The White House announced today that, as predicted, the First Lady will sponsor PCU Illinois (SSN 786), slated to be commissioned in 2015. Several news outlets reported the news correctly. Several others, including most Fox News outlets (along with The Hill, which should know better), decided to report, based on no evidence whatsoever, that this would be the first submarine with an "all female crew".
For those who are researching this incredible claim, let me be clear -- the Illinois is NOT going to be the first submarine with an "all female crew" when she's commissioned in 2015. There will not be any female Submariners with enough experience to be XO, let alone CO, by 2015. Even if the White House wanted to do this for some perverse public relations reason, Naval Reactors would shoot it down, because they would not give approval to a CO who did not have the requisite submarine experience. You can't just take a female surface nuke CDR and make her CO of a submarine; too much submarining is learned by the hard lessons of experience and discussions in the wardroom. Naval Reactors would not in a million years send one of their submarine reactors to sea under a CO without the submarine training you can only get by doing at least two full prepartory sea tours on a submarine. No female will have that level of experience by then.
However, if someone out there believes everything they hear on Fox News and wants to claim that the Kenyan Marxist Communist Muslim Usurper is going to override NR because he's evil and wants to destroy the military, please let me know, and I will bet you $1000 that the Illinois does not have an all-female crew when she gets commissioned. We'll put the money in escrow, winner collects all. And I will win that bet.
Update 2006 28 May: Actually, I posted this too quickly without doing my customary research, and found that the Navy has already not only refuted the report, but says that Illinois isn't even planned to have female crewmembers. Here's a comment from the SUBFOR PAO under the article from The Hill:
Hello, this is the Public Affairs Officer for Submarine Forces. The USS ILLINOIS will not have an all female crew. Today the First Lady accepted sponsorship of the USS ILLINOIS and she met with the group of female Submariners that have already reported to Submarines. This group is the first for the US Navy. Currently we have females serving on some ballistic and guided missile Submarines. The USS ILLINOIS will be a Virginia class Submarine. At this time, we do not have any females serving on SSNs. Tried to call your agency to correct, but received an answering machine.Update 2223 28 May: It's not just FoxNews and The Hill (who, from all reports, made up the original story) who're making mistakes. In this story, MSNBC incorrectly reports that the Illinois will be the first U.S. submarine to have female crewmembers. While I doubt Illinois will have any female crewmembers for the foreseeable future, we do know that several other submarines already have females aboard as part of the crew.