Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
How Female Officers Forced The Navy To Back Down On Uniform Changes
Congress has ordered the Navy to halt unpopular, costly and pointless changes to women’s uniforms, thanks to the overwhelming effort of large group of female officers. When the Navy didn’t listen, women affected by the uniform change ensured that Congress did. Women officers spoke up and Congress heard them.
In 2015, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, one of the most progressive service secretaries ever, decided that “gender equality” meant “looking the same.” He ordered the development of unisex uniform items. In the process, he disregarded numerous studies, including one of female personnel asking for better-fitting versions of existing items. PErhaps the least popular change, aesthetically speaking, was replacement of the “bucket” with the dixie cup for enlisted sailors, and a unisex “alternate combination cover” for officers. (For more of the details, see this earlier story.)
At best, the reasoning behind the changes appeared to be a misguided attempt to strive for gender equality by making everyone look the same. At worst, some perceived the changes as a ploy to line the pockets of uniform manufacturers at service members’ expense. Female Navy officers now had to foot the bill to buy a uniform item they loathed to replace a uniform item they loved. Women in the Navy were generally happy with progressive changes that Mabus pushed for, including integrating women on submarines, advocating for women in combat arms, and tripling the length of maternity leave. This particular change left many women feeling powerless, ignored, and frustrated.
Financial inequality was at the heart of most women officers’ anger over the issue. Critics told women officers to stop “whining” about the matter, citing that uniform changes happen all the time. Female enlisted personnel also had to wear new covers, and received a stipend to purchase them. When most uniform changes occur — such as the upcoming phase-out of blue camouflage — all enlisted personnel get a stipend, and all officers pay out of pocket. In this case, only the approximately 10,000 female Navy officers were stuck with the bill. It was unprecedented and discriminatory.
When normal avenues of dissent were exhausted, including asking questions at all hands calls and writing criticisms routed via the chain of command, female Navy officers took matters into their own hands. Still writing under the pseudonym of Anna Granville, I compiled opinions expressed on social media, in conversations with fellow officers, and incorporated my own thoughts into a Task & Purpose article. Female Navy officers serving on Capitol Hill incorporated the article into a template distributed via social media that was used to write members of Congress. The same officers who worked on the Hill also worked to make sure the letters were properly responded to, the right questions asked of the right people.
While the Navy required the cover change on Oct. 31, 2016, many women refused to buy it, instead waiting for passing of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act . Their advocacy and hard work paid off. When President Barack Obama signed the NDAA in December 2016, it superseded the requirement to go out and purchased the “unisex” cover. The law changed the mandatory wear date of the unisex cover to October 2018. It also required the Secretary of the Navy to be transparent about the composition of wear test groups and their results, stipulated that wear test groups be representative of female personnel, and identify costs as a fraction of service members’ pay. The law furthermore required “an identification of the operational need” of the cover, forcing the Secretary of the Navy to explain why the changes are being put forth at all.
Despite the change in the law, Navy has still not released a new message announcing the delay. Perhaps Navy leadership hopes that women won’t know better and will go out and buy the mannish unisex cover that cost millions to develop. Nonetheless, female Navy officers now get to keep their covers, and by law have a say in a decision that affects them.
This victory is proof that service members can have a say in legislation that affects them. Female Navy officers come from different intersectional identities, ethnicities, backgrounds, and political beliefs, and banded together on this issue. They took their grievances from internet forums and wardroom conversations to Capitol Hill, and won.
Navy Secretary Richard Spencer took the reins at the Pentagon on Monday, becoming the third acting defense secretary since January.
Spencer is expected to temporarily lead the Pentagon while the Senate considers Army Secretary Mark Esper's nomination to succeed James Mattis as defense secretary. The Senate officially received Esper's nomination on Monday.
U.S. Special Operations Command may be on the verge of making the dream of flying infantry soldiers a reality, but the French may very well beat them to it.
On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron shared an unusual video showing a man on a flying platform — widely characterized as a "hoverboard" — maneuvering through the skies above the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris armed with what appears to be a dummy firearm.
The video was accompanied with a simple message of "Fier de notre armée, moderne et innovante," which translates to "proud of our army, modern and innovative," suggesting that the French Armed Forces may be eyeing the unusual vehicle for potential military applications.
A lawmaker wants to know if the Pentagon ever exposed the American public to ticks infected with bioweapons
If you've ever wondered if the Pentagon has ever exposed the American public to ticks infected with biological weapons, you're not alone.
Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) authored an amendment to the House version of the Fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act would require the Defense Department Inspector General's Office to find out if the U.S. military experimented with using ticks and other insects as biological weapons between 1950 and 1975.
If such experiments took place, the amendment would require the inspector general's office to tell lawmakers if any of the ticks or other bugs "were released outside of any laboratory by accident or experiment design."
The Taliban drove his family out of Afghanistan when he was a child. Now he wants to go back as a Marine
There's no one path to military service. For some, it's a lifelong goal, for others, it's a choice made in an instant.
For 27-year-old Marine Pvt. Atiqullah Assadi, who graduated from Marine Corps bootcamp on July 12, the decision to enlist was the culmination of a journey that began when he and his family were forced to flee their home in Afghanistan.
The Air Force has administratively separated the Nellis Air Force Base sergeant who was investigated for making racist comments about her subordinates in a video that went viral last year, Task & Purpose has learned.