Outgoing Navy Sec. Mabus leaves profound imprint on policies, ship acquisition
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus recently recalled the last year in the life of his father, a timber merchant who died decades ago at 85.
“The last year of his life, he didn’t cut a single tree but he planted thousands, and he did that as an act of faith, an act of hope,” Mabus told sailors in Hawaii. “He knew as an absolute fact that he would never see any money, never see any benefit, but he did it. He did it for his granddaughters that he never met. He did it for their children.”
The long haul has been a major part of the philosophy that has driven the former Mississippi governor since he assumed the Navy post in May 2009. He retires Jan. 20 after serving longer in that job than anyone since World War I.
Mabus is also among the most controversial Navy secretaries. His coterie of fervent admirers consider him the Obama administration’s most effective service secretary. His detractors decry him as a social activist whose decisions -- from naming a ship for assassinated gay activist Harvey Milk, removing terms with “man” from enlisted rating systems and integrating men and women in Marine Corps basic training -- undercut esprit and combat effectiveness in favor of social engineering.
During Mabus’ tenure, the Navy signed contracts for 86 new ships, more than double the number contracted for in the previous seven years. His admirers credit his political skills for building bipartisan support for his policies on Capitol Hill.
“Ray Mabus is one of the most successful service secretaries in modern times,” said Loren Thompson, a defense expert at the Lexington Institute, a libertarian think tank in Virginia. “During the Obama years, the Navy has been by far the best managed of the military departments. Mabus has run a tight ship, and as a result the Navy and Marine Corps are in better shape than the Air Force or the Army.”
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