TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson says the idea reflects "what the average soldier has known all along." But the recommendations of the Cohen-appointed panel, led by former GOP senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker, may not be as popular with the top brass charged with evaluating them. "You don't get a third or fourth star in today's service without having endorsed a full integration of the Armed Services," Thompson says. "And the highest-profile females, the jet pilots and the paratroopers, want full equality with men, even in combat. This will be hard report to sell." >
Yet the problems biology and close quarters have posed for the military are impossible to ignore. And hardliners still worry that gender integration in war's most physically demanding conditions will wind up costing lives. "A lot of people still say 'Call me about mixing genders in combat when there's women on the West Point football team,'" Thompson says. "The question is, if men and women can't stay out of trouble in basic training, how will they do when they're all sleeping in the same tent?"