For the Military, 2013 Marked a New Era of Gender-Related Issues

Image: For the Military, 2013 Marked a New Era of Gender-Related Issues

Thursday, 02 Jan 2014 01:52 PM

By Lisa Barron

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Bradley Manning's announcement that he intended to have hormone treatments so he could live his life as a woman was the latest in a series of gender-related issues the U.S. military faced in 2013.

Under the Obama administration, in fact, the Pentagon has also tackled sexual assault, same-sex relationships, and the question of women in combat. Some former officials have questioned whether defense is taking a back seat to politics as a result, reports The Washington Times.

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"Every conceivable form of PC is being enforced upon our hard-pressed military with a zeal that only a Russian army zampolit — a political officer — would truly appreciate," Ken Allard, a retired Army colonel and commentator, told the newspaper.

"We are seemingly concerned about everything except the most basic thing: how to fight and win the nation’s wars. If we have forgotten that constraint, let me assure you that our enemies have not, from the Taliban to the drug cartels to the Iranian Quds Force," he said.

Retired Gen. Carl Mundy, Marine Corps commandant from 1991 to 1996, agreed, stating, "Yes, there is too much focus on social issues in the armed forces driven by external proponents with special interests, focused agendas and, in many cases, lack of knowledge about the armed forces."

The bureaucracy related to such issues has been steadily growing, according to Elaine Donnelly, who runs the Center for Military Readiness.

She told the Times that in addition to a committee that advises Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on women's issues there are several task force panels, including one that deals just with service academies.

"And lots of individual committees set up within each service, which spend countless hours conducting internal meetings and writing reports," she noted.

"Then there are outside contractors such as Rand Corp., and even entertainers who do shows like 'Sex Signals,' which include edgy language and scenarios that are inconsistent with standards of professional propriety."

The social focus comes as the military faces budget cuts and retrenchment.

"Just as over-dependence on the military carries with it risks and consequences, letting our military strength atrophy would invite disaster," Hagel said during a speech in November.

Meanwhile, new social issues continue to arise. Some transgender veterans are now calling for the Obama administration to allow them to change their discharge papers to reflect their current name and sex, reports ABC News.

But Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Cathy Wilkinson told the network that there are "no plans at this time" to make changes to its policy.

"It's a historical document that reflects a summary of military service," she said.

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