Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Women to Serve on Subs, Gates Tells Congress

Washington February 23, 2010 - The Navy plans to repeal its ban on women serving on submarines, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has informed Congress.
Gates signed a letter Feb. 19 informing Congress of the Navy’s plan to lift the policy, which it intends to do through the phased-in assignment of women to submarines, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell confirmed today.

The secretary endorsed the plan, the brainchild of Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Morrell said.

No change can take effect until Congress has been in session for 30 days following the notification, Navy Lt. Justin Cole, a spokesman said.

Mabus, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead and other navy leaders have looked closely at the issues involved with integrating women into the submarine force, including close working conditions and accommodations, he said.

No funds will be spent to reconfigure submarines to accommodate female crew members until the Navy Department presents the phased-approach plan to Congress.

Mabus has been a strong proponent of the policy change since being confirmed to his post in May.

"I believe women should have every opportunity to serve at sea, and that includes aboard submarines," he told reporters in October. Roughead, in a statement issued in September, said his experience commanding a mixed-gender surface combatant ship makes him “very comfortable” with the idea of integrating women into the submarine force.

"I am familiar with the issues as well as the value of diverse crews,” Roughead said.

The integration of women into the submarine force increases the talent pool and therefore, overall submarine readiness, Cole said.

“We know there are capable young women in the navy and women who are interested in the Navy who have the talent and desire to succeed in the submarine force,” he said. “Enabling them to serve there is best for the submarine force and our navy.”

The policy change – and the navy’s ability to work through the issues involved -- is not without precedent, he noted. In 1993, the navy changed its policy to permit women to serve on surface combat ships.

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