Navy redoing ships' bathrooms to accommodate female sailors


WASHINGTON - The Navy has issued orders to replace urinals on the surface fleet with a "gender-neutral" commode, known as the "Stainless Sanitary Space System."

Within several years, 3,000 "heads," or bathrooms, are to be converted, at a projected cost of $187,000 apiece, to a new modular design that is easier to clean, cheaper to maintain, and more suitable for female crew members. A single bathroom can contain several commodes.

Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett of Maryland said he intends to launch an investigation because he fears the conversion could hurt military readiness.

Bartlett, a member of the House Armed Services personnel subcommittee, said he has come to no final conclusions about the policy but "it's certainly the pattern of this administration to advance social engineering experiments on the military and to give [them] higher priority than the core function."

However, David Caskey, a spokesman for the Naval Sea Systems Command, said he knows of no objections to the changeover being raised by sailors: "What we hear from the fleet is more like, 'Can you get this to us sooner?'"

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