Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said recently in a December interview that while GOP President-elect Donald Trump can roll back social change in the military, doing so will make the force weaker.
Mabus, who has served in the position longer than anyone since World War I, has overseen significant social changes in the military and caused a lot of consternation in the process. Now, in a wide-ranging interview with The Washington Post, he’s warning that if Trump rolls back social change in the military, he should admit that it will damage the force.
“You make the decisions you think are right, right now, regardless what you think is going to happen in the future,” Mabus said. “But we are stronger because of this integration. That is undeniably true. So, if it gets rolled back, you’re weakening the United States military. You’re weakening the Navy. You’re weakening the Marine Corps. If that’s what you want to do, okay. But you have to be honest about it.”
Both Mabus and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter have maintained that allowing women entry into all combat roles will make the force stronger, as the move could allow access to a larger talent pool.
During his tenure, Mabus advocated for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which was done away with in 2011. He also moved to triple maternity leave to 18 weeks and established Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs at elite colleges across the country. In an effort to make the Navy more environmentally friendly, Mabus pushed for ships to be fueled with sources other than fossil fuels, though a move toward a blended fuel in 2012 ended up costing the Navy $26.75 per gallon instead of $3.25 per gallon. This price differential attracted the attention of GOP Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, who listed the effort in his report on wasteful spending.
But by far the most controversial move has been the full integration of women into all combat positions–without exception. Mabus willingly involved himself in public spats with Marine Corps leadership over a study the service had conducted showing that mixed-gender units weren’t nearly as effective as all-male units. They outperformed mixed-gender units on 69 percent of tasks.
Mabus blamed Marine Corps leadership for having an improper mindset that he said was the reason why women underperformed. He added that with more training and better leadership, he was confident the gap could be closed.
His very public spats with the Marine Corps prompted calls for resignation by GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter.
“The only way this relationship can be repaired, I believe, is through the leadership of a new Navy Secretary — specifically one who does not regularly make a point to undercut the Marine Corps, distract it from its mission and insult its leaders,” Hunter wrote in January.
Nevertheless, Mabus has hung on to his position and believes he did the right thing for the Navy and Marine Corps.
“I think sort of across the board, there have been a lot of changes,” Mabus said. “But all with one goal in mind, and that’s making us a better Navy, making us a better Marine Corps, making us stronger and more able to do the job that needs to be done.”
“Looking back — I’m looking for the right word,” he added. “I’m very satisfied with where we are. That the changes we have made have, I think, made a difference, and made a difference in the right direction.”
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