Why the Army is Designing a 'Tactical' Bra for Female Soldiers

Women in the United States Military may soon have a better option than a sports bra under their uniform.

An "Army Tactical Brassiere," designed to give female soldiers enhanced protection and performance, is currently being tested at the Army's Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center (DEVCOM). A prototype team expects to present an initial evaluation of the product to the Army Uniform Board this fall, reported Army Times.

Women make up 15 percent of today's active-duty force, according to the U.S. Army's Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM), which provides uniforms to soldiers. The tactical bra is part of a broader push to redesign both uniforms and equipment for different body types, moving beyond the idea of a "gender-neutral" soldier to address issues raised by "gender-specific requirements," TACOM said in June.

A "tactical rather than sportswear item," the bra will be made to integrate well with equipment and body armor, according to Army AL&T Magazine. Designers are looking at options including flame-retardant fabrics and protective materials, in addition to prioritizing accurate sizing, comfort and breathability.

U.S. Army Soldiers
Women in the United States Military may soon have a better option than a sports bra under their uniform. An “Army Tactical Brassiere,” designed to give female soldiers enhanced protection and performance, is currently being tested at the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center (DEVCOM). Robert Nickelsberg / Contributor/Getty Images North America

"The overall goal is to produce garments that not only protect the user, but reduce the cognitive burden on the female Soldier caused by discomfort and ill fit," said Ashley Cushon, clothing designer and project lead for the bra at the DEVCOM Soldier Center.

Cushon added, "Achieving this will improve the soldier's overall readiness and performance levels, allowing them to focus on their mission."

The bra has been developed based on input from female soldiers in Fort Riley, Kansas, Fort Benning, Georgia, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. Researchers collected data from over 200 soldiers between December 2021 and March 2022.

Meanwhile, Army researchers have also been working on uniform options to fit soldiers who are pregnant or nursing. The Soldier Center's Soldier Protection Directorate recently collaborated with the Marine Corps and Air Force to develop maternity uniforms with the goal of providing functional military clothes for fighters throughout their pregnancies.

The creation of the tactical bra comes after years of public outcry against the mistreatment of women in the military.

The Army has struggled with scrutiny over its difficulty in providing a safe environment for female soldiers. In 2020, 14 leaders within the chain of command at Fort Hood were relieved or suspended as the result of an independent committee's review.

The goal of the committee was to "determine whether they reflect the Army's commitment to safety, respect, inclusiveness, diversity, and freedom from sexual harassment," according to a Fort Hood news release.

The committee was called in after the murder of Vanessa Guillen, a female soldier who went missing and was ultimately found dismembered and burned. The male soldier suspected of killing her took his own life before authorities could detain him. His girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, who helped with the dismemberment, is behind bars.

Aguilar, indicted on 11 counts by a grand jury last July, was dating the suspect despite being married to another soldier.

Newsweek reached out to DEVCOM for comment.