Opening infantry jobs to female Marines could cost the Marine Corps nearly $2 million per year in additional recruiting and retention expenditures, according to a new study published by the Rand Corp.
The study, commissioned by Marine Corps Combat Development Command, examines all the implications of opening all-male Marine combat jobs to women. Like the other services, the Corps is now preparing to do just that in accordance with a mandate from Defense Secretary Ashton Carter that takes effect at the start of next year.
The 215-page report examined the practices of foreign militaries; the experiences of women in male-dominated fields like law enforcement and firefighting; the history of gender integration within the U.S. military; and a variety of literature on the topic.
The Marines could be successful at integration, the report finds, as long as the service manages expectations, takes appropriate proactive steps, and monitors the effectiveness of its approach. But the transition will involve one-time and recurring costs.
Because female Marines have been found to complete infantry training with lower success rates than their male counterparts, and because they are predicted to spend fewer years in infantry units, the integration of women will result in a smaller Marine Corps infantry, the study finds. To maintain the infantry at its current size, the Corps will have to invest more to either bring in new recruits or retain talented Marine grunts. Those costs could total $1.8 million per year, the study concludes.
"Recurring costs could also include additional physical conditioning time as necessary, lost time necessary to recover from increased injury rates, as well as any other alterations to training or continued implementation of policy changes," the researchers wrote.
And even with all combat fields open, data suggests the number of women in Marine infantry jobs will remain small, the report concludes. The Corps would need to recruit 100 female grunts per year to build an infantry that is 2 percent female, assuming optimistically high boot camp and infantry training graduation rates.
"We caution in the report that ... it would not be surprising if we have low numbers of women," the report's head researcher, Agnes Schaefer, told Military.com. "I think that [Carter] got at that issue. He said there will be equal opportunity, but not equal representation."
Because of this, the Marine Corps will have difficulty in developing "critical mass," or large enough groups of women in combat units to avoid tokenism and discourage discrimination. The report suggests that the Marines consider designating a specific infantry battalion to receive the first group of female Marines or using lateral moves to place more female officers and enlisted leaders in certain units to serve as role models.
Finally, the report recommends that systematic monitoring take place, including a comprehensive evaluation at the five-year mark after integration, so that the Marine Corps can assess its success and make course corrections. Even gender-neutral physical standards should be frequently monitored and revised, the report recommends.
A Marine Corps spokesman said the Rand report would be used alongside other Marine Corps research to inform its integration plan.
"The Marine Corps' comprehensive approach to collect and analyze data will inform the best approach to infusing women into combat arms jobs and units," Capt. Philip Kulczewski said in a statement.
"As a result of our research, the Marine Corps has already implemented more clearly defined gender neutral individual performance standards that ensure Marines are assigned to jobs for which they are best qualified," he added. "We will work collaboratively across the services to systematically and fully implement the guidance of the Secretary of Defense."
Schaefer said the report, while Marine Corps-specific, could be valuable to all the services, particularly with its compilation of lessons learned from other militaries on gender integration.
"I think that our report is going to be very useful as the services think about how they're going to go ahead and implement this," Schaefer said.