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DoD News Briefing: Dr. Judith Youngman, Chair, DACOWITS

Presenters: Dr. Judith Youngman, Chair, DACOWITS
October 30, 1997 1:30 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

Judith Youngman is a Professor of Political Science at the Coast Guard Academy and the Chair of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, known as DACOWITS. She's here today to brief you on the results of the committee's recent trip to military installations in the Western Pacific from Alaska to Korea and down to Guam, I guess.

During that visit the executive committee interviewed more than 2,400 military personnel and held 140 focus groups. I think you've seen the report that summarizes the results of those visits.

DACOWITS was established in 1951 by Secretary George Marshall and it's played an extremely important role in reporting on conditions in the service for both men and women since it was founded, and it continues to do that good work today.

Secretary Cohen has told the committee, I think you've seen the letter that he sent back to Dr. Youngman after reviewing the report, that he's assigned this report to Rudy DeLeon, the Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness to follow up on the findings. Rudy has already started doing that.

Dr. Youngman, thank you.

Dr. Youngman: Good afternoon. I'm very pleased to be here today and to have an opportunity to share with you some perceptions from the field and the fleet in WESTPAC.

I'd like to just take a moment to give you a little insight into the process that we used. What I'll be sharing with you today, and what is in our written report, are perceptions of service personnel. Secretary Cohen has asked us, as have his predecessors, to go out in the field and the fleet and to listen without agenda to what service members are saying and to report back to him. Therefore, what I'm going to talk about and what is in the report are perceptions. We put them in the report for the Secretary's information unfiltered, I guess one could say, and don't validate or take it upon ourselves to validate or amend what the service members tell us. So what I'm going to be talking about is perceptions, and I wanted to stress that we have not independently validated anything that is within the report.

The second thing is that I'm going to be somewhat general in some cases in my comments, as the report is general, because in talking with service members in small groups of 10 to 20, we assure them that what they discuss with us not only will be transmitted to the Secretary, but also will be held confidential, and we take great care in ensuring that when service members speak with us they remain anonymous and they remain confidential. So we try and pull information together in a collective way, rather than dealing with a lot of specifics.

Our process on the trip was the following: All of the issues, however, that do appear on in the report were not just raised by one soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine or coasty, but occurred or were raised in a majority of groups. We had a process where what has essentially appeared in the report, if it didn't appear in a majority of the sessions that we had, it is not in the report, so it's not a tick list of this person saying this and this person saying that.

The other point I wanted to emphasize, some of which is in the report, and the rest is not, is that what really struck us is that although the report is a list of issues, that some of them may be perceived as complaints or discouraging, every issue in the report that is raised or was raised by service members, we found had been successfully addressed by a, one or more local commands, units or installations that we visited. So we were very encouraged by that, that local commanders were listening to their troops and were taking action when issues reached their level.

With that said, what I'd like to do is to give you just a brief overview of the report. I understand that you probably have copies. And then if you have questions, I would be pleased to take those.

When we go out, in order to ensure -- there were seven of us who went. When we go out, in order to ensure consistency, we open each of our focus groups with two questions, and they're always the same two questions. We may have a follow-up question or two to get folks to elaborate, but essentially the same two questions. They are: How's it going? And, if you have five minutes with the Secretary of Defense, what would you like to tell him? Very open ended.

In response to those two questions, WESTPAC wide, all services, all rank levels, all genders, all countries, all ethnicities, the top issue raised in WESTPAC as perceived by the troops this year was related to OpsTempo, PersTempo, training, manning, resources, and morale.

The issues as they raised them, and how they perceive these is they are concerned about the pace of operations and the effects that it is having and will have in the future on service members' ability to keep up with and maintain that OpsTempo into the future.

It was very interesting to us that when service members perceived that the OpsTempo was beginning to wear on the troops, each level of service member that we talked with -- maybe a room of officers -- was not griping or complaining about their own workload. Each level was raising it on behalf of their concern for the troops under their command or in their unit, and it was raised with us in a very positive way.

The primary OpsTempo/PersTempo concerns that were raised primarily were raised by everyone in conjunction with enlisted troops. With the NCOs who bear the brunt of the direct leadership role as well as the mentorship role for those junior personnel under their commands. In many services the NCOs, the technical expertise as well. So the real level of PersTempo and OpsTempo concerns was with the enlisted personnel, especially those E-6 and above, and questioning the concern that they were stretched so thin that by having to both do their operational job, engage in the mentorship and development of junior personnel in the long term, because the whole military development system is very much one of a mentorship system, and that's what the troops were really talking about. The officers, the NCOs themselves, talking about that developmental leadership role as well.

Troops were also concerned that because of the operational tempo that the time for training available as well as training resource questions in some services in some locations, perhaps might not be sufficient any longer to maintain an optimal

state of readiness. They asked or they were expressing concerns about ensuring that the operational tempo did not get so great that the training necessary to ensure both individual and unit readiness would erode. They raised it in that context.

But as I said, in terms of our general questions, even as the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, the issues, the number one issue raised everywhere by everyone was the pace, and it was their concern that training keep up, that individual development, both individual and unit training and development keep up, and the concern that with the prolonged heightened operational tempos that they were proceeding, that this was becoming difficult to do.

In terms of other issues raised, another gender neutral issue that they raised of concern was discussions currently over outsourcing, privatization, and downsizing. Out in this forward deployed area they perceive that OpsTempo is high. They also raised concerns about the impacts of further downsizing. And also for the same personnel, concerns about their career futures as well in terms of outsourcing and privatization.

Other issues raised did have to do with gender. Let me just highlight those in terms of the main issue.

Probably the main gender-related issue raised by military women across all services in WESTPAC, probably two issues would tie for number one. The first was the perceived lack of adequate support services in WESTPAC for military women. These include things like recreational facilities and activities; they included the stocking of goods for military women in PXs and commissaries. But by far the number one support service issue for military women was an insufficient accessibility of GYN specialists necessary to retain individual readiness. The perception is that in WESTPAC the medical system's GYN system in place results in many military women having as their primary care GYN provider a non-GYN specialist, and in some cases a non-GYN specialist, non-physician, from whom they must get a referral to see a GYN specialist. The perceptions were as detailed in the report, that this system did not adequately work.

The women were concerned, and what was discussed with us in every location, was the impact that has on individual readiness. Whether their deployability when it was time to deploy, or other issues. So they were raising it solely and exclusively in the context of their ability to be ready, and their individual readiness.

The second issue for women that tied with accessibility of support services was their perception of their underutilization in the field and the fleet. And that underutilization took three or four different forms.

First of all, they perceived that they are not being selected for leadership positions, troop leadership positions, to the same extent as their male colleagues, with the exception of Army NCO women in Korea where they perceived that there were good leadership opportunities for NCO women.

Underutilization was also perceived as being assigned, say if in a unit there were nine people in the same MOS, and within that MOS there was one administrative duty billet and there were seven technical operational ones, their perception is that women were disproportionately being assigned to the administrative billet in that MOS and not to the operational ones.

They also perceived in some services that they were being assigned outside of their MOS to administrative or desk duties, in MOS immaterial kinds of jobs.

And finally, except for the Air Force, because Air Force women saw this differently, they perceived that they were not being selected for a career-enhancing TAD/TDY opportunities from WESTPAC to other locations at the same rates as men with the same MOS and job abilities in their units.

The third gender issue that came out, only it's not gender exclusive, had to do with the climate in WESTPAC. As you may or may not know, we also visited WESTPAC in 1995. In 1995 I think we only overlapped one installation was the same in this trip. Compared to 1995, how we have responded to what we heard about climate is there has been a noticeable improvement in command climate, gender climate in WESTPAC.

In 1997 we visited several locations, including ships, where women and men alike clearly described a realistic gender climate. What do we mean by realistic gender climate? Well that's in the report, but essentially a realistic gender climate, maybe one in which one of two things may still go on -- but after all, we have the death penalty and people still murder -- but they perceive that there's a system in place for handling issues; that the system works well; that the system is fair; that the leadership's position is clear; and that neither men nor women are hesitant to use the system. They don't feel in danger or their career's on the line by using it. There are systems in place and they're working.

Also, in such realistic environments, men and women neither one feels polarized from the other. In the groups we were in, if they were discussing an issue, you'd find men and women on any side of a gender issue discussing it among themselves.

We found realistic environments as discussed in the report in both the 7th Fleet and Yakuska Fleet activities also Anderson Air Force Base, Guam.

The largest number of locations that we visited had what we would describe as a gender discriminatory climate. A gender discriminatory climate is one that has a heightened gender sensitivity awareness, gender consciousness, where people are still aware of men and women; where they don't feel as comfortable raising issues -- either men or women. They're not polarized, by any means, but just a heightened level of gender awareness.

We encountered a very small number of harassing environments where there was more covert hostility, where women maybe would be hesitant to raise an issue; where men might be afraid of being incorrectly accused of something. In WESTPAC we did encounter one, as the report states, one what we would describe as hostile, polarized environment in which women were pretty overtly demeaned.

But overall, every single one of the seven DACOWITS executive committee members on the trip -- and by the way, we're all the oldest, so to speak, and probably the most experienced in installation visits. We left several installations in WESTPAC saying this is the best installation we've ever visited.

So this is an example, how I said earlier, that for every issue raised in the report there were also examples of things working. At one place we went it was working just fine. This is an example of that, where there were installations and units out there where that happened.

With that said, in summary on command climate we also found that we could not have seen a clearer picture drawn on command climate; and to be honest, it was not one that if you'd asked us ahead of time we would have expected to see. Climate was installation or even unit defined. There was no consistency across service or country. For every service and in every country we saw better climates and worse climates, and it clearly was an installation or unit defined issue.

Another issue that came up, other issues that came up, had to do with quality of life; and a big quality of life or a major quality of life issue raised was morale. Morale was discussed quite openly, especially morale of junior enlisted people in the enlisted ranks everywhere that we went. Morale was perceived as being affected by OpsTempo and PersTempo; it was perceived as being affected by the quality of life in WESTPAC which I'll talk about in a couple of minutes. But there's another factor that contributed to morale that I just wanted to touch on briefly because it's something that you and I have something to do about. That has to do with one of the factors really described virtually everywhere we went as affecting morale has been the coverage of our people in the press.

Their perception is that they are out there, they're performing their mission, they are stretched thin, they are working hard, they have less time with their families, and the only thing that's said about them is being lumped together and characterized in the media and on the Hill with kind of negative, derogatory coverage of gender relations. And everywhere we went, virtually, they asked us why is that? Why is nobody telling the other side about we are out there doing our job? Why is nobody acknowledging the sacrifices that we're making, and with downsizing coming, you know, we don't even know if we're going to end up having a career until we retire. It was described to us in all sincerity as impacting on their morale.

The quality of life issues that were raised, I think gender-specific ones I have already discussed. The other quality of life issues that came up really had to do with everybody. A number one quality of life issue in WESTPAC has to do with the cost of living. Service members don't always, if they're forced to live in the civilian economy because of inadequate numbers of housing units -- which is a factor throughout WESTPAC. The current allowances that they get do not fully reimburse them for all of their housing expenses. In addition in WESTPAC in the last two years there have been cost of living reductions, and they don't understand how that can be, because they perceive that costs are high. Those are issues that we have already raised.

In addition, we found and they described and perceive in WESTPAC probably some of the best child care facilities anywhere. We saw exceptional child care facilities. However, they're open from 0630 to 1730 five days a week, and in this forward deployed area, service members work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So both in terms of number of child care slots available and in terms of the hours of child care, service members were really having to scramble to find child

care in WESTPAC, which is very difficult to find in the civilian community. Very difficult to access.

Recreational facilities overall were a problem because of the high cost. Housing was a major issue. Housing for families and for enlisted people. But probably consistently across WESTPAC, housing for junior enlisted people in the barracks -- the quality of barracks, the number of barracks available. Soldiers are still living in quonset huts in some locations. The quality of enlisted lifestyle, or enlisted quality of life was perceived as low, and therefore affecting morale.

Coupled with quality of life and operational tempo, service members in some locations also talked about the morale of junior enlisted and how it perhaps contributes to the use or abuse of alcohol. And how alcohol is described in the report, how alcohol in those locations in which alcohol use and abuse is occurring -- especially if that coincides with an otherwise harassing or environment that's one of those command climates that's not so great -- how negative behaviors towards women are, or within the enlisted ranks, male/female, are occurring. So we did encounter a few locations in which there were concerns about over-use of alcohol among the junior enlisted population. There were concerns about sexual assault. There were concerns about date rape also in that context.

Other quality of life concerns really had to do with more general medical concerns -- ensuring that there were adequate mental health supports for active duty personnel, as well as family advocacy support for other personnel.

But I think that those are the major issues that service members raised. In summary, and I'd be happy to take questions... In summary, they really have to do with tempo, resources, manning. They have to do with their pace. They have to do with the support services in place. Their perception is, as expressed to us, that... Well, as they described to us. They didn't put it this way, I'm interpreting it. But what they describe clearly shows that climates are unit and installation defined. And also, as the report documents, it clearly shows that individual commanders have been successful in addressing a lot of these issues at the individual level.

With that, I'd be happy to take questions.

Q: You said that in only a few locations you had harassing environments, major problems with harassing environments, and you say you won't identify those because it would get people in trouble who you interviewed.

You said you wouldn't identify people. You didn't say you wouldn't identify bases. I wonder if you won't identify the installations. And, in fact, did you identify the installations for the Secretary, and will action be taken?

A: All services have been briefed; all Service Chiefs have been briefed; all regional commanders have been briefed; all installation and unit commanders were briefed on the specific results. But no, I'm not going to identify the installations or the units because we do guarantee the service members confidentiality in meeting with us.

In all of the installations and units that we met with in which perhaps harassing environments were identified or perceived by service members, we left WESTPAC, and subsequently are very confident that the services are not only aware, but are taking or have already taken action to remedy that.

Q: The commander of this one base where you describe an atmosphere that sounds fairly criminal in behavior, has he been removed?

A: I'm not going to comment on the service resolution. As I said...

Q: You said you were happy.

A: I said I'm confident that action has been taken.

Q: But has the commander been removed? Even though you don't care to identify the base... If I was sending my daughter to this base, I'd want to know where this was.

A: Uh huh.

Q: Why can't you say that? We're talking about where harassment and violence are openly acknowledged.

A: Right.

Q: Safety is given to abusers. No safe haven for the women at this base. That's outrageous!

A: I don't want to provide any information that might launch a close-delved investigative look trying to figure out where commanders might have left recently if I acknowledge that someone may or may not have been relieved because some...

Q: The Army (inaudible) say that they held responsibility for certain types of actions at Aberdeen.

A: And this service, if they want to talk about it when everything is said and done, to ensure that those women who may have talked to us have, indeed, now an environment in which they're safe and secure, that service will do that.

Q: You're saying there could be retribution against these women.

A: I'm saying that I am not going to discuss it, and it's not DACOWITS' job to discuss that. We are confident in referrals to the service that the services are handling things.

Q: How did DACOWITS miss Aberdeen?

A: DACOWITS didn't go to Aberdeen.

Mr. Bacon: You know as well as I do that DACOWITS is an advisory committee, and they have provided advice to the service and to the Secretary. It's a different...

Q: They identified bases, they identified ships where things were positive.

Mr. Bacon: They have a different...

Q: Why can't they identify bases where things are negative?

Mr. Bacon: They have a different command situation than the Army does, so I think she's explained that very well.

Q: Can you say the service?

A: No. I don't choose to do that.

Q: Thanks.

A: You're welcome.

Q: How will the public be confident that some action was taken at that specific installation to know that it's been taken care of if you can't name the installation or identify the service or even know which service to ask? How do we find out what action was taken to correct that? It won't be identifying the base if you say such and such action was taken. So how is the public to know if action was taken?

A: Trust.

Q: With all the things that have happened recently, all the highly publicized stories, how do you expect trust? Without being upset about it...

A: Our number one concern is that, first of all, that troops who raise issues and especially individuals who raise issues, are not at risk in doing so. If remediation is underway and external people go charging in to take a look, you cannot ensure that you will not put people at risk. And after what I heard this summer by how people perceive how you are treating them, I have an ethical personal problem with putting any service women at risk for talking to us. I'm sorry if you don't like the fact that I won't reveal, but I don't intend to reveal.

Q: You revealed it to the Secretary of Defense and the Secretaries of the Services, so they're aware of what's going...

A: Absolutely.

Q: And you're confident right now that things have been resolved?

A: I am confident that the action that needs to be taken is being taken.

Q: If the biggest issues are OpsTempo, training, manning, morale; why have DACOWITS?

A: Why have DACOWITS? Because those were the top issues, but the other issues there were underutilization of women; lack of GYN care; perceptions of inadequate selection of women to leadership positions. I think these are issues that we have been hearing about, and they are at the top of our agenda. We have a conference next week. They are at the top of our agenda in that conference next week. And I think that DACOWITS is still able to go out there and to speak informally with service members. And for whatever reason it is, they do feel that they can talk to us and they do. And I think that right now we still offer a value to military women that they can come to us and talk to us openly about their concerns, and those concerns will be raised at the highest levels of the service. I think that is still a function that DACOWITS performs, by listening to military women, and raising, from the most junior to the most senior personnel, the issues that concern them -- even if... Well, I think that's a service we perform. Especially since women still are not in the senior leadership positions of the service in either the officer corps or the enlisted ranks, it is still a valuable service.

Q: In your report you mentioned problems in Korea with U.S. service women getting harassed by local nationals. What is going on there? Can you describe that a little more?

A: What was perceived in Korea is that service women are harassed or demeaned or local national DoD employees engage in prejudicial behaviors towards our women in uniform. We have heard that off and on. It was there in 1995. We have begun to ask both the services and the Joint Staff about that issue. We took an initial snapshot look at it trying to figure out what's going on there, if you will, at our spring conference. The information that we got was not enlightening. We're going to have another discussion and another look at it next week. It is an issue that we're not letting go, and we are working very cooperatively, I think, with the Joint Staff in trying to figure out what's there.

Q: Let me make sure I understand. Some of these people are local nationals who work for the United States and they're harassing our women on the bases?

A: It's very complicated in that there are different complaint systems and processes for the military active duty people and for civilians. I'm a federal employee in a sense, an employee of the Coast Guard Academy. I work with military people. I have a different complaint system. We really, at this time, have not figured out why this is happening. We're beginning to discuss it with the Joint Staff and with the services, trying to get to the bottom of this. It has appeared now during two of our WESTPAC trips, and that's why we're taking a look at it. We might have more to tell you next week.

Q: Is it a cultural problem, in large measure?

A: I'm not in a position... We have drawn no conclusions yet. We're looking at it next week.

Q: You say you're taking it up with the government involved, with the Korean government. Is it being taken up with them?

A: I am not involved in that end of it. We're looking at it and having a discussion next week.

In other words, you've got to remember that you asked about what the DACOWITS does. I think in some ways you almost have to think of us as not even just a sensing organization, but maybe an early warning system. We're just starting to hear this. We raised it two years ago, some actions were taken in terms of complaint processes. We're still hearing it. Why are we still hearing it? We're asking the question. We're going to sit down with the services and the Joint Staff next week and talk about it next week and see if we can figure out. Your questions are a little too preliminary because we're looking at it next week in follow-up to what we heard.

Q: This is not just in the Pacific theater. Wasn't this also addressed in Italy in last year's visits?

A: Yes, it was. That's why we looked at it...

Q: ...seem like it's a trend? Are you finding it during your visits? You said you identified this two years ago.

A: Right.

Q: It was identified last year in Europe. You see it again now in the Pacific. Doesn't that seem like a trend?

A: I don't know if I'd say it's a trend. It's an issue in more than one location, yes. It's out there. We know it's out there. That's why we're looking at it next week. As I said, we're working very cooperatively, I think, with the Joint Staff and with the services to do that. At the spring conference, to be quite honest, our military briefers and we were equally befuddled in looking at what we provided.

Q: Can you talk about what the disconnect is in the complaints process, how that works? You seem to be suggesting that women who complain of harassment, their complaints don't result in action.

A: This is the disconnect. What we were briefed on at our spring conference, which was a public conference, was that there weren't complaints. That there's a complaint system in place, there aren't complaints. I don't remember the few number that there were worldwide. However, when we go out and talk to military women in the field and the fleet overseas, we hear about it, so there's a disconnect between what's being reported and what they're telling us privately.

Q: So you're saying there's crimes being committed against women that are going unreported...

A: No. No.

Q: You mentioned the violence and the hostility.

A: No, that's very different. No. You're putting totally different things together. That is not what we're talking about.

Q: So in other words when these women complain that they're being harassed by say Korean employees, nobody does anything about it, no record is taken, there's no...

A: You're putting words in my mouth. No. What I'm saying is that there are few complaints filed, and I don't remember the data because we dealt with it in April. But when we took a look at the complaint systems and we had a worldwide

look at all the complaints filed worldwide against foreign nationals employed by the United States overseas on military bases, there were very, very few complaints. It's a disconnect between what we've now heard in three different summers. What we're trying to figure out is, why is there the disconnect?

Q: And you don't know.

A: We don't know that yet. We're working with the Joint Staff who are as equally concerned... Concerned may be too strong. But they don't know either. They want to get to the bottom of this. They were very cooperative in the spring. We're going to be talking about it next week. We're trying to figure out why there's a mismatch between the numbers of complaints when there are processes in place and what we're hearing in the field and the fleet.

Q: Before you mentioned alcohol related date rape and other crimes...

A: Not in the context of foreign nationals.

Q: No, I'm saying against American women in the service.

A: Okay. So we're going to change topics?

Q: I wanted to address what was in the report here. That, to me, would be a crime, wouldn't it? Are women coming to you and talking about things that could be crimes? And are these being reported, or are they just being expressed to you?

A: I would say that what is encapsulated there is a summary of the kinds of things that we heard about. In many cases... I can't even talk in terms of number of cases. Yes, they're being dealt with and addressed.

Q: Through criminal procedures.

A: We don't validate.

Q: Has anybody brought up, in all your travels, this issue of the amendment to the Brady Bill and the Lautenberg Amendment where people convicted of spousal abuse also carry weapons. Is that expressed in any way to you as a concern with the troops?

A: We have not heard that.

Q: Have you looked at the Rand report? Are their findings in that report consistent with what you found in the U.S. installations through DACOWITS? Or is there anything that contradicts what you found?

A: I have not read the Rand report.

Q: Did you make any recommendations?

A: No, we don't. Our function for the Secretary is to listen without agenda and to report back perceptions. We report back perceptions in the report that you have that goes to the Secretary. We also report those perceptions to the services, to regional commanders, unit commanders. Every single installation commander was fully briefed in a great deal of detail about what came up at his installation. Then we follow that right up the chain of command to the Service Chiefs. So everybody has been briefed.

Q: Ken, can you take a question? Has the Secretary or any Secretary, ever acted on anything DACOWITS has done?

Mr. Bacon: Yes, in a general way they do. They take these reports seriously. They talk about them with the Service Secretaries. And as I said, Secretary Cohen has asked Rudy DeLeon to follow up on this. I think, as the report itself says, actions are already being taken in response to some of the findings.

DACOWITS is an advisory committee and its job is to do exactly the type of information gathering and then reporting that Dr. Youngman has described.

Q: Has the commander of this unit where the egregious...

Mr. Bacon: I don't know that.

Q: Can you take the question?

Press: Thank you.

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