Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said on Tuesday that women would soon serve on submarines reversing a long time ban by the Navy. The Department of Defense :
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.
The Clinton administration reviewed the ban on Navy women in submarines ten years ago, but senior Navy officers opposed the idea. Critics of reversing the ban are likely to cite tight living quarters within the submarine as well as health and security issues which may arise as a result of women becoming pregnant on board a submarine.
“In the very early days and weeks of pregnancy, the recycled atmosphere [in a submarine] includes elements that are very unsafe for an unborn child,” she notes.
So let’s suppose three weeks out [to sea], a married sailor discovers she’s pregnant. And the ship commander has two choices — either [he] violate[s] the stealthy status of the submarine by surfacing for a dangerous evacuation, or he tells her that she will have to remain as she is throughout the deployment. This is an impossible dilemma that can and should be avoided.”
Mr. Mabus, a former governor of Mississippi, has given no specifics as to when steps would be taken to allow women to begin serving on Naval submarines.