Female sailors can broaden their role in the Navy by serving on submarines, an activity currently prohibited by the Armed Service, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has advised the Senate Armed Services Committee.
According to Defensetech.org, a site run by Military.com, a group boasting a membership of 10 million veterans and active duty forces, Adm. Michael Mullen told senators in a recent survey that he's long been an advocate for improving diversity in the Armed Forces.
"I believe we should continue to broaden opportunities for women. One policy I would like to see changed is the one barring their service aboard submarines," he added.
The policy change would mark a huge shift for the Navy, whose submarines have been devoid of female sailors even though women began flying fighter jets and performing other seagoing combat roles 15 years ago.
Defensetech.org reported that Mullen, a former chief of naval operations and a surface warfare officer, wrote his endorsement of women serving in subs in his response to questions submitted by senators preparing for Mullen's confirmation hearing for a second term as chairman of the JCS. That hearing was held Sept. 15.
Opponents of females serving on submarines say space is too restrictive to accommodate privacy needs for women, in particular bathrooms. Another study -- conducted in 1994 -- noted that fraternization in close quarters, among other issues, could also complicate operations at sea
Mullen spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby told the Web site that the chairman had previously asked the Navy to look into overturning the rule, but did not want to get too involved in managing the force.