THE NAVY, according to a report in this newspaper on Friday by Geoge C. Wilson, is recommending that the law barring women from serving aboard warships be changed. It is seeking White House and congressional approval of a proposal to let it assign female sailors to those ships temporarily, although not on regular tours or combat missions. The recommendation is one that merits quick approval. Indeed, Congress ought to go further and remove entirely the existing restrictions on the assignment of female military personnel.
There are two basic reasons why this change in government policy should now be made now, one practical and one philosophical. The practical one relates to the difficulty military leaders say they are having in finding enough qualified male recruits to fill the country's military needs, although they are turning down qualified female volunteers. This means that if the present restrictions on the roles women can have in the military services are maintained, either the quality of the armed forces will deteriorate or the draft will have to be resumed. If the restrictions are removed, qualified female volunteers will take up the slack that now exists. It simply makes no sense for the country to have to chose between a weaker military force or reinstituting the draft when a pool of qualified female volunteers remains unused. Why force young men to do something they don't want ot do while turning away young women who want to do it?
More important, however, is the need for the country to get on with the job of providing for women the equality that they have long been denied. Most women, like most men, do not want to make a career out of military service. But those who do ought not to be discriminated against because of their sex. The present restrictions on the assignment of female military personnel give them substantially fewer career opportunities than are open to men and place a limit on the possibilities for promotion. That kind of discrimination ought not be tolerated in a country that likes to think all its citizens are entitled to "equal protection of the law."