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Women Play Crucial Role in Nation's Defense
Executive summary "Women in Defense -- DoD Leading the Way," , Defense Department report , Friday, March 01, 1996

Defense Issues: Volume 11, Number 31-- Women Play Crucial Role in Nation's Defense The Defense Department is the nation's largest employer of women, employing more than 500,000 of them in civilian and active military billets. That fact and other numbers show women's far-reaching influence on DoD.


Volume 11, Number 31

Women Play Crucial Role in Nation's Defense

Executive summary of "Women in Defense -- DoD Leading the Way," a Defense Department report released in March 1996.

The United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women developed actions to achieve women's empowerment and reaffirm the human rights of women and the girl child. The report categorized the objectives into 12 critical areas of concern. ...

DoD has initiated policy changes which parallel the actions from the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women. The all-volunteer force provides a vast pool of qualified military men and women. The total DoD force includes DoD civilians, reservists and family members, including wives and children.

DoD is the nation's largest employer of women. There are over 500,000 women in defense. This includes 371,000 civilian employees and 195,000 active duty women. Women comprise a significant portion of the defense force including:


  • 12 percent of the active duty force;
  • 14 percent of the reserve force;
  • 37 percent of the DoD civilian labor force and
  • 19 percent of civilian midlevel managers (GS-13 to 15).

The DoD force includes more than just the active duty military woman, reservists and DoD civilian employees. DoD also considers 757,164 spouses (90 percent are women) of active duty military and 1,373,978 children (approximately 50 percent are girls) important stakeholders and integral to the DoD force.

We provide for the education of 114,000 students worldwide in 135 schools in 14 countries. We are also the nation's largest affordable employee-sponsored child care program. DoD provides care to over 200,000 children daily at 346 locations. Therefore, our programs and budget decisions incorporate the needs of these constituencies.

The Clinton administration opened many nontraditional career fields in the armed forces to women. Currently, there are 186 pilots and navigators flying combat aircraft with approximately 141 in training. The Clinton administration appointed more women to the DoD than any past administration. For example, the first woman head of a major branch of military service, Ms. Shelia Widnall, was appointed during this administration.

Below is an overview of the DoD's actions consistent with the Beijing conference on women. ... DoD is leading the way.


  • DoD Instruction 1344.12 assists wives in receiving involuntary allotments (garnishment) to facilitate child support enforcement. DoD has published the names and addresses of points of contact to facilitate child support enforcement. This effort is in compliance with Executive Order 12593 signed by the president.
  • DoD has 200 trained employment assistance managers worldwide to assist spouses (over 90 percent are women) develop skills and identify employment opportunities in the private sector.
  • DoD has initiated a major research effort to study the barriers which impact spouses (mostly women) of military members who earn less than $25,000 per year (E-5 and below) with employment.
  • The Navy has 137 women pilots and navigators flying combat aircraft. The Army has 38, and the Air Force has 10. The Marine Corps has one pilot and 11 in training. The Navy has 87 women pilots in training and 40 naval flight officers in training. The Air Force has three women in training.
  • DoD has special emphasis programs designed to enhance the employment and advancement of minorities, women and people with disabilities.
  • The aid societies of the Air Force and Navy offer tuition assistance programs for spouses of active duty members overseas. The program encourages the completion of degree or certificate programs to increase occupational opportunities for spouses.
  • The Defense Women's Health Research Program established by the FY [fiscal year] 94 National Defense Authorization Act created a coordinating office for multidisciplinary and multiinstitutional research within the DoD. The purpose of the office is to coordinate research within the DoD on women's health issues as it relates to service in the armed forces. Research will encompass active and reserve component women.
  • All active duty DoD women have pelvic exams during accession physicals. Active duty women are required to have annual Pap smears and clinical breast examinations. During annual exams, active duty women are routinely offered counseling on family planning and contraception alternatives.
  • The Air Force Reproductive Hazards Initiative Group at Brooks Air Force Base, Texas, will develop a technical report on guidelines for handling reproductive concerns in the workplace. The report will recommend guidelines for women exposed to chemical or biological pollutants.
  • The DoD New Parent Support program provides prenatal support, counseling and home visits after birth to both the mother and father for certain families at risk for family violence. Preliminary evaluations indicate this program reduces the risk of spouse abuse and child abuse.
  • A senior level Pentagon task force, co-chaired by the secretary of the Air Force, Sheila Widnall, identified strategies to eliminate sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination. The task force also identified 48 ways to improve equal opportunity for women.
  • DoD collaborated with service family advocacy offices, Cornell University, Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services to publish a 1995 package to increase awareness on domestic violence prevention.
  • DoD has made a significant commitment to peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina with its deployment of forces to enforce the Dayton agreements. It cooperates with the effort to bring to justice those guilty of war crimes, including allegations of widespread war crimes against women and children.
  • Integration of women in the armed forces in a broad range of functions enhances sensitivity to and treatment of women who suffer as a result of armed conflict. The recent repeal of combat exclusion provided the following increased military services opportunities available to women: 91 percent of Army billets are now open to women; 96 percent of Navy billets now open to women; 93 percent of Marine Corps billets are now open to women; 99 percent of Air Force billets are now open to women.
  • DoD has the nation's largest affordable employee-sponsored child care program, which provides care to over 200,000 children on a daily basis, with over 16,000 employees (mostly military wives) at 346 locations worldwide.
  • The DoD acquisition process has an aggressive outreach component to target women-owned businesses. To raise the level of awareness, DoD provides seminars and procurement conferences to educate women on economic opportunities within the DoD acquisition program.

Women serve as senior-level leaders, assistant secretaries of defense and as senior executives in the military departments. The Air Force has four women in the astronaut program. The Navy has one woman in the astronaut program.

The secretary of the Air Force is a woman; the Army has five women general officers; the Navy has five women admirals; the Air Force has six female generals, and the USMC [U. S. Marine Corps] has one female general.


  • The secretary of defense memorandums on equal opportunity issued March 3, 1994, and on prohibiting sexual harassment in DoD issued Aug. 22, 1994, exemplif[y] the United Nation[s] objective that "Government responsibility for the advancement of women is vested in the highest possible level of government."
  • The Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services was established 45 years ago to evaluate and make recommendations on women's issues. This organization regularly reviews policy decisions and garners field input in its analysis of women in the military.
  • The Army has instituted the Army Family Action Plan to improve family programs, benefits and entitlements for the Army family at the grass roots level. Established by Army leadership in 1983, it implements a partnership that exists between the Army and Army families.
  • The deputy secretary of defense published in May 1995 an action agenda for civilian equal employment opportunity progress within the DoD.
  • DoD published a Department of Defense Human Goals charter. A vital part of the DoD public affairs program is to present information about women as they are -- accomplished professionals. Recent examples include:
  • "CBS This Morning" aired a multipart series on women recruits and drill instructors at Marine Corps Recruit [Base], Parris Island, [S.C.].
  • The National Air and Space Museum interviewed women helicopter pilots for [the] 150th anniversary of Smithsonian Institution television programs.
  • The Chicago Tribune covered a story on aviation training for women; Newsweek conducted interviews of women cadets for gender integration at the U.S. Military Academy, Virginia Military Institute and The Citadel.
  • The top environmental policy maker in DoD is a woman. Ms. Sherri Goodman is the deputy undersecretary of defense for environmental security.
  • The DoD has executed a program that targets outreach, training and education opportunities for women in communities surrounding military installations through the implementation of the environmental justice executive order.
  • The Department of Defense Education Activity Strategic Plan targets narrowing the achievement gap of girls in math and science by 50 percent by the year 2000.
  • DoD has an aggressive public awareness effort to disseminate knowledge about child maltreatment. Additionally, DoD provides training and education on resources available for parents, information on child development, disciplinary methods, personal safety.


Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at