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ACLU Slaps Department Of Defense With A Lawsuit For Discrimination

On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the Department of Defense for failing to disclose the admissions policies which result in an underrepresentation of women in military academies.

Joined by the Service Women’s Action Network, the ACLU is looking to determine exactly why the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point admit women at a much lower rate than men, but the DOD has so far been uncooperative. The lawsuit states that the DOD has violated Freedom of Information Act deadlines by not releasing admission policy information.

According to the ACLU, the point of the lawsuit is to end gender discrimination against women who seek higher ranks in the military. According to the plaintiffs involved, the fact that women comprise between 14 and 17 percent of the student population at West Point is unacceptable. Out of all military branches, women account for less than 17 percent of officers.

“The military service academies are premier educational institutions that provide tuition-free paths to leadership and are run by the federal government – there is no excuse for the government to provide this opportunity to women at such dismally low rates,” said Ariela Migdal, senior staff attorney in the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project.

For the ACLU, more female students present in military academies would mean a drop in the rate of sexual harassment, assault and discrimination. Data from the Pentagon show that sexual assault reports have increased by 8 percent in 2014, but the main reason for the uptick is an increased willingness to report assaults.

Under Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s lead, the DOD has launched 28 new initiatives and expanded the sexual assault bureaucracy, but despite a massive overhaul extending back nearly a decade, sexual assault rates have been sticky over the past five years. This sticky rate, however, reflects the levels listed in a 2012 Pentagon report which found that from from 2006 to 2012, violent sex crimes increased by 64 percent, according to CS Monitor.

Reflecting the DOD’s recent focus, in late 2014, a memo obtained by The Daily Caller and written by Army Secretary John McHugh stated that the number one priority for the Army moving forward in 2015 is not winning wars, but preventing sexual assault. (RELATED: Memo: Army’s Top Priority Is Not Winning Wars, It’s Sexual Assault)

“The Army’s leaders, at every level of the chain of command/supervision, will do this through prevention, education, investigation and, when appropriate, prosecution,” McHugh wrote in the memo.

Still, the ACLU is intent on seeing a major increase in the number of women earning the rank of officer across all branches of the military, and won’t let the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Air Force Academy get away with unanswered FOIA requests.

“The admissions systems that result in student bodies of less than 25 percent women have been shrouded in a certain amount of mystery, and this lawsuit aims to throw a spotlight on the mechanisms that keep women’s numbers so low,” said Stephen Glassman, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut.

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