According to Pentagon it is planned to end the U.S. military's ban on allowing women to serve in submarines.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates notified Congress, in a letter signed Friday, of the intent to repeal the ban; the decision was first reported by ABC News.
The plan will phase in women’s service, beginning with officers aboard the larger submarines that are easier to retrofit for coed quarters. Because of the time required for training, it would be more than a year before the first women joined submarines, assuming Congress raises no major objections that slow the schedule, New York Times reports.
According to Reuters, women account for about 15 percent of the more than 336,000 members of the U.S. Navy and can serve on its surface ships. But critics have argued that submarines are different, pointing to cramped quarters where some crews share beds in shifts -- a practice known as "hot bunking."
A likely scenario would see female officers becoming the first to join crews on the Navy's fleet of 71 submarines, since officers have separate accommodations, a U.S. defense official said.
Congress has 30 days to provide its official comment on the Navy's decision.
Nancy Duff Campbell, an advocate for expanding the role of women in the U.S. armed forces, applauded the decision and said she did not expect any opposition from lawmakers.
"This is something that has a lot of support (within the military) and the Navy has a serious plan" to carefully integrate submarine personnel, she said.
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