Special warfare is the only Navy branch closed to women, but 2015 is the year in which officials hammer out whether they'll integrate female sailors into the elite SEAL and Special Warfare Combatant Crewman communities.
U.S. Special Operations Command and Naval Special Warfare each completed integration studies in mid-2014, then met with the Defense Department in the fall to compare notes.
The Defense Department is on track to announce whether officials will open the SEAL and SWCC ranks to women — and if so, to what degree — in Jan. 2016, DoD spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen confirmed to Navy Times.
"Each service and SOCOM has identified decision points by which they will make final recommendations to the secretary of defense to open positions or to request an exception to policy to keep positions or occupations closed," Christensen said. "Exceptions to policy must be personally approved first by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then by the secretary of defense."
If DoD decides to open NSW to women, the Navy's plan is to notify Congress by July 1. Congress would then have 30 working days to respond with any concerns.
Once the notification period is over, the Navy plans to begin selecting potential female SEALs and SWCCs from boot camp and officer candidate school in the fall. By next January, the pipeline would open, allowing enlisted women to attend Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL or SWCC training in March, with officers following in June.
The Navy doesn't have any plans for any test classes with women at BUD/S, a Navy official told Navy Times in October.
The Army conducted a dry-run to see if women could graduate its elite Ranger School, selecting about 30 female enlisted and officers to serve as observers in a week of training last November.
The Navy, however, plans to hold off on opening BUD/S to women until the ban is officially lifted, said Cmdr. Renee Squier, head of the Navy's Diversity, Inclusion and Policy office.