ARLINGTON, Va. — The Defense Department informed Congress on Friday that the Navy will soon allow women to serve aboard submarines.
In a move led by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Chief Naval Officer Adm. Gary Roughead, women for the first time could begin training in the coming months to join submarine crews as early as next year.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates formally notified Congress of the policy change in a letter on Friday, according to Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell.
Congress has 30 days of session to respond, a Defense Department official said Tuesday, which puts the implementation start date at around mid to late-April.
“There are not approved plans,” for integration just yet, the official said, but added the process could resemble the Navy’s decision to allow women aboard surface ships in 1993.
Although there are nuclear-trained female sailors on aircraft carriers, the official said that “it would make the most sense” that the first women targeted to join submarine crews, expected to be roughly a dozen or more, will come up through both nuclear and submarine training.
Women have been aboard submarines, but only for short runs, such as technical representatives sent to fix items or as VIPs, the official said.
Gradually, they first would join the fleet’s larger subs that could accommodate separate sleeping arrangements.
Mabus first announced the Navy’s intent in September, saying he had worked “aggressively” on making the change since his arrival in March 2009.
“The secretary believes assigning women to submarines is a great idea and the right thing to do,” Mabus’ spokeswoman, Capt. Beci Brenton, said on Tuesday.
Last year, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress he endorsed the change.