Proposed Change That Will Adversely Affect Future Submarine Manning

By the end of the year, we'll be seeing a dramatic change in the makeup of some submarine crews. The first women submarine officers will be arriving at their boats as early as November, and even before that, prior to the end of the summer, homosexual or bisexual Submariners will have legal cover to be open about their sexual preference. (Note that I don't say that gay Submariners will start arriving after that time; anyone who's honest about it knows they've had gay shipmates in the past, and current Submariners have gay shipmates now, and it will continue in the future.)

So are these the changes that will adversely affect submarine manning? Well, there could be some issues. Since Congress never modified or removed Article 125 (Sodomy) from the UCMJ, it's possible that an overzealous chain of command could bring a media sh*tstorm on themselves by writing up a gay Submariner for telling too much about whatever penetration -- however slight -- he may have enjoyed over the weekend. Likewise, it's possible that the 10% of military members who said in a 2009 Military Times survey that they'd leave the military if DADT was repealed weren't just blowing smoke, and they'll take their chances in the current job market. Of course, the old method of getting out quickly -- the "phrase that pays" -- won't exist anymore.

As far as women on submarines goes, of course that will introduce new challenges. I'll admit I'm a little concerned reading about one of the young officers getting ready to get to her boat saying "I have a feeling more people will be focused on us. Our mistakes and successes will be magnified more than they deserve." When women were being integrated into the surface and air arms of the military, the stories you saw make the press were Senators ending the careers of Admirals for dropping women out of flight training. While it's possible that some Submariners will try to make it harder for women to qualify, I think it's more likely that one of the women just won't be able to cut it, and despite the fact that about 1 of 25 male submarine officers can't finish their qualifications after they get to the boat, the press will make a huge deal out of this happening to the same percentage of women. Hopefully the senior Submarine Force leadership won't overreact when that happens.

So are these two changes going to be too much for the Submarine Force to handle? Of course not. We'll handle it the same way we've handled other changes in the past -- by making a commitment to doing it, and then carrying out the plan. Any dislocation will be minimal, and certainly not Force-wide. I mean, c'mon, skimmers could do it; of course we can make it work. (Speaking of skimmers, when I was on the Stennis in 2000 I laughed about the ship's "no dating" general order; now, if I were a submarine CO, I'd be thinking seriously about implementing one on my ship sometime in the next few months.)

So what is the "Proposed Change That Will Adversely Affect Future Submarine Manning"? It's this one -- the proposal to radically restructure military retirement from the Defense Business Board. Their presentation can be found here. Excerpt from the first-linked article:
In a massive change that could affect today’s troops, the plan calls for a corporate-style benefits program that would contribute money to troops’ retirement savings account rather than the promise of a future monthly pension, according to a new proposal from an influential Pentagon advisory board.
All troops would receive the yearly retirement contributions, regardless of whether they stay for 20 years. Those contributions might amount to about 16.5 percent of a member’s annual pay and would be deposited into a mandatory version of the Thrift Savings Plan, the military’s existing 401(k)-style account that now does not include government matching contributions.
I can seriously see this proposal being adopted, and if it is, I think we'll see significant attrition of experienced Submariners starting about the 10 year point, the time when they should be running divisions or departments. With the attacks we've seen on public employee pensions from some who subscribe to Tea Party principles, I fully expect to see them move towards attacking military pensions -- not now, but as we finish with the "easy" cuts and they realize that people like me have been getting over $35K/year since I was 41, along with free health insurance. If this proposal is adopted, that's when we'll start seeing problems with getting enough qualified Submariners to man the boats. And then we'll be glad we haven't eliminated 51% (or so) of the population from serving on submarines, like we do now.

So what do you think? Will having women on submarines cause a plague of locusts o'er the land? Will having openly homosexual Submariners cause the Earth to stop spinning on its axis? Or will the sudden change in centrifugal force fling all the locusts into space and result in a wash? (Yes, for Dilbert fans who thought that sounded familiar, I didn't come up with that on my own.) Personally, I think the only result of having "out" homosexuals on board will be a reduction in overt acts that any observer not familiar with submarine culture would classify as "gay" (e.g. "swordfights" in the tunnel, various spit games between the ERUL and ERF watchstanders, etc.) as people don't want to be accused of actual gayness. Having women onboard will probably cause more issues, but I don't think it's something we can't overcome with minimal effort. Let us know what you think in the comments. (I'm not planning on running any more "gays/women on submarines" posts unless some specific incident makes the news, so this could be your last shot. Have at it.)