Dec 3, 2015
Integrating women into special operations forces poses potential challenges for unit cohesion. The integration of women raises issues of effectiveness, in terms of physical standards and ensuring the readiness, cohesion, and morale essential to high-performing teams. This report assesses those challenges and provides analytical support for validating occupational standards for positions controlled by U.S. Special Operations Command.
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The elimination of the Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule has opened to women some 15,500 special operations forces (SOF) positions. A RAND study helped to inform that decision and provides insight into the key factors surrounding the integration of women into SOF. The integration of women raises issues pertinent to the effectiveness of SOF teams, in terms of physical standards and ensuring readiness, cohesion, and morale. This report assesses potential challenges to the integration of women into SOF for unit cohesion and provides analytical support in validating SOF occupational standards for positions controlled by U.S. Special Operations Command. The report summarizes the history of integration of women into the U.S. armed forces, reviews the current state of knowledge about cohesion in small units, and discusses the application of gender-neutral standards to SOF. The report identifies widely agreed-on professional standards for the validation of physically demanding occupations and assists SOF service components with the application of these standards to SOF occupations. The report also discusses the primary data — a survey of SOF personnel and a series of focus group discussions — collected by the research team regarding the potential challenges to the integration of women into SOF. The report then presents recommendations regarding the implementation process of integrating women into SOF.
History, Challenges, and Concerns
The Integration of Women and Other Excluded Groups into the U.S. Military: The Historical Experience
Physical Ability and Stress Response Differences Between Men and Women
The Potential Implications of Women’s Integration on Unit Cohesion
The Expectations of SOF Personnel Regarding Potentially Integrating Women into SOF Units
The Women in SOF Survey
Insights from the Focus Groups
Potential Future Pathways
A Framework for Establishing Gender-Neutral Standards for Special Operations Forces
Observations and Implications