Defense Department Advisory Committee on Women in the Services

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Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services
DACOWITS logo.jpg
Agency overview
FormedAugust 1951 (1951-08)
Parent departmentDepartment of Defense

The U.S. Defense Department Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) was established in 1951 by Secretary of Defense George C. Marshall. Its members are civilian women and men appointed by the Secretary of Defense to provide advice and recommendations on matters and policies relating to the recruitment and retention, treatment, employment, integration, and well-being of women in the U.S. Armed Forces. It is authorized under the provisions of P.L. 92-463, the Federal Advisory Committee Act, and meets on a quarterly basis to review issues and conducts information-gathering activities through installation visits, meetings, reports, and surveys. The committee provides recommendations to the Secretary of Defense through an annual report.[1]


The 1948 Women's Armed Services Integration Act established defined roles for women in the peacetime armed forces of the United States. Previously, they only had been allowed to serve as nurses in peacetime; a wider variety of roles only open to them in time of war.[2] However, with the start of the Korean War in June 1950, the Department of Defense began to investigate ways to increase recruitment and retention of women in all services. Internal inquiries from defense agencies such as the National Security Resources Board and external pressure from politicians such as Senator Margaret Chase Smith added to the sense of urgency in defining a more comprehensive position for women in the military.[3]

At the suggestion of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower Anna Rosenberg, Marshall formed the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services in August 1951. Its first chair was Mary Pillsbury Lord, a civic activist who had been chair of the National Civilian Advisory Committee of the Women's Army Corps.[3] Some of its original members included Oveta Culp Hobby, the first Women's Army Corps (WAC) director; Mildred McAfee Horton, former director of the WAVES; Ruth Streeter, former director of the Women Marines; actress Helen Hayes; Sarah G. Blanding, Vassar College president, engineer Lillian Gilbreth; and publisher Beatrice Gould.[4] Meeting for three days at the Pentagon in September 1951, they heard presentations about recruiting and the possible need for a women's draft based on the failure of recruiting during World War II to meet the military services' requirements for women.[5] The committee would help to develop policies and standards for women in the military—using them, expanding their opportunities, recruiting them, and training them. The committee ensured that military women would have representation at the Department of Defense.[4]

Beginning in 2002, the Committee began providing advice and recommendations on family issues related to recruitment and retention. DACOWITS' recommendations have been instrumental in effecting changes to laws and policies pertaining to military women.


In October 1955, Margaret Divver, advertising manager of the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company, was named to head the Committee, replacing Oliver Crowther. The Committee was exploring ways to interest better qualified women in military careers and explaining the increasing variety of positions available to them.[6]

In October 1971, Estelle M. Stacy was appointed to serve as chair for the calendar year 1972, replacing Helen K. Leslie.[7]


  • that the policy of establishing a system of appointment and promotion credit list allowances for advanced graduate degrees, professional education beyond the professional training requirement, or beyond the four-year college program, as well as any related experience in determining the rank and promotion dates (Professional Education Date) of directly commissioned officers in any of the Medical or Health components of the Services. It is further recommended that all Services seek to develop and adopt this policy as a valuable adjunct to recruitment and retention of qualified health professionals.
  • that legislation be established to the effect that a married military woman, regardless of grade, can establish a joint domicile with her husband and shall receive Basic Allowance for Quarters (BAQ) in her own right. In the event the husband is also a member of the Military Services, he shall also receive BAQ in his own right.
  • that civilian husbands of military women be authorized access to and use of exchange and commissary facilities.
  • that the Department of Defense prepare a legislative proposal to amend section 3579, Title 10, U.S. Code to provide the opportunity for officers of the Army Nurse Corps and the Army Medical Specialist Corps to exercise command within the Army Medical Department. Further, that similar statutory provisions relative to other military medical departments be reviewed for the purpose of similar modifications. (This recommendation was not implemented until 1998.)
  • that, in view of the limited number of women physicians and dentists in the Service, increased efforts be made to inform women in schools and private practice of the opportunities available in military medicine.
  • that the U. S. Navy and The U. S. Marine Corps open their Limited Duty Officer commissioning program to women
  • that DoD's General Counsel make a priority inquiry into the propriety of the Congress of the United States prohibiting any specific or particular medical procedures in military hospitals
  • that the minimum standards for eligibility for admission to the Services should be the same for women as for men, except legitimate physical differences.
  • that insofar as permitted by existing statutes, the Secretary of the Navy provide identical standards, including time in grade, for promotions of men and women in the Marine Corps Fall 1979
  • That DoD and DoT that they support the concept that women and men shall be treated in the same way whatever legislative or policy decisions are made concerning the draft, national services or registration for either. (At the time, the United States Coast Guard was an element of the Department of Transportation.)
  • that the President of the United States give priority to the consideration of the appointment of women as judges of the United States Court of Military Appeals
  • that the Services take whatever management initiatives are necessary to ensure that lost time in delivery of medical care is reduced, particularly by giving the active duty women members priority of treatment in obstetrics and gynecology.

After a November 1982 recommendation that 23 additional job categories be closed to women, increasing the number to 60 of 360 categories, the Committee's chair, Mary Huey of Texas Women's University, sought assurance from Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger that women's promotion would not suffer from these exclusions, and Weinberger did so.[8]

  • that a form letter signed by the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel be placed in the Official Military Personnel File of those female enlisted service members reclassified as a result of Direct Combat Probability Coding (DCPC), stating that reclassification was directed by Department of the Army as a result of the Women In The Army Study and that the service member should not be penalized as a result of action taken by Headquarters Department of the Army and that Letters of Instruction to promotion boards address this issue.
  • that the Services provide information to prospective applicants, prior to enlistment or commissioning, about limitations in particular specialties which exist as a result of combat exclusion laws or policy restrictions.
  • that the Office of the Secretary of Defense reiterate, through the publication of a formal policy statement to commanders and field personnel at all levels, the requirement that women be fully utilized in their assigned operational units
  • that the Services adopt a policy of providing professional assistance for rape victims. When in the absence of military or nearby civilian Community Rape Crisis Centers, victims upon consent should be immediately evacuated to the closest available qualified facility.
  • that commanders be made aware that military women with alcohol abuse problems must be identified as early as their male counterparts
  • that the Marine Corps provided a rationale for the exclusion of women Marine from duty as Marine Security Guards and that the Marine Corps re-examine this policy.
  • that all Services grant 6 weeks post-partum non-chargeable leave
  • that the Department of Defense and the Services remove the requirement that members characterize the legitimacy of their dependent children from DoD and Service forms for quarters allowances, dependent identification cards, dependency support statements, records of emergency data, Servicemen's Group Life Insurance, etc.
  • that DoD expand existing leadership training to include dealing with unfounded accusations of homosexuality against Service members.
  • that the Army conduct a 4-year test program under which women in the Army will be allowed to enter all military occupational specialties (including combat and combat support). (This recommendation has not been implemented as of 2005.
  • the Secretary of Defense establish a gender neutral assignment policy in military aviation for all Services Spring 1992
  • that the Army open to the Army Nurse Corps and other AMEDD officers' opportunities for career-enhancing assignments, including command of medical facilities and units involved in delivery of health care.
  • that the Secretary of the Navy open to women all classes of ships and vessels and their associated billets that remain closed because of cost considerations (although they are legally open after the repeal of the Combat Exclusion law).

In 1998 the Committee, then composed of 18 women and two men and chaired by Judith A. Youngman, an associate professor of political science at the Coast Guard Academy, and reporting directly to the Secretary of Defense, recommended increased integration of men and women during basic training after finding that "most service members from every service believed that more gender integration of training was needed than currently existed". It contradicted a late 1997 report of a committee headed by Senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker of Kansas, formed in response to reports of sexual harassment during training, that advocated the opposite.[9]

  • in the strongest possible terms that the Secretary of Defense open current and future Special Operations Forces (SOF) rotary wing aviation to the assignment of women
  • that plans for future submarine platforms incorporate appropriate berthing and privacy arrangements to accommodate mixed-gender crews
  • with regard to women's health needs during deployment, that the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Services collaborate to ascertain what information on prevention and treatment of gynecological infections is available; perform a gap analysis to see what information is lacking; develop additional educational materials as needed; and disseminate that information to Service members, leaders and healthcare personnel and ensure an adequate supply of hygiene products during deployment.

In 2001, there were reports that the Bush administration was considering eliminating the Committee, along with a number of similar advisory groups devoted to women's concerns, and complaints that new appointments were being delayed.[10]


In 2002, the charter of DACOWITS expired and the committee face elimination.[11]


The Office of the Secretary of Defense issued a new charter for DACOWITs, reducing the number of members from 36 to 13 and adding family issues to the committee's remit.[12]


DACOWITS added the issue of sexual assault in the military to its review of policies and issues concerning the retention and deployment of female servicemembers. The committee conducted focus groups at military installations worldwide and used data and research from literature, military surveys, and military and civilian subject matter experts. The Committee's issued recommendations its 2004 report for dealing with sexual assault in the military, including the use of a new definition of sexual assault in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the establishment of victim advocates independent of the chain of command, provision of training for servicemembers on the procedures and resources available to victims following a sexual assault, and educational awareness efforts.[1][13]


The Defense Department Advisory Committee on Women in the Services focused on problems in retaining female military doctors, lawyers, and chaplains for periods longer than 5 to 8 years, identifying the potential of overseas deployments away from young children as a barrier to retention and exploring possible solutions (including leaves of absence).[14]


The 2009 DACOWITS report included findings on U.S. servicewomen's roles in Operations Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Iraqi Freedom (OIF) over the past several years, stating, "Most focus group participants reported that they or the females with whom they served had been involved in combat roles while deployed to OIF or OEF, e.g., in a combat theatre of operations, exposed to the possibility of hostile action from a threat to self or unit, and/or in a situation where they received hostile fire. The focus groups also described specific combat roles in which women have served, such as serving outside the wire—whether on convoys, as drivers, or otherwise traveling between camps—and participating in female search teams, including the Lioness program. For the most part, female focus group participants shared feelings of satisfaction and pride about their combat experiences."[15]


On March 21, DACOWITS co-hosted an event with Veteran Affairs Center for Women Veterans at the Women in Military Service for American Memorial (Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia) celebrating the centennial of the enlistment of Loretta P. Walsh in the U.S. Naval Reserve Force on March 21, 1917. Walsh was officially the first woman to enlist in the U.S. military.[16]


  1. ^ "Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services - Reports & Meetings". Retrieved 2019-09-26.
  2. ^ Frank, ed., Lisa Tendrich (2013). An Encyclopedia of American Women at War. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. pp. 627–8. ISBN 9781598844443.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  3. ^ a b Holm, Jeanne, 1921-2010. (1992). Women in the military : an unfinished revolution (Rev. ed.). Novato, CA: Presidio Press. ISBN 0891414509. OCLC 26012907.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ a b Morden, Bettie J. (1990). "The Women's Army Corps, 1945–1978". Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History. pp. 70–72. Retrieved 2019-10-23.
  5. ^ "80,000 Women Set as Needed in Services" (PDF). New York Times. September 19, 2013. Retrieved June 9, 2013.
  6. ^ "Bostonian to Head U.S. Advisory Group" (PDF). New York Times. October 19, 1955. Retrieved June 9, 2013.
  7. ^ "Washington: For the Record" (PDF). New York Times. October 7, 1971. Retrieved June 9, 2013.
  8. ^ "Weinberger Promises to Aid Women's Rights in the Army". New York Times. August 7, 1983. Retrieved June 9, 2013.
  9. ^ Shenon, Philip (January 21, 1988). "New Finding on Mixing Sexes in Military". New York Times. Retrieved June 9, 2013.
  10. ^ Lewin, Tamar (December 19, 2001). "Bush May End Offices Dealing With Women's Issues, Groups Say". New York Times. Retrieved June 9, 2013.
  11. ^ Jontz, Sandra (June 6, 2004). "Final appointees named to DOD women's panel". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  12. ^ Skaine, Rosemarie (2011). Women In Combat: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. pp. 18–19. ISBN 978-1-59884-459-7.
  13. ^ Department of Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, 2004 Report,, pp. v-vi
  14. ^ Smith, Steven Donald (August 28, 2006). "Committee Examines Issue of Women Separating From Military". Department of Defense News. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  15. ^ Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, 2009 report,, p. ii.
  16. ^ Myers, Jessica (March 22, 2017). "Celebrating the First Enlisted Women". U.S. Department of Defense. Retrieved October 7, 2019.

Further reading[edit]

D'Amico, Francine J., and Laurie L. Weinstein, eds. (1999). Gender Camouflage: Women and the U.S. Military. New York: NYU Press. ISBN 9780814719077. OCLC 39951636.

External links[edit]