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American Forces Press Service

Navy Officials Push for Allowing Women on Submarines

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2009 – The Navy secretary yesterday advocated for allowing women to serve on submarines, which would require ending a long-standing ban.

“This is something the [chief of naval operations] and I have been working on since I came into office,” said Ray Mabus, who was confirmed as the secretary of the Navy in May. “We are moving out aggressively on this.

“I believe women should have every opportunity to serve at sea, and that includes aboard submarines,” he told reporters following a tour of Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Newport News shipyard.

Mabus is one of several top Navy officials recently to call for ending a long-standing policy barring women from serving on submarines. Officials have cited a lack of privacy and the cost of reconfiguring subs as obstacles to allowing female crewmembers to serve aboard the vessels.

Navy Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, acknowledged that special accommodations would be a factor, but one that’s not insurmountable.

“Having commanded a mixed-gender surface combatant, I am very comfortable addressing integrating women into the submarine force,” he said in a statement last week. “I am familiar with the issues as well as the value of diverse crews.”

Roughead said that he has been personally engaged through the years in the Navy’s debate of the feasibility of assigning women to submarines.

“There are some particular issues with integrating women into the submarine force -- issues we must work through in order to achieve what is best for the Navy and our submarine force,” he said. “This has had and will continue to have my personal attention as we work toward increasing the diversity of our Navy afloat and ashore."

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed the issue with the Senate Armed Services Committee this month.

“I believe we should continue to broaden opportunities for women,” Mullen is quoted as saying in response to written questions posed by the Senate Armed Services Committee. “One policy I would like to see changed is the one barring their service aboard submarines.”

Mullen, a staunch champion of diversifying the services, said this month that having a military that reflects the demographics of the United States is “a strategic imperative for the security of our country.”

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