NORFOLK, Va (NNS) -- The Department of the Navy has announced a policy change that will allow women to serve on submarines. The change was considered by Congress after Secretary of Defense Robert Gates formally presented a letter to congressional leaders Feb. 19, 2010 notifying them of the Department of Navy's desire to reverse current policy of prohibiting submarine service to women.
"There are extremely capable women in the Navy who have the talent and desire to succeed in the submarine force," said the Honorable Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy. "Enabling them to serve in the submarine community is best for the submarine force and our Navy. We literally could not run the Navy without women today."
On July 28, 1994, Congress was notified of policy changes to expand the number of assignments available to women in the Navy. At that time, opening assignments aboard submarines to women was deemed cost prohibitive and assignments on submarines remained closed. Currently, women make up 15 percent of the active duty Navy - 52,446 of 330,700. Integrating women into the submarine force increases the talent pool for officer accessions and subsequently the force's overall readiness, ensuring that the U.S. Submarine Force will remain the world's most capable for ensuing decades.
"The young women that have come up to me since we announced our intention to change the policy have such great enthusiasm," said Adm. Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations. "Knowing the great young women we have serving in the Navy, as a former commanding officer of a ship that had a mixed gender crew, to me it would be foolish to not take the great talent, the great confidence and intellect of the young women who serve in our Navy today and bring that into our submarine force."
"Today, women earn about half of all science and engineering bachelor's degrees," said Vice Adm. John J. Donnelly, Commander, Naval Submarine Forces. "There are capable women who have the interest, talent, and desire to succeed in the submarine force. Maintaining the best submarine force in the world requires us to recruit from the largest possible talent pool."
Implementing the policy change will begin by assigning three female officers in eight different crews of guided-missile attack (SSGNs) and ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). The assignments involve two submarines on the East Coast and two on the West Coast, each of which is supported by a Blue and Gold crew. More living space is available aboard these platforms which will require no modification, permitting the Navy to move quickly on integrating female officers in submarines.
"We need to open up the aperture for submarine officer selection to maintain our current selectivity," said Rear Adm. Barry L. Bruner, Commander, Submarine Group Ten and leader of the Women in Submarines Task Force. "The key to making this significant change happen successfully will be correctly carrying out the plan and also ensuring that we educate the force and their families."
SSGNs provide the Navy with an unprecedented combination of strike and special operation mission capability within a stealthy, clandestine platform, while SSBNs are specifically designed for extended strategic deterrent patrols. There are currently 14 SSBNs and four SSGNs in the Navy's inventory, each with two crews assigned.
The female officers would be assigned after completing the 15-month submarine officer training pipeline, which consists of nuclear power school, prototype training, and the Submarine Officer Basic Course. The SSBNs are billeted for 15 officers and 140 enlisted, while the SSGNs have a crew allotment of 15 officers and 144 enlisted.
"We have created a well-thought-out plan to phase in the female officers to the selected SSGN and SSBN submarine crews," added Donnelly. "Enabling these bright and talented female officers to serve will be a great asset to our submarine force, our Navy, and the strength of our military."
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