Top military officials are calling to lift the military’s ban on women serving on submarines. Admiral Mike Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the top military officer in the US, said in congressional testimony on Friday that he believes the US should “broaden opportunities for women” and that “one policy [he] would like to see changed is the one barring [women’s] service aboard submarines,” according to Reuters.
Navy Secretary Ray Mubus said in a statement Friday, “we are moving out aggressively on this. I believe women should have every opportunity to serve at sea, and that includes aboard submarines…This is something the CNO (chief of naval operations) and I have been working on since I came into office,” reported Agence France Presse.
Due to the lifting of some combat bans in the 1990s, women in the Navy are able to serve on surface combat ships and combat aircrafts. However, they have not been not allowed to serve on submarines in part due to living space issues. According to the Washington Post, submarines would need to be slightly modified to provide privacy in the living quarters of both enlisted women and men, and bathrooms would need to be accessed in a time-sharing arrangement. Naval officers told the Washington Post that women’s lower retention rates (15 percent compared to more than 30 percent for men) lead to the military’s concern that integration could result in gaps in the submarine force.