Ray Mabus has made up his mind: there’s no job in the Navy or Marine Corps that’s going to be off-limits to women.
With more than a month to go before the deadline, the Navy Secretary made it clear on Monday: he will not be requesting any exceptions to the Pentagon edict that all U.S. military jobs be opened to women.
“Nobody’s asking for an exemption in the Navy,” Mabus told an audience at the the City Club of Cleveland. “And I’ve been pretty clear about this for a while – I’m not going to ask for an exemption for the Marines.”
That may have come as a surprise to the Marine Corps Commandant, Gen. Joe Dunford; Marine Corps Times reported Thursday that Dunford had met with the secretary on the issue but had yet to issue his recommendations. Defense Secretary Ash Carter asked the services to complete their reviews of obstacles to full gender integration and report back by Oct. 1. If no service seeks or is granted an exemption, the military will open to women all 200,000 positions that remain closed to them on or before the first of the year.
Mabus spoke just a few days after publicly criticizing a Marine Corps study that compared the performance of ground combat units with female members to all-male teams — and found the women lacking. “In the all-volunteer study, the men consistently outperformed the women in speed and accuracy, while female Marines were injured at more than double the rate of their male counterparts,” Marine Corps Times reported.
In his Sept. 14 speech, the Navy secretary argued that the study wasn’t relevant to the debate.
“At the end they came out – and I’ve read the study pretty carefully a couple of times – in a different place than I do because they talk about averages,” he said. “And the average woman is slower. The average woman can’t carry as much. The average woman isn’t quite as quick on some jobs or some tasks. The other way to look at it is we’re not looking for average.”
Mabus emphasized that only qualified people — including women — should be allowed to do a particular job. “Our notion is set standards, make sure those standards have something to do with the job, and then, if you meet it, you meet it.”
In the study, he said, “There were women that met this standard, and a lot of the things there that women fell a little short in can be remedied by two things: training and leadership.”
Opening all Marine jobs to women, he said, is “not going to make them any less fighting effective. In fact I think they will be a stronger force because a more diverse force is a stronger force.”