- The Washington Times
Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mitt Romney does not bring up President Obama’s social revolution inside the armed forces, but the Republican Party platform, by calling an end to “social experimentation” in the ranks, does.

The platform also backs the current ban on women serving in direct ground combat units, as the Obama administration is moving toward a decision to remove the prohibition before the November election.

The Republican National Committee on Resolutions, meeting last week in Tampa, Fla., approved a plank that states: “We support the advancement of women in the military, which has not only opened doors of opportunity for individuals but has made possible the devoted, and often heroic, services of additional members of every branch of the Armed Forces.”

Elaine Donnelly, who directs the Center for Military Readiness and attended the platform markup, said the language sends a strong signal to those who would sacrifice military preparedness to advance social policies.

“We reject the use of the military as a platform for social experimentation and will not accept attempts to undermine military priorities and mission readiness,” the platform states.

“For the past 3½ years, President Barack Obama has recklessly used the armed forces for unprecedented social experimentation and political payoffs to his liberal base,” Mrs. Donnelly said. “Republicans meeting in Tampa have said loud and clear: ‘The time for pushing back starts now.’ “

The platform also backs the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, as it pertains to the military, as well as civilian life. Mr. Obama has stopped defending the law in court and has endorsed gay marriage.

He and a Democrat-controlled lame duck Congress in 2010 repealed the ban on gays in the military, effective last Sept. 20. The Pentagon is adhering to the marriage act, which defines marriage as a relationship of one man and one woman, by refusing to provide benefits to spouses of gay military members.

Mr. Romney, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, has not stated a firm position on women in the infantry. His national defense website does not address military social issues.

Asked the candidate’s position on women in combat, spokeswoman Andrea Saul pointed to an answer he gave in a February primary debate.

The moderator asked about the Pentagon decision that month to move women in 14,000 support jobs closer to the front lines, from the brigade level to the battalion level.

“I would look to the people who are serving in the military to give the best assessment of where women can serve,” Mr. Romney answered. “We’ve had over 100 women lose their lives in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I was with [Virginia] Gov. Bob McDonnell. His daughter has served as a platoon leader in Afghanistan. He said that she doesn’t get emotional when she faces risk, he’s the one that gets emotional as she faces that kind of risk. And I believe women have the capacity to serve in our military in positions of significance and responsibility, as we do throughout our society.”

In May, Gen. Raymond Odierno, Army chief of staff, announced that his training command had begun a review to determine the effects of putting women in infantry and armor positions and plot a course for how to do it, if that is the final decision.

He said he expected to adopt a “way forward” by summer’s end.

Gen. Odierno, the top commander in Iraq from 2008 to 2010, said the study will also look at allowing women into the grueling Ranger School leadership course, partly because 90 percent of senior infantry officers are Ranger-qualified.

“We have to look at the all-encompassing problem that we have in terms of if we decide to do this, we want the women to be successful, and how do we make them most successful,” he said.

The British armed forces took a long look in the early 2000s at women in land combat, studying how they performed basic battlefield tasks. In the end, researchers found that so few females could handle the lifting and carrying of gear that the government decided to retain the ban. In 2010, the military reaffirmed that decision.

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