Swearing-In Ceremony for Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus
As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Navy Yard, Washington, D.C., Thursday, June 18, 2009
Thank you for the introduction, Admiral Lorge.
It is an honor to welcome Ray Mabus back to the Naval service as our new Secretary of the Navy.
Ray brings to the Navy and Marine Corps a long and diverse record of proven leadership. His service to our country began when he was commissioned as a Navy officer in 1969 and served aboard USS Little Rock, a guided-missile cruiser. I should note that just after Ray joined the Navy, CNO Admiral Zumwalt, in the spirit of the times, decided to relax the service regulations for facial hair – something Ray took great advantage of, at least based on a photo I saw.
After leaving the Navy, Ray worked as legal counsel to the House Agriculture Committee, before returning to his home state of Mississippi to serve as state auditor. After a hard-fought race, he was elected governor of Mississippi – the youngest governor in the nation at the time. There he passed one of the most comprehensive education reform programs in the country.
Ray was later appointed ambassador to Saudi Arabia by President Clinton. It was during his tenure that Saudi Arabia ended its boycott of American businesses that traded with Israel. Most recently, he was the CEO of a large manufacturing firm, which he successfully brought out of bankruptcy in nine months.
As Secretary of the Navy, he will be responsible for an annual budget of more than $150 billion dollars and almost 900,000 people – military and civilian, active and reserve. It is a Navy and Marine Corps that is arguably engaged with more countries in more different ways around the globe than at any other time in recent history.
Every day hundreds of thousands of America’s sailors carry out a variety of tasks – a partnership station in Africa; coordinating with Indonesia and Malaysia to secure a vulnerable shipping lane; leading Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan; and treating patients on humanitarian missions to Southeast Asia, South America, and Africa. Every time I visit the war theaters, I am amazed by the number of sailors on the ground. In the Central Command AOR, there are more sailors deployed on land than there are on ships.
These are all in addition to the Navy’s traditional role of keeping sea lanes across the planet open and secure – a duty highlighted in recent months by acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia – an enduring mission for America’s sea services that go back to the earliest years of our republic. And with our ground troops committed to the campaigns in the Middle East and Central Asia, the weight of America’s strategic military strength has shifted to our air and naval forces.
In addition to leading the aviators, surface warriors, submariners, SEALs, and others who make up the United States Navy, Ray will also be responsible for our Marine Corps. In recent years, Marines have proven themselves, once more, to be a flexible “two-fisted” force that has earned its reputation of first on the scene, first to help, and first to fight. Building on their expeditionary ethos and maritime heritage, Marines have become one of the world’s most effective counterinsurgency forces and are now back at the tip of the spear in Afghanistan.
As you know, President Obama has charged this department to reform the way we buy weapons and equipment, to become better organized to win the wars we are in, and provide the best possible support to our men and women in uniform and their families. Ray will be responsible for overseeing the Navy Department’s role, including examining our assumptions about shipbuilding and how we prepare for future wars.
As I said at the beginning, Ray’s experiences as a sailor, a lawyer, a diplomat, a governor, and a businessman, well-equip him for this position – and for the great task ahead. Our Navy and Marine Corps are exceedingly fortunate to have him at the helm.
Ray, I’m glad you are joining the team. We have a lot of hard work to do and I wish you good luck. Thank you, and thank you to all the sailors and Marines who protect our country every day.
And now, would Ray’s wife Lynne and his daughters, Elisabeth, Annie, and Kate please join us on stage for the oath of office.