Army Bars Civilians From Vehicles


Tuesday, February 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Army is barring civilians temporarily from its aircraft, tanks and other vehicles pending a review in the aftermath of the fatal submarine accident off Hawaii, officials said Tuesday.

Lt. Col. Russ Oaks, an Army spokesman, said the civilian ban was imposed Monday and applies to the active-duty force, the National Guard and the Army Reserve. He said details are being worked out.

Other Army officials said exceptions are being sought for civilian contractors with responsibilities for certain weapons and for journalists covering Army operations like peacekeeping in the Balkans.

A public furor arose when it was disclosed that 16 civilians were aboard the USS Greeneville, a nuclear-powered attack submarine, when it rammed a Japanese fishing boat Feb. 9. The trawler sank, and nine Japanese including four high school pupils were lost at sea.

Two civilians were at control stations aboard the submarine as it performed an emergency ascent drill, although the Navy insists they were closely supervised by qualified sailors and did not cause the accident.

It remains an open question, however, whether the presence of civilians in the sub's control room may have distracted the crew.

President Bush said last week he wanted the Pentagon to review its policies on civilian participation in military exercises. Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, a spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, said no military-wide review has been initiated, but the services are acting on their own.

At a senior staff meeting Tuesday, Rumsfeld ``expressed his support for the worth of having an orientation program for citizens to go out and see what their Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps can do,'' Quigley said.

Rumsfeld said last week that the trip aboard the Greeneville was a reward to civilians who had supported Navy causes, including helping pay for the restoration of the battleship USS Missouri as a museum.

Since the Greeneville accident, the Navy has stopped allowing civilians to take the controls of submarines, ships and aircraft.

An Air Force spokesman said he was checking to see if his service has made any changes.

At the Marine Corps, spokesman Capt. Steve Butler said no changes have been made regarding civilians. ``Everything is business as usual,'' he said.

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