Successfully integrating women into combat-focused military specialties will take sound analysis, a solid plan, and deft leadership. I do not claim to be able to provide any of this. I do, however, feel I have a pretty good idea of what failure would look like.
1. Pin the success or failure of this effort on the performance of a small, hand-selected group of women. Shepherd them through assessment, training, and certification programs so as to "ensure" their success.
This course of action will confirm and validate the worst prejudices of misogynists in the American military: That women can not and will not succeed without command-directed preference and protections. It will also frustrate and demotivate women who had the potential to succeed on their own terms, powered by their own intestinal fortitude.
2. Conduct endless studies and surveys. Allow them years to issue findings and, when they do, publish the inevitably contradictory findings in various official and non-official military publications, so that leaders can not distinguish between opinion, research, and policy.
A lack of "working group discipline" will support the storyline that this "isn't the time" to integrate women, as the effort causes confusion among leaders and detracts from mission readiness.
3. Create poorly-conceived and poorly-disseminated physical performance standards.
I'm not referring to the standard PT test, which has well-understood and well-established standards for men and women. I am referring to combat arms-specific measures of performance, such as "Be able to move XX miles, carrying YY pounds, in under ZZ hours"; or "Be able to reload This Weapon with This Round, weighing This Much, in under This Many seconds". If it turns out the Army/Marine Corps decides to revisit or revise these standards, that is fine. However, the new standards need to be clearly explained, thoroughly disseminated, and implementation closely monitored.
4. Fail to get a handle on the already-rampant problem of military sexual assault. Continue to treat it as a civilian-imposed bullshit PC initiative and a distraction from "real" training and Soldier welfare.
An already bad problem will get worse as young women are more closely integrated with young men for whom aggression is an encouraged and cultivated quality. Sadly, small-unit leaders will only take this problem as seriously as it is enforced by their higher headquarters. Begin relieving commanders and senior non-commissioned officers not only for personal sexual misconduct, but for ineffective leadership that allowed sexual assault and predation to flourish in their ranks. We already do this for general indiscipline and tactical ineptitude, and it works. Relieve a battalion commander for a failure to effectively address sexual assault in his formation and see how quickly it becomes a central command priority for his (her, also) peers.
The process of integrating women into the combat arms could be a surprisingly quick, painless, and seamless process that leaves our military stronger and more capable. By all indications - and from my own, limited view of the process - the repeal of DADT has been a more simple and less painful process than anyone on either side of the debate would have dared forecast. It can be done.
Integrating women into the combat arms could also be an incredibly painful and protracted process that leaves the US military less capable, more misogynist, and less ready to fight and win our nation's wars. Here's to the hope that our President, the Joint Chiefs, and former SGT/SEN and now SEC Hagel choose the first end-state and give us a military that's both more capable and more representative of what we are - and should be - as a nation.
I eagerly look forward to your dissenting perspectives and reasoned criticism.