Cohen OKs Mixed Training

amaxwell@govexec.com

The Army, Navy and Air Force can continue to mix male and female recruits in basic training, but not in housing, Defense Secretary William Cohen said Monday.

"The goal is a basic training system which provides gender privacy and dignity in safe, secure living conditions," Cohen said at a press conference.

Cohen's directives came in response to a December report by a panel headed by former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker, R-Kansas. The report argued that male and female recruits should be segregated during most of basic training and live in separate barracks.

In January, the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) released a report saying more, not less, gender-integrated military training is needed.

Last week, Army, Navy and Air Force representatives argued in a draft report that keeping men and women apart in basic training would not prepare them for the real world of the military where women serve on warships and fly combat aircraft.

"We want to train as we fight," one senior military official said. "We are not going to gender segregate."

In the report, the services also rejected the idea of building separate housing units in order to keep men and women apart. Currently, most women in basic training live on the top floors of buildings, while the men are housed separately in floors below them.

Cohen, however, said he wants the system improved. "I want to see barriers that cannot be transgressed," he said.

Cohen also recommended that the services increase supervision for trainees in their first weeks in the services and toughen their physical training.

In addition, he asked the services to increase the number of female recruiters and trainers.

Cohen asked the services to report back to him within 30 days on how they will implement the directives.

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