U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., a former secretary of the U. S. Navy and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Wednesday that he supports Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s ’65 decision to begin allowing women to serve on submarines.
Webb said the decision “follows thorough internal deliberations, and falls in line with the military’s long-standing policy goal of expanding the number of assignments available to women.”
Women make up about 15 percent of the U.S. Navy’s officers and enlisted sailors. They began serving on surface ships in 1993, but have remained barred from submarines because of concerns that it would be difficult for men and women to serve together in such close quarters.
Jon Jaques, national senior vice commander of United States Submarine Veterans, expressed his personal concern that women may lack the physical strength to perform certain duties, such as lifting pumps during emergency situations. Also, Jaques said, submarines have notoriously tight quarters. Consequently, sailors often brush against each other. This could lead to sexual assault or harassment allegations, he said.