The U.S. Naval Academy lags behind the Navy as a whole in integrating women into its ranks and combating sex discrimination, a civilian committee said yesterday.

"What we need to work on at the United States Naval Academy is an attitude change," said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), one of the committee's members. "What we found is that in order to achieve a fair and just society, a fair and just Navy, it is essential that the academy lead the fleet, not follow the fleet, in crushing racism and sexism."

In a report issued five months after the Naval Academy was swept up in a bitter public debate over the way female midshipmen are treated, the Committee on Women's Issues concluded that women "are not as well assimilated at the academy as women in the fleet," even though it has been 10 years since the school graduated its first co-educational class. Ten percent of the academy's midshipmen are women.

The committee recommended that sexual harassment be made a distinct offense under the academy's conduct code, one punishable by expulsion in most instances; the appointment of more women officers to the faculty and administration; immediate dismissal of senior officers who question the role of women in the military; and a mandatory equal opportunity training program for midshipmen and academy employees.

The superintendent, Rear Adm. Virgil L. Hill Jr. pledged speedy adoption of the committee's recommendations. Many of them have already been put into effect, he said.

The committee, which included political and business leaders who serve on the Naval Academy's Board of Visitors, said that while the academy's leadership has been committed "in principle" to fair and equal treatment for women midshipmen, it has not devoted the proper resources to making that commitment known on campus.

The five-member committee was convened by Superintendent Hill in May after the resignation of a woman midshipmen who had been handcuffed to a urinal and jeered by some of her male classmates the previous fall. The leave privileges two male midshipmen were restricted and they were given letters of reprimand as punishment.

When Midshipman Gwen Dreyer went public with her story, the Naval Academy became the focus of intense scrutiny.

A half-dozen civilian and military investigations were begun, at least one of which is still going on, and the controversy grew to include allegations from minority midshipmen who said they had been unfairly dismissed from the academy.

Although the committee interviewed Dreyer and the two male midshipmen involved in the urinal incident, its members decided against "passing judgment" on whether appropriate punishment was meted out. Nevertheless, it said the Board of Visitors should have been told about the events instead of having to learn about them in newspapers.

Also released yesterday was a report on the effectiveness of the academy's honor and conduct systems. Vice Adm. J.M. Boorda, chief of naval personnel, said that he refrained from ruling on the cases of midshipmen who alleged that racism had led to their dismissals. But he said that after reviewing dozens of cases from the last five years, he was satisfied that the honor code is applied fairly.

"You hear that minority women get a better deal or get off easy. The numbers don't show that. You hear that minorities and women get a bad deal. The numbers don't show that," he said.

The women's committee reported that it was dismayed that the officers who first investigated the Dreyer incident seemed to regard it as more of an innocent prank that got out of hand than as sexual harassment.

The women's commitee noted that in Bancroft Hall, the huge dormitory where all 4,500 midshipmen live, behavior that bordered on hazing was often tolerated in the name of class spirit, particularly during the week of the Army-Navy football game. Such a "breakdown in civility," it said, "coupled with many {male} midshipmen's lack of acceptance of women as equals" created an environment ripe for sexual harassment and discrimination.

The committee members also did not spare themselves from criticism, saying that the Board of Visitors had not adequately exercised its oversight function. They promised to ask academy leaders to brief them in the future on every allegation of racial or sexual harassment.

Mikulski said she is confident that the committee's work will produce meaningful change. "This is a real report. It is not a coverup nor does it condone one. It is not a whitewash but neither is it a witchhunt," she said.

"We cannot guarantee there will not be incidents in the future, but what we must guarantee is that there will be zero tolerance for such incidents," said Rep. Helen D. Bentley (R-Md.), another committee member.

There's room for improvement in integration of women.

There are structural impediments to assimilation of women.

Cultural prejudice affects academy.

Breakdown in civility and discipline contributes to sexual harassment at academy.

Honor concept lacks clarity and a consistent, just application.

Investigation of incident involving Midshipman Gwen Dreyer last May was insufficiently sensitive to sexual harassment issues.

Assimilation of women at academy lags behind that of the Navy. Recommendations

Adopt recommendations of the committee.

Discipline sexual discrimination incidents severely.

Reinvigorate a simpler and clearer honor concept and conduct system.

Provide more women officers as role models.

Continue the existence and function of the committee.

Regularly brief the Board of Visitors on cases of sexual, racial or ethnic harassment and discrimination.