Military News

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Future Weapons Need to be Adaptable, Cost Less

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

Oct. 7, 2009 - Future U.S. military weapons are going to have to be relevant, adaptable and affordable, the nation's second highest-ranking military officer told defense contractors here today. Gone are the days of spending millions of dollars on technology and equipment that is all but obsolete by the time it is fielded to troops, Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the annual Association of the United States Army.

And no longer can the United States afford to cut out large chunks of its defense budget for weapons systems that provide only a niche capability, he said.

The prolonged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have fundamentally changed the construct of the force that for decades was built on the idea of having to fight two large enemies at the same time.

"[Iraq and Afghanistan were] not on anybody's list as peer competitors. Not on anybody's list to last more than 30 days in conflict. And here we are now approaching the ninth and 10th year [at war]," Cartwright said.

Now, weapons systems are going to have to be adaptable enough to fight across several fronts, and cheap enough to be fielded in large numbers, he said.

As an example, Cartwright cited the unmanned aerial vehicles now in high demand in combat. During the Cold War, air superiority was paramount in defense spending, but the large, costly fighter jets and bombers have proven less effective in today's counterinsurgency fight.

"Compared to a fixed-wing aircraft ... [a UAV] takes about a tenth of the gas for about 10 times the flight time. It's always there when you need it," Cartwright said. "It does incredible things and has incredible leverage for nowhere near the cost."

Cartwright said he has not yet met a commander on the ground who doesn't want more of the unmanned aircraft. In fact, the aircraft cannot be produced fast enough in the United States to fill the demand overseas, he said.

"We're trying to figure out how to open more [production lines]," he said.

Because of the speed of today's technological advancements, the general said that any system built has to be flexible enough to incorporate the latest technology.

Cartwright heralded recent progress made in tying old and new networks together for a broader missile defense shield, making the system more adaptable. The system can now tie into radars that were built in the 1970s, he said. And newer command and control systems are able to tap into these radars, expanding their range and flexibility.

But, no matter how good a weapon system is, it has to be affordable, Cartwright said.

"You can have the world's greatest idea, [but] without resources, it's an hallucination," he said.

Cartwright predicted minimal growth and tight funds in the department's future.

"The growth that we've had over the last eight to 10 years is a thing of the past. And so hard decisions are going to have to be made," Cartwright said.

What worries him, the general said, is that the trend in defense building is toward developing top-of-the-line products at very large costs.

Cartwright cited the escalating costs of building today's bombers. The department bought more than 700 of the B-52 Stratofortress, a long-range bomber used by the Air Force since 1955. They cost about $53 million each in 1998 dollars, according to the Air Force. The B-1B Lancer bomber was introduced in October 1986 costing more than $283 million each in 1998 dollars. The Department bought about 100 of them, Cartwright said. The newest most advanced bomber, the B-2 Spirit introduced to the service in April 1997, cost nearly $1.16 billion. The department stopped production at 20.

"I can't afford one [plane] on each coast, one ship on each coast, because that's all I can afford," Cartwright said.

"Think about the next generation bomber. We need hundreds of them. Not two," he said.

Cartwright said the value of the niche capabilities of a weapons system have to be weighed against the value of having more capabilities.

"Competition has got to find us a way to get to scale," he said. "If we don't, we're going to be sorely disadvantaged."

"We've got to find a way to get this affordability equation to work in our favor," he said.

Acquisition Chief Cites Need for Balance

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Oct. 7, 2009 - The Defense Department needs to balance the needs of today's wars with tomorrow's requirements, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics said. Ashton B. Carter spoke to the Council on Foreign Relations here Oct. 5. He said he took the job understanding that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates wanted him to put the acquisition shop on a war footing.

"[Gates] had the experience during the first 18 months or so that he was in office that nothing was done in support of the wars by the enterprise, corporately, that he himself didn't push on personally," Carter said.

The warriors in battle today need everything the nation can provide to successfully fight the wars. The mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle is one example. Long-range planners did not want the vehicles because there was little place for them in future configurations of the military.

Gates saw they protected servicemembers from roadside bombs and car bombs and the Congress agreed. Thousands of the vehicles are now on the ground in Iraq and a new all-terrain version was sent to Afghanistan last week.

But at the same time that warfighters need capabilities, there is the need to prepare the military for tomorrow. Money must go into developing the weapons systems of the future so the American military maintains its qualitative edge, Carter said.

Acquisition, technology and logistics are at the core of changing the way the department does business. Carter called Gates' decisions on the fiscal 2010 budget a good start.

"Secretary Gates is convinced that there's more to do, that changing the way we do business is not something you just do in the spring of one year and then continue on," Carter said. "So he would like to see us do more, and we are doing more."

President Barack Obama seconds Gates' desire, and both houses of Congress have passed legislation on acquisition reform. Carter said the department will move forward with new methods and policies.

Carter said that many people touted the fact that Gates recommended Obama "cut" programs from the Defense Department budget. This is true, Carter said, but more nuanced.

"A number of the decisions that the secretary took in the spring were of the nature of, let's take another look at and restart something," he said.

The Army's Future Combat System is one example, the undersecretary said. The secretary cancelled the system, but did not cancel Army modernization.

"The Army still needs to have a future and be modernized," Carter said. "And so I'm in the process now, with the Army, of taking the pieces of what was [Future Combat System] and managing them differently."

Another example is the transformational satellite program, which Gates canceled, although there still is a need for satellite wideband communications.

"The budget climate is changing," Carter said. "We think that we require more real growth in order to fund the defense budget. But I'm also realistic and recognize that we're not going to enjoy the double-digit, year-on-year growth that immediately followed 9/11."

Defense Department Works to End Domestic Violence

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

Oct. 7, 2009 - The Defense Department is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for military families, the director of the department's Family Advocacy Program said in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. When domestic violence does occur within the military community, however, there are places to turn, David Lloyd said.

"Domestic violence is always an issue in the military because military people come into the service with all the issues that are present in the civilian sector," he said. "We don't want victims to suffer in silence."

In 2006, the department passed the Restricted Reporting Policy, Lloyd said. Restricted reporting allows victims who are unaware of the support and resources available for them to get that information, get an assessment of their safety and receive help with safety planning.

All of this is done without notifying military law enforcement or the military commander, which means that if the alleged abuser is a servicemember, the incident won't end up on a permanent record.

The other option is unrestricted reporting, which is the option used when a victim wants to get law enforcement or the command involved, Lloyd said.

"In that situation, the law enforcement ... personnel would investigate the allegations of what had happened and of course would present it to the commander," he said. "The commander would be able to take steps, including issuing a military protective order."

Commanders also have the authority to move the servicemember into the barracks to separate the couple, as well as make them surrender any personal firearms to reduce the immediate risk of lethality, Lloyd said.

These are just two of the tools and resources available to victims of domestic violence in the military community.
Victim advocates and military life consultants also are available to help a victim through the process, no matter which report they choose to file. Should a victim want to seek shelter, the advocate or a Family Advocacy Program clinician would help her get to a shelter off the military installation, Lloyd said.

"The ... advocate also would go with her to a civilian court, ... to get a civilian protective order ... [which] must be enforced on a military installation just as if it was in the outside, civilian world," he said. "If it's a servicemember who's the alleged abuser - which it is in about 60 percent of the cases – the commander can order that abuser to meet with a [Family Advocacy Program] person, get an assessment, [and] come up with a treatment to correct his behavior."

The commander also could order the servicemember into Family Advocacy Program or other counseling, as appropriate, Lloyd said, or may call for disciplinary measures.

There's another scenario as well.

"If the servicemember wants to come forward as a voluntary self-referral to the Family Advocacy Program to get help, or to go to a family center or to Military OneSource, or to the military family life consultants for nonmedical counseling, that's confidential and it wouldn't show up in their record," Lloyd said. "But when the commander hears about it, and [takes action against] the servicemember, it is going to show up in their record."

The realization that many victims are afraid to come forward because they feel reliant upon their abuser has not been lost on the department.

If a commander finds cause to discharge a servicemember over abuse allegations or has the servicemember court-martialed and a guilty verdict is returned, and pay and allowances must be forfeited, the victim isn't left high and dry.

Defense Department policy authorizes commanders to pay for the victim's transportation to a safe place and the shipping of household goods provided there's an agreement between the spouses or the court has divided the property.

"The commander can also authorize the victim to receive up to 36 months of transitional compensation based on the servicemember's pay to help the victim get a new start," Lloyd said. "In addition to the compensation, the victim would be eligible for medical and dental benefits ... and for exchange and commissary benefits for the same period of time.

"We want the victim not to feel that she's so dependent on the servicemember's pay that she has to suffer in silence," he added.

The time period for which those benefits are extended is dependent upon the amount of time left on the servicemember's enlistment contract, he said.

It's often taken for granted that all victims of domestic abuse are women, but Lloyd said that's not the case. About a third of the cases reported each year are reported by men.

"The good news is that we can work with them as well, our Family Advocacy Program people and our victim advocates," he said. "Also, the [male] victims tend not to have significant physical injuries. Women, because of their smaller body size and body mass, if they do get hit with violence, they tend to suffer more significant injuries than the men do."

But not all domestic violence is physical. Sometimes it's psychologically coercive, controlling behavior, he said.

How the reported domestic violence cases compare with the same demographic in the civilian population is unknown as there's no annual data collection system, Lloyd said. The department has contributed to the new National Intimate Partner Violence, Stalking and Sexual Violence Surveillance System, being developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"So for the first time, by the end of 2011, we should have some comparative data," he said.

The department keeps tabs on the number of cases reported throughout the military, however, and Lloyd said the trend since 2000 is a bit surprising.

"Despite the heavy stresses we've had from two wars, both the number of reports and the number of reports that meet [Family Advocacy Program] criteria, and the rate of such reports per 1,000 married couples, has declined rather steadily since the year 2000," he said. "We're always keeping an eye on it, because we're very mindful of the long-term effects of repeated long-term deployments. [They] can really wreak havoc on marriages and other relationships.

"We're not pleased, because we don't want to have any, but we think that the proactive stance the department is taking to try and support couples and families, and seriously dating couples ... is maybe having a payoff," he added.

Numbers from the civilian population also show an overall decline, too, he said.

The department's efforts don't stop with adults; officials also have taken measures to address teen dating violence as well. Tool kits have gone out to Defense Department schools, defense youth programs and Family Advocacy Programs to help teens develop relationships that are nonviolent, Lloyd said.

Tommy T. Thomas, deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy, reinforced the department's commitment to ending domestic violence.

"The Department of Defense and the military services are committed to providing strong family programs to prevent, identify, report, treat and follow-up cases of domestic abuse," he said. "As the nation observes Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we will continue our work to ensure that every home in the military community is a safe home."

MILITARY CONTRACTS October 7, 2009

AIR FORCE
Lockheed Martin Space systems Co., of Sunnyvale, Calif., was awarded a $21,639,894 contract which will provide for advanced extremely high frequencysatellites which will perform a 50 percent design adequacy assessment for the mission control segment and continue preparation for the preliminary design review as well as study the impacts on strategic command requirements. At this time, $4,000,000 has been obligated. MCSW/PKA, El Segundo, Calif., is the contracting activity (F04701-02-C-0002, P00383).

DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY
Belleville Shoe, Belleville, Ill., is being awarded a maximum $6,302,400 firm fixed price, indefinite delivery and indefinite quantity contract for cold wet boots. Other location of performance is Arkansas. Using services are Army, Navy, and Air Force. This proposal was originally Web solicited with four responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract is exercising the second option year period. The date of performance completion is October 7, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa., (SPM1C1-08-D-1043).

NAVY
Raytheon Co., Space and Airborne Systems, El Segundo, Calif., is being awarded a $5,650,089 modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-04-C-0014) to perform engineering change proposal 6279, which will enhance the AN/APG-79 active electronically scanned array radar on 14 F/A-18E, 9 F/A-18F, 22 EA-18G Lot 33 aircraft. Work will be performed in Forest, Miss., (42 percent); El Segundo, Calif., (36.8 percent); and St. Louis, Mo., (21.2 percent), and is expected to be completed in September 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.


Correction: Contract awarded Sept. 30, 2009, to Hensel Phelps Construction Co., Irvine, Calif., (N62473-09-C-1821) should have stated the amount as $60,720,000.

Africa Exercise Strengthens Communications

By Marine Corps Sgt. Rocco DeFilippis
Special to American Forces Press Service

Oct. 7, 2009 - Nearly 200 people from 26 countries and three international organizations came together in Gabon to participate in Exercise Africa Endeavor. The annual exercise, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command, aims to help African militaries improve their communications capabilities. The exercise this year began Sept. 29 and ends tomorrow.

The exercise focuses on two important areas of military communications: data, which includes the hardware and software of computer networks, and radio, used to send voice and data transmissions.

Marine Corps Sgt. Zach D. Zapotoski, exercise data chief/lead planner, said the purpose of the exercise is to bring communicators from throughout the various economic regions of Africa to evaluate and standardize communication plans.

"We are testing to ensure that all of the different kinds of gear that each participant uses is compatible," Zapotoski said. "Through this process we are collecting data, identifying gaps and shortfalls, and then working to address the areas where those gaps occur."

According to Marine Corps Capt. Dave Fuller, exercise technical director, the effort to standardize is one of the main goals of the exercise.

"The first goal is to increase the interoperability with the countries that are going to be working with each other in the different African Standby Forces," Fuller said.

Because each nation brings different capabilities, experience levels and operating methods, establishing standard operating procedures is key to future success, said Marine Corps Sgt. Ryan Kish, exercise test network coordinator.

"The most important thing is that we are establishing [standard operating procedures]," Kish said. "It's important because as the African nations work together in the future or when we work with them in the future, we can have that data to look at to see what worked and what needs a solution."

In addition to the technical and professional aspects of the exercise, Fuller said, another important goal is to build and strengthen relationships.

"Our second goal is to pair up these nations to not only build up partner relations between us, but also to create and bolster partnerships between the African countries as well," Fuller said.

The exercise is broken down into phases in order to establish the standard operating procedures and collect all of the necessary data. Both the radio and data portions have three phases of execution throughout the exercise.

In the first phase of the radio portion of the exercise, each nation uses internal testing to ensure that everyone's equipment is compatible and functioning properly, Marine Corps Sgt. Christian Valencia said.

"Each nation generally has the same types of gear, but brands and capabilities vary," he said. "So, in this first phase we are ironing out compatibility issues to get the ball rolling for the next phase."

During the first phase, Valencia said, all of the internal testing happens between radios on the site here.

From the testing phase, the radio communicators move to the second phase where they reach back to their home nation to establish communications. During the third phase, participants communicate from the host site to sites within other countries.

"We are taking the results of the various tests and compile them into a single package that can be used for future reference," Valencia said.

The phases for the data portion of the exercise run along similar lines as the radio portion, Zapotoski said.

During the first phase, each nation partnered with one other nation and constructed and tested their network.
For the second phase, the nations are building and testing a series of interconnected computers that share data within their associated economic region. And in the last phase, the regional networks will be tied together to simulate a wide-area network.

"Our goal is to be able to identify and configure a routing protocol that can be used to communicate on a basic level," Zapotoski said.

A quick visit to one of the tents or buildings on the site reveals that the exercise involves even more than technical exploits and data gathering.

The exercise has provided the U.S. and African participants with an opportunity to build professional and personal relationships, Fuller said.

"It's a rare opportunity to interact with military representatives from 25 different countries at one time," Kish said. "So there have been plenty of chances to interact with each other and share in each other's culture."

"The whole experience has been tremendous," Zambian Warrant Officer 2 Lufuma Augustine added. "In the sense that we are all Africans and we each face similar problems, being able to cooperate and work together to solve some problems is very nice."

Various events designed to increase interaction and cultural sharing are built into the exercise itself, Fuller said, including traditional meals, social gatherings, team sports and even the exercise's location, which is held in a different country each year to promote cultural exchange.

For this year's exercise, even the initial and mid-planning conferences were held in different countries.

"That's what this exercise is really all about," Fuller said. "Getting on the same sheet of music, as far as communication is concerned, and building those relationships so that these partner nations can work together in the future."


(Marine Corps Sgt. Rocco DeFilippis serves with U.S. Marine Forces Africa.)

Survivor Urges Importance of Mammograms

By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service

Oct. 7, 2009 - After a two-year battle with breast and ovarian cancers, once again I find myself sitting in a doctor's office, waiting to get a mammogram. The office is empty; I'm the first appointment of the day and I can't seem to keep from nervously tapping my feet on the floor.

My mammogram checkups are in October -- National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I didn't plan it that way, it just happened.

Statistics show that early detection increases a person's chance for survival. So, although it may seem uncomfortable and inconvenient, I encourage everyone to schedule their annual mammogram.

Without one, I'm not sure I'd still be here to share my story.

Before my diagnosis, a routine mammogram was just that -- routine. In October 2007 that all changed. I had no symptoms, no lumps, but the doctors discovered cancer in my left breast. Subsequent tests found ovarian cancer throughout my abdomen.

I've been on quite a rollercoaster ride since -- battling both cancers. I've had a dozen surgeries, two rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, a colonoscopy, numerous
imaging scans, blood transfusions and weekly blood work.

Since the conventional chemo has weakened my body and there's still evidence of ovarian cancer, the doctors are working to get me into a study with a new drug – Avastin -- through the National Institutes of Health.

To that end, last week, the surgeon put stents between my kidneys and bladder to improve my kidney function – a prerequisite for the NIH study.

Today is a routine follow up. My breast cancer has been under control since after the first round of chemo and radiation -- it's the ovarian cancer that we're still fighting. I hope there are no surprises, but over the last 24 months I've learned to expect the unexpected.

When I first heard "you have cancer," my whole world changed.

I was no longer "invincible." I became one of the many with this debilitating disease.

Even when I beat this dreaded disease, I'm bound to wonder if/when it will rear its ugly head again.

The last two years have been full of doubts, fears, tears and uncertainty. But, I've also learned a lot about myself, family and friends.

Since I was first diagnosed, family and friends have rallied by my side providing love, support and encouragement. I am so very fortunate and count my blessings often.

There have been many days when I felt terrible and couldn't get out of bed. I've come to begrudgingly accept my limitations and rest when my body tells me to.

On the other hand, I've learned to not take life for granted. When I'm feeling well or even not so well, I want to get out, to explore, to see family and friends. I'm fortunate that I still can.

Since I'm a cancer survivor, the doctors now order a "diagnostic mammogram." This means once the films are taken, I wait until a doctor sees them. If there's something that looks suspicious, then I'd have to undergo further testing.

Back to the doctor's office, and I've just filled out my form. You'd think they'd have the answers to these questions somewhere in my file already. And here's the technician to call me back. I put on my gown (opening in front) and then sit back in a chair to wait for the machine to boot up -- perks of being the first patient of the day.

The technician says the machine is up, so I follow her back to the room. She apologizes for the delay and her cold hands as she positions me and my breasts for the X-rays. We chat as the machine squishes my breasts and takes the images. She's a new grandma of a little girl. And I tell her about my recent trip to Alaska. Once done, she says to sit in the chair while she runs the pictures back to the doctor to read.

I start to count the tiles on the ceiling as I wait for the technician's return. She rounds the corner, smiles and says "Everything looks fine. We'll see you in six months." I let out a sigh, change my clothes and head home – to call my loved ones with the good news.

Roughead Urges More Naval Cooperation

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Oct. 7, 2009 - International cooperation is the currency of naval power today, the chief of naval operations said today. Navy Adm. Gary Roughead cited a need to boost the effectiveness of this cooperation during a speech at the Naval War College's International Seapower Symposium in Newport, R.I.

Naval cooperation is the cornerstone of America's maritime strategy detailed in a 2007 document, Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, Roughead said.

"That strategy, with conflict prevention and international partnerships at its core, has served our Navy and our nation exceedingly well and continues to guide our thoughts, our plans and our actions," he said.

Global maritime partnership is a central aspect of the strategy. "The U.S. services' interest in global maritime partnership stems from our desire to seek out cooperative approaches to maritime security and promoting the rule of law," the admiral said.

This fits in with the greater U.S. strategy that one country can't do it all.

Personal trust is the cornerstone of maritime cooperation, the admiral said. "Trust cannot be surged," he said. "With that as my guiding principle, I have spent the past two years traveling the globe, meeting with many of you and learning from your experiences so that I can better understand your concerns and proposals to make the maritime domain a safer place."

Personal military-to-military relationships are the first step in building trust, said Roughead, who has met with many naval leaders in their countries and in the United States. He said he values these relationships and uses them in the everyday missions of the U.S. Navy.

"Indeed, in those moments when disaster or crisis demand the most from us, our relationships may yet pay the highest dividend," he said. Navies need to know how to work together before a crisis or disaster hits, he added.

"These efforts confirm that there need be no contradiction between defending our country's sovereign rights and sailing together, against the common threats to our welfare," he said.

A prime example of this is in the Straits of Malacca patrols by Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. This has drastically reduced piracy in those waterways, he said.

The Economic Community of Central African States is another example. These nations agreed to work together on patrolling waters of mutual interest and to monitor an operations center in Cameroon.

Making this international cooperation more effective is important for the future, he said. Information sharing and the pursuit of maritime domain awareness remain focuses for partner nations.

"Our goal should now be to bridge the regional security awareness initiatives in support of yet broader awareness and partnerships," Roughead said. "Besides information-sharing, we must also work toward greater interoperability. There are many ways to improve our interoperability and lessons learned of how to work together. Those lessons start again at the personal level."

Senior level partnerships are important, but it is on the decks of ships where the partnerships pay off. Roughead wants to expand the international partnerships "to encourage the interaction of our young sailors and noncommissioned officers and officers. I do not think we can underestimate the lasting benefit of such contact.

"In an age of instant communication and even imperfect translation software, we have unparalleled opportunity to ensure that the naval chiefs a generation from now will have known each other since their earliest days at sea, regardless of distance or language differences," he said.

Training together and exercising together remain the best ways to facilitate this communication, Roughead said, adding that he wants to expand these opportunities also.

"Ultimately, the time we spend learning and improving interoperability is time well spent when it comes to issues of maritime security," the admiral said. "There is perhaps no better example today of maritime partnerships than the work so many of us are doing against piracy, the Navy's oldest foe, in the Gulf of Aden.

"The presence there of navies from all over the world is truly unprecedented, and very much needed for a security challenge that affects such a large ocean area," he said.

Roughead urged the symposium members to use the time together at Newport as a way to further cooperation among navies.

"Common use of the high seas has been a driver of international cooperation and institution-building for centuries," he said. "Today, in the early years of the 21st century, I am convinced that our new partnerships – informal as well as formal, local as well as global – are writing a new chapter in the development of international society."

The symposium, in its 40th year, brings together leaders of the world's navies. The first symposium in 1969 attracted representatives from 37 nations. The current iteration had representatives from more than 100 countries.

Women Will Serve on Submarines, Navy Secretary Says

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Oct. 7, 2009 - Navy Secretary Ray Mabus yesterday said women soon will serve on submarines, suggesting a reversal of the long-standing ban by the Navy. Appearing on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," Mabus signaled that the Navy is moving closer to allowing coed personnel on submarines.

"It will take a little while because you've got to interview people and you've got to be nuclear trained," he said, referring to prerequisite steps before a sailor is assigned to a submarine.

Officials previously have cited a lack of privacy and the cost of reconfiguring subs as obstacles to allowing female crewmembers to serve aboard the vessels.

But Mabus is one of several top Navy officials recently to call for an end to the policy. The Navy secretary's comments yesterday amplify his previous endorsement of ending the ban.

"This is something the [chief of naval operations] and I have been working on since I came into office," Mabus, who was confirmed as Navy secretary in May, said last week. "We are moving out aggressively on this.

"I believe women should have every opportunity to serve at sea, and that includes aboard submarines," he told reporters following a tour of Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Newport News shipyard.

Navy Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, acknowledged that special accommodations would be a factor in the decision, but one that's not insurmountable.

"Having commanded a mixed-gender surface combatant, I am very comfortable addressing integrating women into the submarine force," he said in a statement last month. "I am familiar with the issues as well as the value of diverse crews."

Roughead said he has been personally engaged through the years in the Navy's debate of the feasibility of assigning women to submarines.

"There are some particular issues with integrating women into the submarine force -- issues we must work through in order to achieve what is best for the Navy and our submarine force," he said. "This has had and will continue to have my personal attention as we work toward increasing the diversity of our Navy afloat and ashore."

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed the issue with the Senate Armed Services Committee last month.

"I believe we should continue to broaden opportunities for women," Mullen is quoted as saying in response to written questions posed by the Senate Armed Services Committee. "One policy I would like to see changed is the one barring their service aboard submarines."

Mullen, a champion of diversifying the services, said this month that having a military that reflects the demographics of the United States is "a strategic imperative for the security of our country."