USA — Task Force Tackles Integration of Women into Sub Crews

WASHINGTON, May 12, 2010 — A Navy task force is rely­ing on the service’s expe­ri­ence with sim­i­lar mile­stones as it works to imple­ment the lift­ing of a long-stand­ing ban on women serv­ing on sub­ma­rine crews.

In a “DoD Live” blog­gers round­table yes­ter­day, Navy Rear Adm. Bar­ry L. Bruner, com­man­der of Sub­ma­rine Group 10 and leader of the inte­gra­tion task force, not­ed that the first female sailors were assigned to non­com­bat ships in 1978, and the 1994 repeal of the Com­bat Exclu­sion Law allowed women to serve on Navy com­bat ships.

“As we go back and look at the lessons we learned in both 1978 and 1979, and again in 1994 and 1995, the Navy’s got a great his­to­ry of work­ing our way through an inte­gra­tion like this,” he said.

The first batch of offi­cer trainees has been accept­ed into the sub­ma­rine train­ing pro­gram, and will serve on crews by late 2011 or ear­ly 2012, the admi­ral said. The Navy is con­sid­er­ing the cost of mod­i­fy­ing sub­marines to allow enlist­ed women to serve on their crews, he added, though no time­line is set for inte­grat­ing enlist­ed crews yet.

One con­cern about bring­ing women onto sub­marines was that liv­ing quar­ters offered lit­tle pri­va­cy and weren’t con­sid­ered suit­able for mixed-gen­der habi­ta­tion, Bruner said.

“We’re try­ing in a very delib­er­ate fash­ion to ensure that one, we’re treat­ing the men and women exact­ly the same, and two, to be bru­tal­ly frank, we’re very care­ful that we’re doing the right thing both in rep­re­sent­ing the tax­pay­ers’ dol­lars and Amer­i­ca as a whole,” he said.

Over the past 40 years, Bruner said, the per­cent­age of men in the Navy going to col­lege and earn­ing tech­ni­cal degrees has dropped from 70 per­cent to 25 per­cent, while the num­ber of women earn­ing tech­ni­cal degrees in the Navy has risen.

“Today, women are actu­al­ly earn­ing more tech­ni­cal degrees than men are,” he said. “We real­ly need to open up the tal­ent pool so we can main­tain the best options avail­able in our sub­ma­rine force.”

Imple­ment­ing the pol­i­cy change will begin by assign­ing three female offi­cers in 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, each of which is sup­port­ed by a Blue and Gold crew, Bruner explained. More liv­ing space is avail­able aboard these plat­forms, he not­ed, so no mod­i­fi­ca­tions are nec­es­sary, per­mit­ting the Navy to move quick­ly on inte­grat­ing female offi­cers into sub­ma­rine crews.

“We may end up with more than three or four women being brought into these crews – the plan right now is to have two ensigns and a sup­ply offi­cer,” Bruner said.

The inte­gra­tion of women into the sub­ma­rine force is an emo­tion­al top­ic for some, the admi­ral acknowl­edged, but the Navy is tak­ing the cor­rect mea­sures and is going about the inte­gra­tion in a delib­er­ate fash­ion.

“As we imple­ment this, we’ll learn lessons,” he said. “Based on what we learn, then we’ll make a deci­sion on what the next step ahead is.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)