Secretary of Navy Talks Naming Naval Ships, Eliminating Fossil Fuels

Ray Mabus
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus smiles with Ethel Kennedy, widow of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, at the naming of the Robert F. Kennedy Navy Ship at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016, in Boston. The new ship's job will be to restock and refuel other ships already at sea. Ships in this class are being named in honor of civil and human rights heroes. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

United States Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus delivered the inaugural Dean’s Distinguished Lecture at Boston College Law School on Tuesday.

Mabus received his J.D. from Harvard Law School before serving as a surface warfare officer in the Navy. He was the governor of Mississippi from 1988 to 1992 and the ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia the following two years. Currently, Mabus is the longest-serving leader of the Navy and Marine Corps since World War I.

Mabus began the talk by identifying the four key priorities that he has focused on during his tenure—people, platforms, power, and partnerships. He believes that these “four P’s” enable the Navy to maintain a global presence by reassuring its allies and deterring its enemies.

Mabus then transitioned to a discussion on the importance of taking steps to achieve energy independence in the Navy.

“Energy is its own weapon,” he said. “It’s a potential vulnerability to the Navy if we do not take steps toward eliminating fossil fuel dependency.”

Mabus set a goal for the Navy to increase its reliance on alternative energy sources by 50 percent before the year 2020. It is working to achieve this goal by building planes that can operate solely on biofuel.

Another issue that Mabus has focused on is reconnecting the military with the civilians.

“The Navy ought to reflect the society that it protects,” he said.

To achieve this goal, Mabus has named several naval ships after human rights leaders, such as labor activist Cesar Chavez and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the victim of a 2011 shooting in Tucson, Ariz. These measures have added a plethora of names, which might have otherwise gone unrecognized by the Navy, to the U.S. ships.

Mabus has also worked to promote inclusion in the Navy. He supported the 2011 repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a law that prohibited openly LGBT people from serving in the military.

“If someone can meet the standard, then everything else is irrelevant,” he said.

Mabus has taken an active role to reduce gender inequality in the Navy and Marine Corps. Mabus tripled maternity leave from six to 18 weeks and increased childcare options on military bases. He has also worked to reduce instances of sexual assault and made an effort to eliminate the differences between the uniforms of men and women, which is still a work in progress.

Mabus concluded his discussion by talking about the influence that his father had on his life.

“My father’s only advice for me was to be honest,” he said. “He encouraged me to do something bigger than myself, even if nobody learns about it.”

Mabus believes that it is vital that the U.S. Navy continues to maintain a strong presence the world after he retires, especially given the unrest in the Middle East. His term as secretary will end in 2017.

Afterward, Mabus answered several questions on topics such as climate change, national security, and his experiences working with Congress. He also reflected on his time working in Saudi Arabia.

“I think that Saudis and Southerners have a lot in common,” he said jokingly. “They both value family, religion, and personal relationships, and drink in private while denying it in public.”

Featured Image by Elise Amendola / AP Photo Exchange