HARTFORD, Conn. — A lawsuit filed Tuesday by plaintiffs including an advocacy group for female service members is pressing the Pentagon for information on gender targets and recruiting policies at U.S. service academies, where enrollment remains overwhelming male.
The complaint alleges the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy did not respond adequately to requests filed in November for records under the Freedom of Information Act.
The Service Women's Action Network, which advocates for female service members and veterans, and the American Civil Liberties Union are pursuing the data as a starting point for what they describe as a broader challenge of the admissions policies at the academies
"The underrepresentation of women at the Military Service Academies contrasts starkly with the wide range of opportunities for military leadership open to women after graduation, particularly in light of the Department of Defense's elimination of gender-based restrictions on women's service in combat units and specialties," Michael Wishnie, an attorney with the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School, wrote in the complaint filed in federal court in Connecticut.
A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, said that as a matter of policy the Defense Department does not comment on pending litigation.
According to the complaint, women make up less than 25 percent of students at each of the three Pentagon-run service academies, which first began enrolling women in 1976. It said West Point has goals for women to make up 14 to 20 percent of its cadets, the Air Force Academy in Colorado caps enrollment of female cadets at 23 percent and at the Naval Academy in Maryland, women make up less than a quarter of midshipmen.
"We want to shed light and transparency on the mechanisms that keep these numbers so low," said Stephen Glassman, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut, which is also among the plaintiffs.
Not included in the litigation is the Connecticut-based U.S. Coast Guard Academy, which is overseen by the Department of Homeland Security — and not the Pentagon — and typically has female enrollment of 30 to 35 percent among its cadets.