Women Soon On U.S. Subs?

Friday, May 12, 2000
U.S. Navy May Consider Lifting Female Submarine Ban

The U.S. Navy has no current plans to assign women to submarine duty but should carefully consider a Pentagon advisory panel's landmark recommendation to lift the ban, Navy Secretary Richard Danzig said.

Danzig said that women had made major contributions to the Navy, including flying warplanes and serving on surface combat ships, and that undersea duty must not be discounted over concerns about privacy and the cost of modifying living quarters on subs.

"We currently have no plans to bring women into submarines. But it needs to be talked through with the submarine community," he said regarding a recent recommendation by the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services.

"One shouldn't rush to conclusions," said Danzig, who has previously called for more active consideration of assigning women to submarines. "I am taking no position one way or the other. I think that would chill the discussion."

However, the secretary welcomed what he called a fair approach to both sides of the women-in-submarines issue by the civilian advisory panel, which said the Navy should begin changing its policy by assigning women officers to giant U.S. Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines. That recommendation is not expected to formally reach the Navy for several weeks. Danzig said that when it does, it should be widely discussed and debated.

Panel members are appointed by the secretary of defense to provide advice on issues involving women's role in the military. Their report follows a two-year study and talks with the Navy on its cost and privacy objections to ending the ban on women in subs.

Submarines are one of the few major areas in U.S. military service that remain exclusive to men, although the Army and Marine Corps do not allow female troops to serve in front-line combat units. The advisory panel, noting legitimate space and cost arguments in the Navy, did not recommend including enlisted women sailors in the big submarines, which quietly sail the world's oceans with strategic long-range nuclear missiles. The spokesman for Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jay Johnson said that there were no plans to change the Navy's policy because of the "habitability" situation for men and women on submarines.

"We currently have no plans to change our policy on women in submarines. The CNO's position has not changed," Navy Capt. James Kudla said.

Johnson will retire this summer. He is expected to be replaced in July by Adm. Vernon Clark when the Senate approves President Bill Clinton's nomination of Clark to become the new CNO. - (Reuters)

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