Knoxville – The United States Navy has decided to temporarily bar civilians from the controls of nuclear submarines, at least until they-ve completed a probe of the recent collision of a U.S. submarine and a Japanese fishing trawler.
Published reports say civilians were at the controls of the USS Greeneville when it struck the vessel.
A visiting scholar with the University of Tennessee-s Center for the Study of War and Society said it-s not unusual for civilians to be onboard combat ships.
“It-s fairly common when the ship is not actually operating on a mission,” said retired Navy Capt. Rosemary Mariner, “so when the ship-s coming back from a long deployment, family members may be invited to attend as special guests of the captain.”
Mariner said members of service organizations like the Navy League also board combat vessels as a reward for their service.
The Pentagon reports nine people missing after the incident, when the submarine quickly rose to the surface in a simulated emergency maneuver, striking the hull of the fishing vessel.
Mariner said civilians may have been at the controls of the submarine, but standard procedures require the civilians to be closely monitored by on-duty personnel.
“Occasionally someone will stand and operate the controls for a short period of time, with close supervision,” Mariner said, “but civilians are not there to man the controls for the duration of an exercise.”
President Bush has ordered a review of all policies on civilian activity during military exercises.