WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2017 — Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the Navy and Marine Corps is “significantly stronger” and “significantly different” today than they were when he took office nearly eight years ago.
Mabus told the Defense Writers’ Group Jan. 11 that he is particularly proud of reversing the decline in the size of the fleet. There were 316 ships in 2001, which dropped to 278 in 2008. The drop had effects not only on the seas, but in shipyards. “I’ve put 86 ships under contract, and done so with a considerably smaller topline [budget],” Mabus said.
Driving Down Costs
The Navy has dramatically driven down the cost of every type of ship and the service did not increase the ship building budget at the expense of air power, he said. The service is recapitalizing every air platform.
Another aspect of his term is the service dramatically changed its use of energy and the types of energy it uses, he said. “We’ve done this to be better warfighters, and it gives us a combat edge,” he said. “When I came in. oil was at $140 a barrel and we were having to decide between operations and training.”
Transporting fuel and protecting those convoys in combat zones also put an unnecessary risk to Marines. “We were losing a Marine killed or wounded in every 50 convoys we brought in to Afghanistan,” Mabus said.
The Navy and Marine Corps team is on track to meet the ambitious goal of 50 percent non-fossil fuel both ashore and afloat by 2020, he said. The Navy reached 60 percent non-fossil fuel ashore five years early. “Energy can and is used as a weapon,” he said. “If you want to see how, look at what Russia did to … Crimea or Ukraine.”
Mabus also touted the Navy’s growing partnerships around the world. He has traveled 1.3 million miles during his term to meet with sailors and Marines, and to network with friends and allies around the world. “You can surge people. You can surge equipment, but you cannot surge trust,” he said.
All this said, the force is stressed. During Mabus’s term, the United States has had forces in contact in countries around the world. Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, the South China Sea, North Korea, Iran, Syria — the list goes on. Deployments are longer, with less time between them, he said. But sailors and Marines have responded magnificently to the increase in operations tempo and the challenges of making do with less.
In addition, the service had to delay needed yardwork for ships because of sequestration and other budget imperatives, Mabus noted. It will take years for the Navy and Marine Corps to recover from those budgetary blows, but they are on track to do so, he said.