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Navy to allow women on submarines
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. military's ban on women serving on submarines passed quietly into history Thursday.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates notified lawmakers in mid-February that the Navy would be lifting the ban, unless Congress took some action against it. And Navy spokesman Lt. Justin Cole said Thursday that the deadline for Congress to act passed at midnight.
The Navy plans a press conference later Thursday to talk about the new policy.
"There are extremely capable women in the Navy who have the talent and desire to succeed in the submarine force," Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said hours after the congressional deadline passed. "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," Mr. Mabus said in a statement released by the Submarine Force headquarters.
The Navy expanded the number of assignments available to women 15 years ago, allowing them to serve on surface ships but deeming that their service on submarines would cost too much. In preparation for changing the old policy, the Navy has worked out a plan to phase in women by allowing them to begin serving on submarines that will not require costly alterations to accommodate females.
The Navy plans to start by assigning three female officers each in eight different crews of guided-missile attack submarines and ballistic missile submarines. That involves two submarines on the east coast and two on the west coast. Officials said that since more living space is available aboard those subs, it will not require modification to the vessels, allowing the Navy to move faster to include women.
The female officers would be assigned after completing the 15-month submarine officer training pipeline, which consists of nuclear power school, prototype training, and a submarine officer basic course. The first subs to get women each have about 15 officers and roughly 140 enlisted personnel.
Women make up 15 percent of the active duty Navy -- there are 52,446 out of the force of 330,700.
"Today, women earn about half of all science and engineering bachelor's degrees," said Vice Adm. John J. Donnelly, commander of 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."
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