Navy Debates Submarine Duty for Women

The debate over women serving on board the U.S. Navy’s submarine’s has been revived by the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACWS), the Pentagon’s advisory committee that recommends policies on issues women face in the armed services. “It’s important we examine what is still closed to women,” stated Mary Wamsley, chairwoman of DACWS, and deputy chief of police in Commerce City, CO.

Although women were admitted to the Naval Academy in 1976, women are still restricted from serving in 33,000 positions in the Navy, 25,000 of which are submarine positions. Opponents to the gender integration of naval submarines claim the cost of converting submarines to incorporate women. Also opponents of gender integration insist the experience of spending days or weeks submerged in tight quarters with no privacy makes service in submarines too prohibitive for women.

Wamsley dismissed those concerns stating, “It is ludicrous to say the living conditions and psychological conditions have more of an impact on women than on men.” As it stands, the Navy has difficulty recruiting men to fill positions on submarines due to the more rigorous intellectual and psychological standards required. By allowing women, who constitute nearly 14 percent of naval personnel, to serve on submarines the pool of recruits would expand measurably.


New York Times - November 15, 1999

Support eh ERA banner