Washington February 26, 2010 - Female sailors will begin serving on submarines by the end of 2011, with Naval Academy graduates leading the way, Navy leaders told a Senate committee Feb. 25.Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Navy is in a good position to move forward with integrating women onto submarines.
"We think we learned a lot about integrating women in the services years ago, and those lessons are relevant today," Mabus said. Those lessons, he said, include having a "critical mass" of female candidates, having senior women to serve as mentors and having submarines that don't require modifications: the SSBN ballistic missile and SSGN guided-missile subs.
Finally, Mabus said, "We have the lesson learned to make sure any questions are answered, ... and we're very open and transparent on how we'll do this. We think this is a great idea that will enhance our warfighting capabilities."
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates notified Congress Feb. 19 of the intended change to Navy policy. Mabus had pushed for the change since taking office in May 2009. Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, endorsed the change, saying in a statement released in September 2009 that his experience commanding a mixed-gender surface-combatant ship makes him "very comfortable" integrating women into the submarine force. The Navy changed its policy to allow women to serve on combatant ships in 1993.
"We have a great plan, and we're ready to go for the first women to come aboard in late 2011," Roughead told the Senate committee Feb. 25. In a prepared statement to the committee, he said the change would enable the submarine force "to leverage the tremendous talent and potential of our female officers and enlisted personnel."
Besides the incoming officers from the academy, the first women submariners will include female supply corps officers at the department head level, Roughead said. The change will be phased in over time to include enlisted female sailors on the SSBN and SSGNs, he said. Women will be added to the Navy's SSN fast-attack submarines after necessary modifications can be determined, he said.
"This initiative has my personal attention, and I will continue to keep you informed as we integrate these highly motivated and capable officers into our submarine force," Roughead told the committee.