Wednesday, October 7, 2009

US Navy Secretary Says Women Will "Soon" Serve on Submarines

Focus on Defense
News from the U.S. Navy.

Focus on Defense:
EDITOR'S NOTE: Since when did Comedy Central’s, "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" become a clearing house for serious military news? Read on....
WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2009 -- Navy Secretary Ray Mabus yesterday said women soon will serve on submarines, suggesting a reversal of the long-standing ban by the Navy.

Appearing on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” Mabus signaled that the Navy is moving closer to allowing coed personnel on submarines.

“It will take a little while because you’ve got to interview people and you’ve got to be nuclear trained,” he said, referring to prerequisite steps before a sailor is assigned to a submarine.

Officials previously have cited a lack of privacy and the cost of reconfiguring subs as obstacles to allowing female crewmembers to serve aboard the vessels.

But Mabus is one of several top Navy officials recently to call for an end to the policy. The Navy secretary’s comments yesterday amplify his previous endorsement of ending the ban.

“This is something the [chief of naval operations] and I have been working on since I came into office,” Mabus, who was confirmed as Navy secretary in May, said last week. “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.

Navy Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, acknowledged that special accommodations would be a factor in the decision, 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 month. “I am familiar with the issues as well as the value of diverse crews.”

Roughead said 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 last 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 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.”

(Report by John J. Kruzel, American Forces Press Service.)

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