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The Pentagon has decided it will lift its ban on women serving on U.S. Navy submarines, a long-standing rule.
Submarines are the only craft in the Navy on which women are restricted from serving, due to close quarters, which could make coed service difficult to manage, according to the Associated Press. The change comes during the ongoing challenge to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," the law barring gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.
Defense secretary Robert Gates notified Congress of the proposed change in a letter. Congress members have 30 days to respond.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and the chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Gary Roughead, both support lifting the ban on women serving on subs, according to ABC News.
The Navy would begin by phasing in officers aboard the larger ships, which are easier to retrofit for coed quarters. Females would also not be allowed to serve alone; at least two women would be required to be on board. It would take about a year before the first women would board a sub, due to the amount of training need. ABC News says that the Navy hopes that 12-18 ROTC or Naval Academy graduates will enter submarine training.
According to the AP, female sailors began working on surface ships in 1993.
This rule against women serving on subs is not written into law, unlike the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which was passed into law by Congress in 1993.