considered solely for shipboard Combat assignments. The same is true if the effect of deciding this case in plaintiffs' favor were to require the Full integration of men and women in the naval forces. This is so because the seriousness of the unanswered questions raised by defendants is alone a convincing reason why no authority, whether legislative, executive or judicial, should act to bring about the total integration of Navy women into combat roles before the consequences have been fully explored.
But the issue presented in this case is not whether the naval forces should be completely integrated and the roles of male and female members made perfectly equal. Nor is the question whether Navy women should have the same rights as men to receive assignments as combatants aboard Navy ships. The issue is rather the validity of a prohibition that not only forecloses the Navy's discretion to integrate women into combat positions for which their qualifications and the effects of their presence are unknown, but also bars Navy authorities from exercising their discretion to assign female personnel to noncombat duties for which they are or can be qualified. Contrary to defendants' assertion, then, the question presented is the reasonableness of a statutory bar that draws no distinctions based on considerations of military effectiveness among any of various assignments available to Navy personnel on ships.
Once the questions about full sexual integration and combat assignments are put aside, the overbreadth of section 6015 becomes apparent. Significantly, defendants do not make the argument that the demands of military preparedness and effectiveness justify excluding All women from All shipboard duties. Nor could they given the fact that they have proposed changes in section 6015
that would permit qualified women to serve on ships in a wide variety of noncombat positions.
As the Secretary of the Navy has observed, "the revised law would permit temporary duty assignments of women on any naval vessel not engaged or expected to be engaged in combat." And as the Secretary has also noted, if the absolute bar contained in section 6015 were lifted, "women pilots could land aircraft on a carrier, women inspectors and technicians could go aboard a destroyer or cruiser, and our female midshipmen could get real training at sea."
Unlike with the original version of section 6015, the proposed amendments are based on evidence compiled as a result of studies and experiments conducted by military authorities.
This information shows not only that women can "capably perform" at sea, but also that increasing the range of their assignments will enhance "the operational effectiveness and flexibility of available forces."
Moreover, "more efficient utilization of women" will help to solve the "particularly worrisome" problem posed by "(t)he shrinking manpower pool that we see in front of use in the next decade."
And finally, permitting women to serve aboard ships "would not increase the budgetary requirements of the Department of Defense."
These considerations are particularly well suited for study by Congress in regards to defining the limits of female utilization in the Navy. But they are also highly relevant to the question of whether section 6015 is "so unjustifiable as to be violative of due process." Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U.S. 497, 499, 74 S. Ct. 693, 694, 98 L. Ed. 884 (1954). The core protection afforded by the equal protection component of the fifth amendment is that laws favoring members of one gender and disadvantaging members of the other be reasonably and, beyond that, substantially related to the achievement of some important objective. Goldfarb, supra; Craig, supra. To the extent that legislative classifications are based on "overbroad generalizations" about the traits, behavior and capabilities of the different sexes, Ballard, supra, 419 U.S. at 507, 95 S. Ct. 572, their reasonableness is rightly called into question. Because section 6015 operates to bar an entire sex from a wide, though by no means unlimited, range of career and service opportunities for which the highest military authorities have determined them to be qualified, the sweep of the statute is too broad to pass muster.
Obviously, legislative distinctions between members of the opposite sexes need not be drawn with Perfect precision to withstand challenge. This is so even though "heightened levels of scrutiny" apply in the area of sex discrimination. Goldfarb, supra, 430 U.S. at 225, 97 S. Ct. 1021 (dissenting opinion). But validity Does depend on an unusually high degree of correlation between sexual traits underlying differences in treatment and important legislative objectives. As the Supreme Court found in Goldfarb with respect to financial aid, a correlation of approximately 90% Between the characteristic and the objective was insufficient to withstand attack, Id. at 238 n. 7, 97 S. Ct. 1021 (dissenting opinion), even though Congress is "wide latitude to create classifications that allocate noncontractual benefits under a social welfare program." Id. at 210, 97 S. Ct. 1021 at 1028.
Congress, of course, enjoys the same degree of latitude in legislating in the area of military affairs. Ballard, supra, 419 U.S. at 510, 95 S. Ct. 572. However, the record in the case at bar does not suggest that the correlation between female capabilities and overall naval effectiveness even approaches that deemed to be inadequate in Goldfarb.
In addition to military efficiency, defendants argue that section 6015's absolute bar should be upheld because Any degree of integration of men and women aboard Navy ships is apt to cause morale and discipline problems among crews. Wholly aside from the fact that any uncertainties in this regard are largely traceable to the statute's obvious limitation on experimenting with mixed crews, this argument is also belied by the facts. Indeed, the results of the experiment conducted by the Navy on the USS Sanctuary provide ample refuting evidence that assigning women to noncombat duty on vessels will pose no insurmountable obstacles.
As the Commander of the Atlantic Fleet has stated: "Commanding Officers have sufficient authority to deal with persons having difficulty adjusting to mixed crews. Special authority is not required any more than in handling racial problems."
And: "Adjustments and thawing of previously held barriers to the presence of women and acceptance by the male ship's company are social facts of life which must be recognized and dealt with."
Defendants' concerns about undermining morale and discipline argue more for prudent planning in the assignment of women to Navy ships than for not beginning the process at all. In the words of the Chief of Naval Operations: "the transition would have to be carefully planned. Any time you have boys-girls it's a little difficult, but the problems, I guess, are no different than what's happening in college dormitories."
Nor would permitting women to join men on duty at sea pose serious problems in terms of providing separate quarters and facilities. As with morale and discipline, this concern also speaks more to careful planning than to not beginning at all since, as defendants themselves concede, Navy vessels are periodically refitted and modernized to take account of changing needs.
In short, none of the practical concerns voiced by defendants regarding the integration of male and female personnel afford a warrant for upholding the total exclusion reflected in section 6015. Whatever problems might arise from integrating shipboard crews are matters that can be dealt with through appropriate training and planning.
Once the decision is reached that section 6015's barrier to women's career and service opportunities is too broad to pass muster, a few comments are required to put this decision in perspective. As the Court has viewed it, the crucial question raised by plaintiffs in this case centers on the exercise of discretion. Ordinarily, and for obvious and understandable reasons, the exercise of discretion in the area of military affairs is left to the executive branch of government subject, of course, to legislative oversight. Thus when, 30 years ago, Congress enacted section 6015 to guide the Navy's discretion in qualifying and assigning women to military duty, it was unquestionably acting within the scope of its constitutional authority to oversee the development and use of a military force. But merely because this legislative choice fell within the bounds of congressional power did not of necessity make it invulnerable to the requirement of reasonableness imposed by the fifth amendment. As the record in this case makes amply clear over a generation later, when Congress carved out the disputed exception to the Navy's ability to use women aboard Navy vessels, it acted without serious deliberation, against the expressed judgment of the military and, by foreclosing the Navy's discretion regarding women well beyond the legitimate demands of military preparedness and efficiency, it acted arbitrarily.
Because the Court has concluded that the blanket limitation imposed by section 6015 cannot presently be justified, the effect of today's decision is to restore to the military an area of discretion that the 80th Congress unreasonably withheld. This, of course, may well be a temporary adjustment. Defendants have made the Court quite aware of the fact that a considerably narrower limitation on the use of Navy women is currently being considered by Congress. But until the Congress does exercise its discretion in this area, it is incumbent upon the executive to fashion policy regarding women without regard to the absolute and overbroad presumption reflected in section 6015. That much is required by the equality principle embodied in the fifth amendment.
However, nothing in this decision is meant to shape the contours of Navy policy concerning the utilization of female personnel. As the Court has noted in deciding the merits of plaintiffs' claims, there remain many unanswered questions about the effects of full sexual integration that may well convince military authorities that women members should be excluded from shipboard combat assignments, or even from permanent assignment to some noncombat positions, or for that matter, from all shipboard duties until such time as the vessels are properly equipped and crew members properly trained to accommodate their female counterparts. Those are essentially military decisions that are entrusted to executive authorities and the Court expresses no view whatever on what their outcome should be. But what the Court is requiring is that executive authorities move forward in measured steps to approach these issues free from the absolute bar erected by section 6015.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court concludes that plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment must be granted, and defendants' crossmotion denied. An appropriate order will issue of even date herewith.