DACOWITS Report Recommends Family-Friendly Initiatives
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 31, 2005 A Defense Department-sponsored military women's advisory panel recommends that the armed forces discontinue the practice of simultaneously deploying both military parents of minor children.
That is among several top proposed changes the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Armed Services, known by the acronym DACOWITS, cited in its 2004 report. The committee advises senior DoD leaders on issues and policies related to the recruitment and retention, treatment, employment, integration and well-being of women in the armed forces.
"Our recommendations are intended to improve the military lives of servicemembers and their families and to ensure that they believe their sacrifice is worthwhile and appreciated," according to a statement released by the committee.
Some other significant recommendations contained in the report, released March 30, that the committee urged DoD to adopt, include:
- Developing sabbatical programs and allowing military families the option of remaining at assigned installations during critical family events;
- Evaluating how military training impacts on the stresses and circumstances of single parenthood and encouraging military leaders to strongly support family readiness programs;
- Having the armed services quickly implement a new definition of sexual assault into the Uniform Code of Military Justice for consistent reference in training and information collection, and by military law enforcement agencies; and
- Ensuring that the official definition of what constitutes sexual assault within the military establishes a clear legal standard that's distinct from other sex-related offenses.
DoD has established new privacy guidelines to become effective in mid-June that "will encourage more victims of sexual assault to come forward and seek help," David Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, announced March 18 during a Pentagon press briefing.
The committee also recommended that the military assess the effectiveness of Web-based family support programs such as Military One Source.
DACOWITS didn't specifically address recruitment issues in its report, but the committee noted that concerns contained within the spheres of retention, deployment and sexual assault could affect military recruitment efforts.
In gathering data for its 2004 report, DACOWITS members visited 14 military installations in the United States and abroad, conducting 70 focus groups consisting of military members and spouses. The committee had three servicewide priorities to research in 2004: personnel retention, deployment and sexual assault.
The 13-member group, currently chaired by retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Carol Mutter, is made up of men and women selected on the basis of their experience in the military, as a member of a military family, or experience working with women's or family-related issues.