December 18, 2017

Van Hollen Statement For The Record On The Nomination Of Owen West To Be Assistant Secretary Of Defense For Special Operations And Low Intensity Conflict

Mr. President, equality of opportunity is one of our nation's greatest pursuits and greatest struggles. Though the path has not been easy, our society has slowly and steadily become more just, more decent, and more powerful. President Obama's Defense Secretary Carter reaffirmed this principle when he stated that every qualified woman who met the high physical standards required of her would be allowed to serve our country in combat.

Owen West soundly rejected this policy, and the ethic undergirding it, in an inflammatory opinion editorial authored with his father in March of 2016. He asserted that integrating women into infantry platoons - including those who "could run circles around the average Marine grunt" with their "physical prowess" - would "swiftly reduce combat effectiveness." He discounted the ability of women to contribute to mission effectiveness, equating them only with "intimate scandals." He contended that women would "introduce sex, affection, favoritism, protectiveness, jealously, anxiety and all the other co-ed dynamics to an infantry platoon."

These chauvinistic views have no place in the Department of Defense, particularly in positions of leadership. As Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict, Mr. West will be responsible for the integration of women into our Special Operations Forces. I appreciate that Mr. West offered a retraction of his viewson women in the militaryduring his Senate confirmation hearing, at the behest of Democratic Members of the Armed Services Committee and itis my hope that Mr. West will do his utmost to support and recruit qualified women into the military in the future. However, many of President Trump's nominees have reneged on commitments made during their confirmation hearings. Given Mr. West's public record on women in combat, I cannot take that risk by supporting his nomination.