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Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has informed Congress of the Navy's plans to incorporate women into the crews of submarines. In his February 19th letter to Congress, Secretary Gates said that the Navy's plan to introduce women into the submarine corps will begin to be phased in sometime next year.
Reuters reports that 15 percent of the more than 336,000 members of the U.S. Navy are women, who can and do serve on its surface ships. The close quarters of submarines have been one of the main issues considered by the Navy regarding the service of women crew members. The first women to join the submarine crews will most likely be officers, who are provided separate quarters. Congress has a 30 day time period in which to comment on the plan.
The American Forces Press Service reports that Naval leaders, including Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead, have looked closely at all issues that would affect the addition of women to the subs. Admiral Roughead, in a statement issued in September, said his experience commanding a mixed-gender surface combatant ship makes him "very comfortable" with the idea of integrating women into the submarine force. "I am familiar with the issues as well as the value of diverse crews," Roughead said.
No funds will be spent to reconfigure submarines to accommodate female crew members until the Navy presents the phased-approach plan to Congress. The Navy has completed such integrations successfully before. Women were incorporated into the crews of surface combat ships in 1993.
The Army is also reviewing its policies on women in combat roles. Reuters reports that when testifying before Congress on Tuesday, Army General George Casey said it was time to reconsider those policies. Women who serve in Afghanistan and Iraq are subject to many of the same dangers as combat troops, thanks the prevalence of suicide bombers and IEDs.