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Increased shipbuilding, green initiatives and protection of sailors’ rights are what Ray Mabus believes are the cornerstones of his seven-year tenure as the U.S. Secretary of the Navy.
Mabus was appointed to the role in 2009, when the economy was struggling, the price of oil was high and the Naval ship fleet was shrinking.
“We’ve been tested. All of this happened during rising threats in a more complicated world,” Mabus told the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce at a Friday event in Norfolk.
So Mabus got to work, focusing on growing the fleet through shipbuilding.
In the seven years before he took office, Mabus said there were only 41 ships under contract. During his service, the Navy got 86 ships under contract, creating about 8,000 shipbuilding jobs in the process.
Some of the jobs came to Hampton Roads, and shipbuilding employment increased by 26 percent in the area between 2005 and 2014, according to the 2015 Hampton Roads State of the Region, which was prepared by Old Dominion University’s Center for Economic Analysis and Policy and released earlier this month. These include contracts with BAE Systems Norfolk, Maersk Norfolk and Mythics Inc. in Virginia Beach.
Still, overall spending by the Department of Defense in Hampton Roads decreased between 2007 and 2014, according to the State of the Region.
Mabus also focused on finding alternative energy sources, so the Navy and Marine Corps would not be dependent on oil. He set a goal of transitioning half of the Navy and Marine Corps energy to alternative energy sources by 2020. They met that goal by 2015.
The alternative bio fuel is cost efficient, at less than $2.14 a gallon to fuel the Navy’s Great Green Fleet, an energy-saving initiative that is currently being implemented in the Middle East by the Norfolk-based U.S.S. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group.
Mabus also pointed to his work in unifying troops by backing social issues, including the elimination of the “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” policy for openly gay military members. He also created a “Sexual Assault and Prevention Office,” and advocated for the protection of sailors suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Another accomplishment he cited was opening all Navy positions to women, who wouldn’t serve in certain combat zones before he took office.
“A predictable force is a defeatable force,” Mabus said. “A more diverse force is a stronger force.”
Mayfield can be reached at 352-431-9612.