Women in the Military

July 10, 1981

Report Outline
New ‘Pause’ in Recruiting
Changing Roles and Duties
Overcoming Unique Problems
Special Focus

New ‘Pause’ in Recruiting

Administration's Recent Policy Shift

Women have come a long way in the U.S. military in the last decade. In 1973, the year the draft ended and the all-volunteer force came into being, women made up only 1.6 percent of total military personnel. Today there are more than 170,000 women on active duty in the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force — 8.4 percent of the total.

The Pentagon began actively recruiting women soon after the draft ended when the armed forces came up short in the number of male recruits. To encourage female enlistments, the services opened up new opportunities for women. All but a handful of the hundreds of military job specialties — those directly involving combat — are now open to women. The service academies have been admitting women since 1976. And the separate-but-not-quite-equal women's auxiliary branches of the armed forces have been eliminated. Today, most aspects of military life, from basic training to K.P., are the same for men and women.

Many of the gains made by women in the armed forces came during the Carter administration. Harold Brown, Carter's secretary of defense, set a goal of increasing the percentage of women in the services to 12 percent by 1986. For advocates of equal rights for female military personnel, the future seemed bright. But under the Reagan administration the picture is changing. The 12 percent goal has been shelved, and signals from the Pentagon in the last six months strongly indicate a shift in policy. Feminists also are concerned about the implications of the June 25 Supreme Court ruling that Congress may exclude women from draft registration and, presumably, from the draft itself.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Women and Work
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Apr. 14, 2006  Future of Feminism
Apr. 04, 2003  Mothers' Movement
Sep. 25, 1992  Women in the Military
May 10, 1985  Women's Economic Equity
Jul. 10, 1981  Women in the Military
Mar. 20, 1981  Equal Pay Fight
Jul. 04, 1980  Women in the Executive Suite
Jul. 13, 1979  Two-Income Families
Feb. 18, 1977  Women in the Work Force
Feb. 13, 1957  Woman's Place in the Economy
Apr. 22, 1944  Women Workers After the War
Jan. 26, 1942  Women in War Work
Jul. 13, 1926  Sex Equality and Protective Laws
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Civil Rights: Women
Women in the Military