Navy's new top admiral would speed assignment of women to all ships

May 04, 1994|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Eager to steer a new course after the Tailhook sexual harassment scandal, the Navy's new top admiral said yesterday that he would try to accelerate plans to assign women eventually to all ships and submarines.

Adm. Jeremy M. Boorda, who took over 10 days ago as chief of naval operations from Adm. Frank B. Kelso II, said that he wants to recruit more women into the Navy, now that women are allowed to servein more than 90 percent of Navy jobs.

The number of female recruits has increased to more than 15 percent of all Navy enlisted ranks this year from about 9 percent in 1991. Admiral Boorda signaled yesterday that he wants to increase the projections for female recruits beyond 15 percent.

But the admiral said that putting women on all ships would take time.

"I want to get it right," he said. "I don't just want to get it fast. But I'd like to get it quicker. The goal is all ships. The goal is everything."

Admiral Boorda, who most recently was commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Southern Europe, began what is certain to be a long campaign to repair the Navy's tarnished image after scores of women were assaulted by naval aviators at the 1991 convention of the Tailhook Association.

The admiral is the first former enlisted man to command the Navy,and Navy aides are cultivating his image as a four-star officer with a common touch.

Navy officials released yesterday a copy of a message that Admiral Boorda sent to all naval personnel in his first day on the job. The message is striking for its lack of bureaucratic jargon. The admiral said yesterday that he wrote it as if writing a personal letter to all 500,000 officers and sailors in the Navy.

Under Admiral Kelso, the Navy, more than any other branch of the armed forces, tried to open more jobs to women. Women now can serve in all combat positions except SEAL commando units and on nuclear submarines and minesweepers.

Commanders have expressed reservations about opening subs and minesweepers to women because of the vessels' cramped quarters.

Although the Navy is studying the cost of modifying submarines to accommodate women and other issues involving privacy, Admiral Boordasaid that he has asked Navy officials to re-examine the issue.

"We're going to look at it again," the admiral said. "In fact, we're going to look at it hard."

As the military services open more combat jobs to women, the armed forces are actively recruiting more women. Recruiters say this is particularly important because interest among high school-age men has waned, partly because of shrinking advertising budgets and a perception that the military is no longer hiring.

The aircraft carrier Eisenhower, which will sail in October with 500 women among its 5,000-member crew, will be the first of 10 warships this year to include women.

The Navy plans to have about 30 combatant ships with female crew members in the next three years. Women have served on supply and fuel ships since 1978.

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