by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Recent reporting by Task & Purpose, a military-news outfit, reveals that Army brass is weighing whether to backtrack on the new gender-neutral Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) to instead include different evaluation metrics for men and women after early results indicated that as many as 65 percent of female soldiers were failing the test versus only 10 percent of men.
The new test, a replacement for the decades-old Army Physical Fitness Test and widely trumpeted as both gender-neutral and a better match for the physical demands of modern combat, comprises six events: a deadlift, a standing power throw (throwing a 10-pound medicine ball backwards over your head), push-ups, a drag-and-carry shuttle run, leg tucks (hanging from a pull-up bar and raising your legs to your chest), and a two-mile run. The test may not be perfect, but its stated purpose was to create a new meritocratic test for the new gender-neutral Army.
Those pushing for a fully gender-integrated military have long deployed conveniently shifting arguments to suit their purposes: “The standard will be the same for both men and women,” they told us when pushing for women in the combat arms. Indeed, as secretary of defense Ash Carter promised in 2015, “as long as they qualify and meet the standards,” women could serve in Army and Marine Corps infantry units, in the special forces, and in any other uniformed capacity.
Predictably, however, as women struggle to meet the physical demands necessary for combat, the advocates are calling for equality of outcomes.
The point here is not to disparage the American women who selflessly volunteer to wear their nation’s cloth, especially as many American women have found themselves down range under enemy fire in the last few decades. Rather, we criticize the mindless drift towards lowering the minimum standards required to ensure that a soldier is equipped to fight and win in combat.