The Executive Committee of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) visited with more than 2,400 military personnel from all Services in Alaska, Korea, Japan, Okinawa, and Guam during a two week fact-finding mission from July 13-27, 1997. The seven member Executive Committee recently presented their findings in a report to Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen. The report contained information collected from the military women and men during focus groups sessions at each location.
Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen said: "DACOWITS has long served commanders and our service men and women by offering 'no holds barred' assessments of the command climate in units around the world. Their recent trip to the Western Pacific is no exception. While it is clear that gender discrimination and sexual harassment have not been eradicated from the force, DACOWITS did note improvements, especially in those commands where commanders took a personal role in giving subordinates a clear, consistent message on discrimination and harassment. The problems noted during the DACOWITS visit were reported immediately to the commanders for resolution, which has been the practice of DACOWITS since the organization's inception in 1951. DACOWITS noted that many of the concerns it found were already being addressed by local commanders.
"I am committed to making military service rewarding, fair and stable for all service men and women. The Defense Department will use the DACOWITS report to help improve programs to take care of our men and women who serve the country in uniform." Secretary Cohen asked that the Services respond to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness concerning significant issues raised in the report.
During their travels, the Committee noted concerns of service members in such subcommittee areas as: Forces Development and Utilization, Equality Management, and Quality of Life. The Committee's fundamental mandate is to listen without agenda to the troops and keep
the Secretary of Defense appraised of their concerns, desires, suggestions, and issues. During the 1997 visit, a top concern voiced by service members was the effect increased operations tempo and military downsizing were having on mission readiness.
The DACOWITS Executive Committee collected extensive information from over 140 focus group sessions with military members, both male and female. They also talked to family members and directors of support services. Following each visit, they discussed their findings with commanders and senior staff, giving them specific feedback on the issues related to their installations, as well as overall trends.
The trip's success and the value of its findings were due in large part to the support and openness from command leadership, and candidness from the troops. The DACOWITS Chair, Dr. Judith Youngman, has briefed senior civilian and military leaders on the perceptions from the field and the fleet. Some actions are already underway in response to the issues raised by Service members. Dr. Youngman said, "We want the women and men with whom we met to know that we listened and have shared their concerns with Secretary Cohen. We hope this information will assist the Department of Defense in its continuing efforts to improve the policies and programs that affect our military people and enhance combat readiness." DACOWITS will be sending each of the commands visited a copy of the report with strong encouragement for them to share it with their personnel.
DACOWITS members are appointed by the Secretary of Defense and serve as a preeminent source of information on how the Department of Defense's programs and policies affect, in practice or perception, military people in the fleet and field. The members serve as individuals, not as official representatives of any group or organization with which they are affiliated.
Reports can be obtained through DACOWITS at 703-697-2122.