Small Wars Journal

To Fix the Department of the Navy - Kill the Mabus Legacy

Mon, 01/02/2017 - 11:10am

To Fix the Department of the Navy - Kill the Mabus Legacy

Gary Anderson

Global warming and political incorrectness are the greatest threats to the United States, and it is the job of America’s Navy to protect us from those threats. For the past eight years, that has been the strategic legacy of Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, and the primary goal of his successor should be to ensure that Mabus has no legacy. The traditional mission of the US Navy has been to deter potentially hostile navies, or failing to do that, defeat them. Getting the US naval services back to that philosophy is going to be a big job for the new administration.

The Mabus priorities have been making the naval services more caring, inclusive, and environmentally protective. Discipline, combat effectiveness, and readiness have been secondary goals at best. Under Mabus, the Navy has sunk to readiness levels approaching those of the post-Vietnam Carter era. The breakdown of the appropriately named USS Zumwalt in the Panama Canal late last year is symbolic of Mabus and his “Great Green Fleet” concept. Zumwalt was arguably the worst Chief of Naval Operations in history. His namesake ship has been a disaster. Its main gun fires a round that is so expensive that it cannot be used in training, and would be ineffective in supporting sustained land operations, which is one of its primary missions.

The disgraceful conduct of sailors captured by the Iranians last year, and the incompetence of seamanship that led to the incident, are a direct reflection of the misplaced priorities of the Department of the Navy under Mabus. The fact that the Marine Corps has remained an effective military organization is primarily due to the moral courage of Marine Corps leaders who challenged Mabus and his extreme social experimentation at its worst when he attempted to integrate male and female units at the Marine Corps’ two recruit training establishments (Boot Camps).

The next Navy Secretary should have three immediate priorities:

First, should be a firm statement that a return combat readiness and iron discipline will the primary emphasis of the Navy and Marine Corps. Leaders should not be afraid to discipline malcontents because they might be accused of being racist or sexist; that is not the case today. Sailors and Marines should be trained to be warriors and not lab rats in bizarre social experiments. In addition, the Navy Department and the Defense Department as a whole should abandon hyphenated American celebration days. LGBT sailors and Marines are allowed to serve by law, but some are now demanding special recognition. Being recognized as a competent warrior should be enough. The demand for special recognition for race or sexual orientation detracts from morale, good order, and discipline; such celebrations have outlived their usefulness if they ever had any in the first place.

A second priority should be to conduct a thorough investigation into the Mabus’ era project on biofuels. In a recent Washington Post interview, Mabus touted supplying biofuels that cost only $1.99 a gallon as part of his legacy. The shady accounting that led to that ridiculous claim should be investigated and Mabus should be prohibited from being employed by any of the renewable energy firms with Navy contracts that profited from that scam in the future if it is shown to be bogus. If an investigation shows that biofuels are indeed cost effective and don’t impact operational efficiency, I’ll eat my hat; I’ll even buy a USS Zumwalt hat, and eat it.

Third, the embarrassingly bad performance of the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) is an example of shoddy management and poor judgment involved in that program should result in a total review of Mabus era naval procurement. In the 21st Century, taxpayers should be able to demand that a multimillion dollar Navy ship have the same type of quality expected of a Toyota Prius.

The US Navy and its partner Marine Corps are facing extraordinary challenges in the 21st century. They have to be prepared to deter big wars with regional threats such as China, Iran, and North Korea as well as to wage small hybrid wars with non-state actors. They need to do so in an environment where threat include cyber warfare and insider attacks in an era of increasingly austere budgets. Secretary Mabus and people like him have used the Department of the Navy to accomplish non-military “progressive” political objectives at the expense of a real military capabilities.

Mabus and his ilk should be investigated for their performance in office; their “accomplishments” go beyond incompetent. If their actions are found to be of such a nature that they have eroded national security to further their political agendas, they should be prohibited from doing business with the government in the future.

Categories: US Navy - Ray Mabus - Navy - Mabus

About the Author(s)

Gary Anderson is a retired Marine Corps Colonel who has been a civilian advisor in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is an adjunct professor at the George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs.


Mabus an environmentalist or serving anti-American interests. If Mabus had been able to employ cheaper and energy independent fuel sources that are environmentally friendly would be treated differently. the real issue is if you do not have something what is your reason for gutting the programs we have that work. I remember when the Navy announced it could run ships on algae. And then set out to do it applauding itself because it wasn't nuclear or oil energy. I knew it would not happen, whales eat algae how did they ever think that was going to happen?
Answer it is impossible to believe it could.
Like sonar killing underwater mammals some things are not tolerated by environmentalists but not always because they are environmentalists. Too often they serve a a more nefarious anti war and anti military agenda and environmental "causes" are just convenient facades for socialist causes and party politics.
The question then must be what was Mabus committed too?
In the end it is the same outcome, a smaller military footprint, in every political sense of the word. For its own sake. Without a fair and comprehensive informed intent as to what must done confronting America's enemies. The threats exist and naively believing Obama's lines in the sand could be held by a President's smile and disinformation about Al-Qaeda, The Islamic State, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, deployment of the USN to confront the Russians in the Med to help oust Assad and merely sailing over the horizon where the screams of Obama's hubris could not be heard while denying the reality a radical Islam exists; or the idea paying 600 million dollars to Iran was not a ransom for our sailors. One hopes the Trump era will divest itself of these ideologues before America is in ruins.

I'm glad to see Secretary Mabus go, but the rot in the Department of the Navy, and the Department of Defense overall, is much deeper and non-partisan. Many of our military leaders (both in and out of uniform) are simply the wrong people for the job. Thankfully, future Secretary of Defense Mattis is one of the few leaders who might do something about it.

We have a lot of generals and admirals whose Powerpointing is impeccable, who are fluent in Pentagonese, and can flawlessly execute by-the-book solutions in every situation. Unfortunately, wars don't tend to follow the book. Our enemies have all read the book on modern American wars, they know how a war on our terms ends, and they're not going to make the same mistakes the last guys did.

Our dearth of thought is so severe that when generals like David Petraeus actually respond to conditions on the ground, they are heralded as revolutionary geniuses because nobody else had thought to read a book on insurgent conflicts. There were plenty of books out there, long before 2003. Even without reading books, it didn't seem that our military leadership had learned anything from the direct American experience of warfare in Vietnam, Lebanon, or Somalia. Apparently every general wants to command the next Desert Storm, a war that no enemy will be stupid enough to give us.

To win against complex problems, we need complex thinkers in charge of the military. An awful lot of the current general/flag officers are not those thinkers. Starting at the top, and setting the tone for the lower ranks, cut non-performers. If that means we have O-6s covering a two-star billet, it probably meant that said two-star billet was an O-6 position twenty years ago, so we're even. To wear stars, officers must not merely have been well-evaluated colonels and captains, they must be thinkers on a different level, not just bigger.

Yes to everything the Colonel says, but the Prius analogy is just wrong. A navy ship is way more complex and many of its systems are way, way more innovative than anything in a Prius. Navy procurement should be improved but there's limits to what it can be done and those limits are far below Prius reliance.

Please, drive a stake through the heart of Mabus's sad legacy. I hope some senior naval officers already have a plan for making the Navy an effective war fighting organization again.