Our ability to attract and retain the best people in the submarine service has always been essential to maintaining our position as the world’s finest Submarine Force. We continually review personnel recruitment and assignment policies to expand and diversify available talent to keep our readiness at the highest level.
Recently, the Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations indicated that it is time to change the policy prohibiting women from being assigned to submarines. After the Secretary of Defense notifies Congress of the assignment policy change, we will engage with Congress and then move out on this initiative, as it will become increasingly important to expand the talent pool we draw from in the future.
In 2007, women comprised 57% of enrollees at degree-granting institutions, and they have earned about half of all science and engineering bachelor’s degrees since 2000. They represent a rich resource of talent for Submarine Force officer accession.
This initiative represents a major change in the Submarine Force. As with any change, the key to our success will be strong and effective leadership throughout the chain of command. I am committed to integrating women into our Force in a way that respects the rights and privacy of all crew members and makes our Submarine Force even better than we are today.
In this issue of Undersea Warfare, we feature one of the elite athletes in the submarine community (if not the world), LCDR Don Cross, the Strategic Weapons Officer for Commander, Submarine Squadron 20, in Kings Bay, Ga. He is among six U.S. Navy athletes chosen to compete in one of the most prestigious world championship triathlons, the 31st annual Ford Ironman World Championship triathlon, in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. The Iron Man competition consists of a 2.4-mile swim through rough ocean currents, a 112-mile bike race, and 26.2 miles of marathon running over volcanic rock-covered terrain in tropical island heat. Don has been competing in triathlons for many years, and his participation helps showcase the elite nature of Navy athletes to the broad audience of athletes and spectators for these events.
This month’s issue also features a number of informative articles, including an interview with the Submarine Force Executive Director, Mr. F. Scott Dilisio. Scott is in his second year in this position and has provided tremendous value to the Submarine Force. I certainly appreciate his counsel and assistance in addressing the challenges and opportunities ahead.
Operationally, we remain busy, and our submarines are engaged around the world. As I write this, we have 13 SSNs deployed and five SSBNs on patrol. These crews, together with those on our deployed SSGNs, make up nearly 3,000 submariners who are at sea standing the watch for our nation.
As the holidays approach, it is important to remember our committed professionals who are away from friends and family. I am tremendously proud of the accomplishments of the Submarine Force and look forward to an exciting and challenging year ahead.