Navy Secretary James H. Webb Jr., prodded by the results of an internal study, increased yesterday the number of seagoing combat-support jobs open to women and ordered a crackdown on sexual harassment.

At a Defense Department briefing, Webb said he also has adopted what he described as the first clear, concise definition of "combat missions" in the Navy, providing top military officers with a standard to guide decisions on the role of women.

Unless a ship or aircraft has as its chief objective the goal "to seek out, reconnoiter and engage the enemy," jobs on that ship or aircraft should be open to women, Webb said. "The difficulty has always been in defining what is combat and what is not," he said.

He added, "I would say that this represents to me, in naval terms, as far as you can go" unless Congress removes legal restrictions on women serving in combat jobs.

When fully implemented, the new policy would almost triple the number of seagoing jobs open to women to almost 15,000, Webb said.

About 54,000 women, or about 9 percent of the force, are on active duty in the Navy. Of them, about 5,200 serve on 86 Navy and Military Sealift Command vessels, many of which are small ships, including tugs, tenders and auxiliaries of various types.

Unless the combat-exclusion law is changed, women will never be deliberately sent "in harm's way," Webb said. But two-thirds of the ships assigned to the Combat Logistics Force, for example, do not normally accompany combat battle groups and thus should not be ruled off-limits to women, he said.

Webb announced the initiatives after releasing an internal study that he ordered last September in the wake of a scathing report by an outside advisory group.

The group, the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, reported that women in the Navy and Marine Corps deployed in the Pacific region were frequently victims of sexual harassment and abuse and appeared locked in dead-end jobs that offered few chances for advancement.

Webb's study panel, comprised of 28 officers and enlisted sailors, largely verified those findings and also reported that:The Navy's personnel management system for enlisted women "severely limits women's access to ratings {jobs} available to them."Career-enhancing assignments for enlisted women and officers are limited, breeding serious frustration."Sexual harassment exists in the Navy and is exacerbated by inadequacies in leadership and educational systems."

"Over half of the 1,400 Navy women interviewed in 10 worldwide locations indicated they had been victims of some form of sexual harassment in the Navy; nearly all those interviewed reported observing some form of sexual harassment," the study added.

Virtually all harassment reported in the study was "verbal," Webb said, adding that it is probably impossible to eliminate such conduct completely within "an authoritarian structure."

Nonetheless, he said, more frequent and better focused training sessions for male sailors, coupled with strong directives to commanders attempting to sensitize them to the issue, should have an effect.

Webb said he also is ordering the Navy's inspector general to conduct regular reviews of programs to halt sexual harassment during all command and base inspections; requiring base commanders to appoint a qualified counselor to help deal with harassment complaints and directing a new publicity campaign to let female sailors know they can lodge harassment complaints.