U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tyler L. Main

This year may be banner year for women in the military. Women have now graduated from the Army’s famed Ranger School and the Navy has signaled that it will open the SEALs to women beginning Jan. 1, 2016. With the possible exception of the Marines, the services seem inclined to open all formerly excluded combat positions to women.  Additionally, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James released a comprehensive plan in March to improve recruiting and retention for women in the Air Force, and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus released a similar plan in May. But despite all of this progress, there are worrying signs — including online harassment and the continuing drumbeat of military sexual assault — that women still aren’t considered full-fledged members of the profession of arms. A large part of the problem is that the services’ senior leaders still haven’t made a strong enough case for the value of women to the military.

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Photo by Staff Sgt. Leah Kilpatrick

Several people have already pointed out that it would be an injustice for the Senate to pass a National Defense Authorization Act cutting dual-military married couples’ basic allowance for housing. On closer examination, it’s even worse than it sounds. Its second- and third-order effects demonstrate how difficult it is to tinker with entitlements, and serves as an object lesson in how not to do it. It reaps moderate financial gains by placing a significant pay cut onto a very small segment of military families, concentrating on the ranks that make the least money. It also has a disproportionate effect on women and creates an environment so hostile to military couples that it would almost certainly debilitate diversity and retention efforts.

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