Having a presence
The first women to serve on U.S. Navy submarines are expected to be on the job by fall of 2011, Navy officials said Thursday, ushering in a policy change to what has been an elite service open only to men since the start of the modern Navy’s submarine program.
While Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the change last month, the Navy had to wait for Congress to review and approve the policy change over a 30-day period which ended at midnight Thursday morning…The Navy will implement the policy change by assigning three female officers to eight different crews of guided-missile attack and ballistic-missile submarines. The assignments involve two submarines on the East Coast and two on the West Coast, according to Navy officials.
I’m pleased at the follow-through. I honestly had some doubts that the policy change would actually go through, and I’m happy to be wrong.
The new NavyLive covered the announcement with a little more depth in this post by RADM Barry Bruner:
The change in the policy to allow women to serve on submarines is applicable to both officer and enlisted – but, right now the plan is only focused on bringing officers onboard. There are a number of reasons for this, the most important being that selectivity demands we open the aperture for officer selection. In 2005 and in 2008 we did not quite meet our goals for officer accession in the submarine force. Over the past 40 years the percentage of men graduating with technical degrees has gone down from 75 to 49 percent with an increase in women earning technical degrees (an increase from 25 to 51 percent). Given this increasing need to open up the selectivity aperture – along with the fact that our SSBN and SSGN class of submarines allows for privacy and a viable career path for women, the logical step forward is to allow female officers into the submarine force. Based on the lessons we learn while implementing this plan I anticipate the Navy will then consider the way forward for enlisted women on submarines.
Now, that’s the best practical argument I’ve seen for the policy change. Setting aside whatever discomfort one might have with the policy, on traditional or prejudicial grounds, the numbers above dovetail with an adherence to non-discriminatory policy. I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again: if a person can meet the physical and job-related qualifications for a service, gender should be irrelevant.
Yesterday morning, the DOD gave a little more detail about the integration of women into two classes of submarines, including an interview with the above RADM:
“We’re looking for the same qualifications that we have for men,” Bruner said. “There is no difference.” Those qualifications include a technically-based education that includes calculus and physics, he said. Female candidates for submarine duty also will undergo the Navy’s intense interview and screening process for prospective underwater sailors.
Because the policy is new, officials can’t yet gauge women’s interest in serving on submarines, Bruner said, but added that a number of female academy students and graduates have shown interest.
The plan calls for phasing in three female officers in eight different crews of guided-missile attack and ballistic missile submarines, Bruner said. The class they will serve in is comprised of 14 ballistic missile submarines and four cruise missile submarines, he said. The submarines were chosen because the berthing and restrooms are designed so they need very few changes, he said. It is too soon to say specifically which submarines they will serve on, but there will be one each in King’s Bay, Ga., and Bangor, Maine, he said.
A couple of interesting facts: women represent 15% of USN personnel. Women have served on USN surface ships since 1993. The policy change only affects female officers. It seems likely that female enlisted personnel will eventually be integrated as well.
About bloody time.