A military watchdog says the U.S. Congress should demand more oversight as the Obama administration pushes to allow women into front-line combat.
Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness is warning Congress after U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez introduced an amendment that would give President Obama more freedom to issue executive orders.
Sanchez's amendment would change the congressional notification rule from 30 "legislative" days to 30 "calendar" days, Donnelly and others are warning.
Approximately100 members of the Military Cultural Coalition have signed a letter sent to the Senate and House armed services committees expressing concerns about oversight.
Donnelly is a spokesperson for the Coalition.
"Plans for implementation are advancing toward a January 2016 deadline, without congressional oversight, even though extensive research and tests since 2012 have yet to produce any findings or empirical data that support the case for women in direct ground combat," the letter states.
The letter, dated May 20, cites a recent British Ministry of Defence report about women in stressful, front-line combat:
The British report stated that deficiencies in strength and endurance lead to "an early onset of fatigue" which leads to "lower survivability in combat," and reduced lethality when "marksmanship degrades as a result of fatigue." Even stronger women, called the "physical elite" are vulnerable to debilitating, sometimes life-long injuries in close combat.
OneNewsNow reported earlier this year that the Obama administration expects women to be in front-line combat units by January 2016.
The military branches, under pressure to comply, must explain to the Pentagon why that demand cannot be met.
With the 2016 deadline looming, Military.com reported in April that 29 female Marines washed out of Infantry Officer School as part of that branch's experiment to ready its female Marines for front-line combat.
The story notes that the female Marines didn't have to meet the same screening process to enroll in the course. But they had to perform to the same standards as male Marines.
Regarding the Sanchez amendment, the Coalition letter says approving it "would essentially surrender the policy-making authority of the legislative branch on a matter of paramount importance."
If Obama issues an executive order that removes the exemptions for ground combat, says Donnelly, the Sanchez amendment would allow that action while Congress is out of town.
"Even though the notification law is still on the books," Donnelly says, "I would not put it past this president to try to ram something through and do it in a way that harms women."
Donnelly says the Sanchez amendment should be taken out of the final Defense Authorization bill by the House-Senate conference committee.
Donnelly has studied the issue of women in combat under President Reagan and later under President H.W. Bush.