The United States Navy plans to allow women on submarines for the first time, military officials announced yesterday. According to the Los Angeles Times US Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates informed Congress Monday of the Navy’s intended policy change. The policy will go into effect as early as mid-April unless Congress objects during a 30 day waiting period.
Due to the lifting of some combat bans in 1993, women in the Navy have been able to serve on surface combat ships and combat aircrafts. They have not been not allowed to serve on submarines, in part due to living space issues. In the past, the Navy claimed the high cost of separate accommodations as the reason for the ban, reported the LA Times.
However, Missouri Representative and Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Ike Skelton (D) stated that the current “decision to allow women to serve on submarines will present challenges, but these challenges should not be insurmountable for the Navy,” according to the LA Times. Service on a nuclear submarine requires great expertise and the Navy no longer wanted to limit its prospective applicant pool.
Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former Navy chief of operations, first requested the change in testimony to Congress last year. At the time, he stated that he hoped to “continue to broaden opportunities for women” in the military.
According to the Daily Mail, US Army Chief of Staff General George Casey also told the U.S. Senate Tuesday that the ban on women in the Army’s infantry will be reassessed, particularly due to women’s demonstration of combat skill in Iraq and Afghanistan.