
                        in combat hitting skills and pugil sticks. Now, according to the Marine
                        Corps, the program of instruction for men and women is the same.

                        We had little data to use to compare the effectiveness of integrated and
Limited Data Suggests   segregated training because of curriculum changes, a short history of
That Gender             integration, and few records documenting trainees’ performance. The
Integration Does Not    limited data that is available, however, suggests that gender-integrated
                        basic training programs do not negatively affect the trainees’ performance.
Erode Performance
                        The Marine Corps does not have integrated training and therefore has no
                        comparative data. The Air Force provided some performance data on its
                        trainees by gender but had no data that could be used to compare the
                        performance of training units. Thus, we could not compare same-gender
                        pairs of flights with opposite-gender pairs.

                        Page 3                                                       GAO/T-NSIAD-97-174
                                          The Navy-sponsored 1992 study showed that gender-integrated training
                                          did not affect the results of performance tests and improved teamwork.
                                          Since that time, the Navy has changed its basic training program of
                                          instruction significantly, placing greater emphasis on physical training.
                                          The Navy could not provide data to compare the performance of trainees
                                          in integrated and segregated units using this new program of instruction.

                                          The 1996 Army-sponsored study concluded that in gender-integrated units,
                                          women’s performance improved and men’s performance was not
                                          degraded. This conclusion was based on a 3-year study of measures of
                                          performance such as physical fitness, marksmanship, and individual
                                          proficiency test results. We compared this study’s results with some
                                          performance data the Army provided for fiscal years 1993-95 for about
                                          80 percent of the trainees from an all-male training location. Although
                                          information on the other 20 percent was not available, officials at the
                                          all-male location said that they believed the 80 percent was representative
                                          of the whole. This data indicates that the pass rates for male trainees in
                                          the gender-integrated companies exceeded the pass rates for trainees at
                                          the all-male location in those categories of physical performance for which
                                          data was available—the Army physical fitness test and the basic rifle
                                          marksmanship test (see table 2).

Table 2: Pass Rates for Men in All-Male
and Integrated Army Training Units        Figures in percents
(fiscal years 1993-95)                                                                                 Basic rifle
                                                                          Army physical fitness      marksmanship
                                                                                 test                 qualification
                                                                            All-male   Integrated   All-male   Integrated
                                          Fiscal year                       location        units   location        units
                                          1993                                   97           98         97           98
                                          1994                                   89           99         97           98
                                          1995                                   88           99         96           98

                                          Page 4                                                     GAO/T-NSIAD-97-174
                           Although the Army had gender-integrated basic training in the late 1970s
Data to Compare            and early 1980s, the Army has no records of those programs or their
Current and Previous       results to compare with those on its current program and results.
Army                       However, we did find reports of a 1976 Army test of the same basic
                           training program of instruction for men and women.4
Programs Does Not          Before September 1976, women entering the Army received different
                           training from that the men received. From September to November 1976,
Exist                      the Army tested a common program of instruction for men and women.
                           Although men and women received the same training for the test period,
                           they were trained in single-gender units. According to a report on the test
                           results, the instructional program was similar to that previously used for
                           men’s basic training and very different from that previously used for
                           women. The study showed that women met all the standards except the
                           physical fitness standards (the men’s standards were used for both men
                           and women) and that those standards could be modified for the women
                           without changing the content of the training or reducing the value of the
                           training. Problems observed during the test were as follows:

                       •   The uniforms the women were issued for the training were inadequate,
                           and women were issued men’s boots that often did not fit their feet. Also,
                           the field jackets, although made for women, were not as warm and did not
                           fit as well as those issued to the men.
                       •   Male instructors were inadequately prepared to train women. They tended
                           to be overprotective and assumed women would not meet the standards.

                           We could not determine what actions were taken as a result of the study.
                           However, some Army training locations did continue gender-integrated
                           basic training programs until the early 1980s, when the Army ended them.
                           The Army could provide no documentation of these early
                           gender-integration programs, their results, or the reasons for stopping
                           them. Army officials had various opinions on the programs’ results and the
                           reasons for discontinuing the programs. Some said the results were not
                           good, which led the Army to stop the training. Others said that the results
                           were good and the training was stopped because of a lack of support
                           within the Army.

                           In 1993, the Army again began integrating basic training and has avoided
                           many of the problems identified in the 1976 study. For example, different
                           physical fitness standards are used for men and women, all trainees’

                           Performance data is reported in Basic Initial Entry Training Test Report, Department of the Army,
                           December 30, 1976. Attitudinal data is reported in Basic Initial Entry Training Test Attitude Survey,
                           U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences, September 1978.

                           Page 5                                                                          GAO/T-NSIAD-97-174
           clothing appears to be more suitable for the weather, women are issued
           boots suitable for them, and athletic shoes are used by all trainees for
           physical training. As noted previously, the 1996 Army-sponsored study
           indicated that the current gender-integrated program is effective.
           However, the training of instructors is still an issue because, according to
           the study, many drill sergeants believe that their training course does not
           adequately prepare them for gender-integrated basic training. Army
           officials told us the Army is now modifying its training course for drill
           sergeants to incorporate lessons learned from the study. They expect the
           modified course to better prepare the drill sergeants to conduct
           gender-integrated basic training.

           Although unable to specifically cite problems in the earlier
           gender-integrated basic training program, Army officials told us that many
           factors had positively affected the training environment since then,
           including improvements in training equipment and facilities, advances in
           sports medicine, the use of athletic shoes for physical training, and
           increased roles for women in the military and society in general.

           To evaluate the effectiveness of each service’s approach to the integration
           of recruit training, we recommended that the Secretary of Defense direct
           the services to retain and analyze comparative performance data for men
           and women in single-gender and gender-integrated training units. DOD
           concurred with the recommendation, stating it would instruct each of the
           services to retain and analyze such data over a 1-year period, to be
           completed by fiscal year 1998.

(703212)   Page 6                                                     GAO/T-NSIAD-97-174
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