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February 23, 2010

More Social Engineering In The Military

Not content with a fight to let gays in the military, the Obama administration has decided that a pressing problem facing a nation at war is letting women serve on submarines.

The change was recommended by the chief of naval operations and the secretary of the Navy in addition to Gates, the official said, adding that there was no opposition to the move among Navy leaders.

A phased approach is being considered under which officers -- who already have separate living quarters -- would be the first to go co-ed, followed by crews, with the women bunking together, the official said. Crew space would have to be modified prior to that happening, the official added.

The submarines expected to carry women initially would be the larger ones -- nuclear-power, missile-carrying submarines known as SSBN and SSGN, the official said.

Follow the link to milblogger and retired submarine officer 'Bubblehead' for his take on the change, as well as the conversation in the comments.

I presume the Navy and its sailors will make this work but my question is why is this an issue? Are there not enough sailors volunteering for sub duty? Is the quality not high enough? I'm guessing silly things like what's good for the force aren't driving this change but rather a desire for that most important of all military assets...diversity.

And what won't be discussed? Things like this.

... pregnancy in the ranks is rising—especially among those in deploying units. That’s because the service does track—as a group—female sailors who have been sent to shore duty after their 20th week of pregnancy or those on an “operational deferment”—the guaranteed time the Navy gives women while they recover from childbirth.

These women are put on shore duty during their 12 months of deferment, then return to sea duty.

The Navy increased this deferment time in June 2007 from four to 12 months. As a result, the number of women leaving deploying units to have children has increased steadily from 1,770 in June 2006 to 3,125 as of Aug. 1. Junior enlisted women make up the bulk of those redirected to shore duty. Sailors in grades E-3 through E-5 account for 2,852 of the 3,125.

Are there dedicated woman who could serve on subs? Sure. Is it unfair that those women are denied the opportunity to serve because of larger issues? I guess. Thing is, unless I missed a memo, life isn't fair. We don't have a Navy and multi-billion dollar ships to ensure fairness of opportunity for men or women. The only purpose of a warship is to be ready to go in harm's way. There aren't a lot of extra bodies on ships, especially subs (which deploy for months at a time). Where are these extra crew members coming from in such a highly specialized talent pool when what everyone knows is going to happen, actually happens?

And then there are living space issues and consideration and on and on and on.

I'm fairly agnostic on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Most of my military news and information comes from milbloggers and they overwhelmingly seem to think it's a not much of an issue that will sort itself out. I'd just prefer it would be dealt with from the perspective of what's best for the military and its mission, not for the sake of diversity or the self esteem of individuals.

My biggest concern is that as our combat commitment in Iraq winds down, fighting in Afghanistan ramps up, naval shipbuilding is in shambles, the JSF program continues to slide and we enter the 10th year of trying to replace 40+ year old aerial refueling tankers, all we seem to talk about is social issues. The public only can pay attention to so many issues at once, gays in the military and women on subs shouldn't be getting all the attention.

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posted by DrewM. at 07:46 PM

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