Right Hooks

Navy Secretary Widens Divide Over Social Engineering

He impugns Marine leaders' integrity and objectivity.

Charles Paige · Sep. 22, 2015
Ray Mabus with Obama

Although there has been a great deal of discussion recently about females’ qualifications to serve in various roles in the military, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus’ statements and threatened actions relating to the issue raise additional concerns about his fitness to hold his position. In the course of one brief interview, Mabus impugns Marine leaders’ integrity and objectivity, but raises bigger questions about his. While civilian oversight of the military is a central tenant of the U.S. system and this type of decision falls within his office’s charter, the relationship between the “suits” and “uniforms” is predicated on the civilians’ willingness to consider uniformed leaders’ “best military advice” with an open mind. SECNAV’s clumsy response is, as one observer put it, “a raw forcing of a political agenda over mutual respect for the results of an honest study” and ultimately weakens the office from which he wields his power. Lest anyone discount the opposition to Mabus as the work of sexist males who aren’t up with the times, a female Marine who participated in the study added that Mabus “completely rolled the Marine Corps and the entire staff that was involved in putting this [experiment] in place under the bus.”

From pushing a costly “green fleet” fuel initiative at a time when the Navy couldn’t meet its own shipbuilding goals to breaking longstanding traditions with several questionable ship naming decisions (e.g, USS Gabrielle Giffords, USS Jack Murtha, USNS Cesar Chavez), politics has consistently trumped sound policy during Mabus’ too-long tenure. Last week’s comments have perhaps created an irreparable rift between leader and led that would compel anyone who genuinely cared about the Department to step down. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) — a Marine veteran himself — called for Mabus’ resignation: “He has openly disrespected the Marine Corps as an institution, and he insulted the competency of Marines by disregarding their professional judgment, their combat experience and their quality of leadership. Such a significant loss of respect is detrimental to the ability of the Navy Secretary to effectively lead the men and women of the Marine Corps and ensure the service maintains the highest level of combat effectiveness.” We won’t hold our breath that Mabus will do the right thing, but we wholeheartedly second Hunter’s proposal.

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