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Presidential Commission
on the Assignment of Women
in the Armed Forces

Fact-Finding Mission Coordinator
Washington, DC Feb 92 - Nov 92

Planned, led and documented 31 fact-finding missions, including 22 domestic military bases and six foreign countries, for a 15-member panel appointed by President Bush to study the combat roles of women in the military. Created a substantial body of evidence through reports from fact-finding missions.

  • Research Analyst for military aviation and issues pertaining to the Navy
  • Press Liaison with print and broadcast media during fact-finding missions
  • Part of initial cadre of staff
  • Awarded the Joint Services Achievement Medal

The Defense Authorization Bill for 1992 [Public Law 102-190 -- December 5, 1991 (Sections 541 through 550)] directed the President of the United States to appoint a Commission whose purpose was to "... assess the laws and policies restricting the assignent of female service members..."

This same bill repealed the legal prohibition against women flying combat aircraft. However, each of the military services had policies and regulations which complied with the old law, and they were not required to change them. Therefore, a de facto prohibition remained. This highly politicized, 15-member
Commission was between a Congress, which was moving toward expanding roles for women in the military, and the Executive Branch, which wanted to maintain the status quo.

Nearly all of the Commissioners did not support expanded roles for women in infantry-style, ground combat. However, the opinions of the Commissioners were almost eqully divided when the issues were other types of combat assignments,
such as ships and aircraft.

The Commission recommended that Congress RE-INSTATE the legal ban on women flying combat aircraft. This recommendation WAS NOT adopted and today women fly all types of aircraft in all four services.

The Commission recommended that Congress REPEAL the legal ban on the assignment of women to combatant ships, except for amphibious assault ships and submarines. This recommendation WAS adopted, greatly expanding the role of women in the Navy. General Maxwell Thurman (U.S. Army, deceased) cast the swing vote when an amendment
creating the exception was introduced by Major General Mary Clark (U.S. Army, Retired).

The deciding factors in the Commission's view were the likelihood of a woman becoming a prisoner of war (POW) and the ability of the services to provide a modicum of privacy and separation between the sexes.

Although the Commission repeatedly voted against furthering the role of women in the military, the ultimate effects were greatly expanded roles for women in the combat arms.


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"She's Just Another Navy Pilot: An Aviator's Sea Journal" by Loree Draude Hirschman and Dave Hirschman

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