A report prepared for Congress found serious flaws in the methods used by the Pentagon advisory commission that recommended male and female recruits be separated during basic training.

The General Accounting Office report said the commission headed by former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker, R-Kan., failed to follow established social science practices in its six-month review of gender-integrated training.The report's authors said the methods used to collect information were so haphazard that the commission's conclusions amount to opinions and cannot be supported by facts.

"The GAO study is critical to our arguments that gender-integrated basic training has a direct relationship to the readiness of our military," said Rep. Martin Meehan, D-Mass., who requested the study with Rep. Ron Dellums, D-Calif. "This is an issue of national security. It's not a women's issue per se."

The GAO study concluded, "The report was based on opinions, and the results cannot be generalized to the entire military training population."

According to the GAO, "The value of the information included in the committee's report for making conclusions and recommendations is limited because the committee did not follow generally accepted focus group methodology."

It found that the commission members neglected to write down the comments of those they interviewed, an oversight the GAO called "the most serious methodological shortcoming."

Kassebaum Baker did not respond to requests for a comment on the report, but she is scheduled to testify at a House National Security Committee hearing on the sex-segregated training Tuesday.

The military services in their own reviews concluded that recruits must train as they fight and that separate training would impair combat readiness. Women make up about 14 percent of the armed forces.

Their conclusion is backed by another advisory panel, created in November 1996 by the secretary of the Army and composed of active and retired military officers and two Defense Department civilians.

Kassebaum Baker's commission said that male and female recruits should be housed in separate barracks. They are housed in different rooms but in the same building.