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Submarine Essay

3588 words - 15 pages

Rear Admiral Hugh Scott (MC) USN (Ret.) 3707 Merlin Way Annandale, VA 22003-1326 (703) 204-9146 (h); (703) 346-7767 (c) The Honorable Ike Skelton Chairman, House Armed Services Committee U.S. House of Representatives 2206 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515-2504 11 March, 2010

Subject: The Assignment of Women on Submarines: Issues of Concern Enclosure: Memorandum Assignment of Women to Submarines–Issues and Concerns Dear Congressman Skelton, Ten years ago, I had sent a letter to the HASC in which I expressed my concerns about making any changes to the submarine all-male assignment policy. There are many quality of life issues to consider, but my letter focused on ...view middle of the document...

Based on that experience, I have serious concerns about the risk to the safety and normal development of an embryo-fetus in the submarine environment. The significant number of operational deferments granted to women for the occurrence of unintended pregnancies, while serving on sea-duty, suggests that this pattern would also occur with the assignment of women on submarines. However, unlike surface ships, the sealed environment of the submarine atmosphere poses an increased risk to the normal development of a woman’s embryo-fetus. In addition, the nature of the operational mission coupled with a very limited medical capability aboard a submarine will significantly increase the risks of survival for women who may be stricken with complications of abnormal pregnancies while underway. These health-related issues argue against any change in the current submarine allmale assignment policy. Congressman Skelton, I ask that you and other members of the House Armed Services Committee ask the Secretary of Defense to answer a

series of specific questions, starting with these: How does the Navy intend to resolve the unintended pregnancy problem? How does the Navy plan to manage the consequences of abnormal pregnancy complications occurring while underway, and out of range for a timely medevac? How will the Navy protect the embryo-fetus from the risk posed to its normal development if a pregnancy is detected while the boat is deployed? If the Navy cannot resolve these problems, why are officials planning to assign female sailors to submarines? I hope you will agree that the lack of sociological or psychological research on the effect of gender mixing on individual and group dynamics during submarine operations is reason for concern and immediate intervention by Congress. Health and safety issues must take precedence over matters of career and equality. No change in the policy should be considered unless the Navy can give categorical assurances to women that service in submarines will not cause any increase risk to their health (female fertility), or injure a product of conception, i.e. the embryo/fetus. Such assurances cannot be given, due to the unavoidable risk of fetal exposure to carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, aerosol trace elements, and other hazardous substances found in the submarine atmosphere. The predicted rate of ectopic pregnancy, 4 per 1000 Navy women per year, poses a serious risk under the best conditions; however, if that pregnancy complication occurs while deployed on a submarine, the likelihood of a fatal outcome is greatly increased. Finally, although there are no available studies on the socio-psychological effects of gender mixing on submarine operations, it would be reasonable to expect that the proposed assignment policy change would alter the existing dynamic and quality of life in the hazardous and demanding undersea environment. Considering that unit cohesiveness, morale, and combat effectiveness of the U.S. Submarine Force...

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