Ray Mabus to step down as Navy secretary

by Tony Pugh
McClatchy Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — Ray Mabus told a congressional panel this week that he’ll retire next year as secretary of the Navy, a post he’s held for nearly eight years.

In testimony Tuesday before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, Mabus, former governor of Mississippi, told lawmakers the budget-related hearing would be his last encounter with the panel. He did not give a date when his retirement would take effect.

The 75th Navy secretary, Mabus, 67, was appointed by President Barack Obama in May 2009 and went on to became the longest-tenured leader of the Navy and Marine Corps since World War I.

A native of Ackerman, Miss., Mabus, a Democrat, became the state’s youngest governor in more than 150 years, defeating Republican Jack Reed and serving from 1988 to 1992.

He was later appointed U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia by President Bill Clinton, a position he held from 1994 to 1996.

Under Mabus, the U.S. Navy went from building less than five ships per year to placing an average of 14 ships under contract each year. The ramped-up production, amid constant budgetary constraints, will boost the Navy fleet to more than 300 ships by 2020.

Mabus also has been a controversial advocate for integrating women into military positions that were historically held by men.

Last month, Mabus came under scrutiny from members of the Senate Armed Services Committee for allowing men and women to continue to train separately at Marine boot camp just one month after he ordered Marine leadership to develop a plan for coed training.

Mabus said that Marine leaders convinced him that men and women have a better chance for success if their training remained separate. The controversy followed Mabus’ 2015 statements that questioned the findings of a Marine Corps gender-integration study that found all-male teams performed better and were less likely to be injured than coed teams.

In an interview with National Public Radio, Mabus said male bias in the Corps may have affected the findings.

“It started out with a fairly large component of the men thinking ‘this is not a good idea,’ and ‘women will never be able to do this,’ ” Mabus said in the interview. “When you start out with that mindset, you’re almost presupposing the outcome.”

Despite his controversies, Mabus was highly regarded for his efforts to make the Navy and Marine Corps more energy efficient and battle ready.

After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama tabbed Mabus to draft the Gulf recovery plan.

The report, released in September 2010, received strong support from Congress, which ended up passing most of the recommendations into law as part of the federal RESTORE Act.

The legislation has provided more than $5 billion for Gulf Coast recovery efforts.

Born in Choctaw County, Miss., Mabus earned a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Mississippi, a master’s degree in political science from Johns Hopkins University and a law degree from Harvard.

Mabus also served two years in the Navy aboard a guided-missile cruiser, worked as a law clerk in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and as legal counsel on the House Agricultural Committee.


©2016 McClatchy Washington Bureau

Visit the McClatchy Washington Bureau at www.mcclatchydc.com

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