- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Former Marines in Congress, including a liberal Democrat, are on the offensive against Navy Secretary’s Ray Mabus‘ sweeping edicts to the Corps on women in combat.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, a former Marine officer in Afghanistan and Iraq, accused Mr. Mabus on Tuesday of “destroying the martial fabric of the Marine Corps.”

Mr. Mabus on New Year’s Day sent a scolding memo to the commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, warning him against delays in integrating women into the infantry. He ruled that no job title will carry the word “man.” All military occupational specialties (MOSs) must be gender-neutral for both the Corps and Navy.

He also ordered the Corps to do something not thought to have been on the table: sex integration of basic training boot camps, both for officer and enlisted recruits.

In doing so, Mr. Mabus is taking on hallowed ground. The Marines train men and women separately in a tough regimen designed to break down the civilian individual and turn a person into a Marine. Mr. Mabus gave the Corps just 15 days to implement his co-ed plan.

This prompted Rep. Seth Moulton, Massachusetts Democrat and a former Marine officer who fought in Iraq, to tweet, “ALL Marines must meet the same standards & 15-day deadline from SecNav is ridiculous. This is too critical to rush.”

Congressional sources say Mr. Mabus “blindsided” Gen. Neller on the shift to co-ed training. They see the move as retaliation for the Corps requesting an exemption from letting women into the infantry after its studies showed sex integration would raise the risks of casualties.

Mr. Mabus publicly dismissed the studies last fall, going to war against one of the most popular military branches long steeped in history and tradition.

“This is Mabus‘ way of personally retaliating against the Marine Corps and sticking a finger in their eye,” said Joe Kasper, chief of staff for Mr. Hunter, California Republican.

Mr. Hunter is one of the few members of Congress, including Republicans, willing to speak out against women in combat, focusing on the issue of combat cohesion and readiness.

On Tuesday he sent a sharply worded letter on Mr. Mabus to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who on Dec. 3 decreed that all combat jobs will be open to women. In doing so, he overruled his closest military adviser, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus continues to make a compelling case for the Marine Corps to be an autonomous military department with its own civilian leadership,” Mr. Hunter said. “He is destroying the martial fabric of the Marine Corps with complete disregard for the perspectives and experience of the institution’s leaders and its legacy.”

On co-ed boot camp, the congressman wrote, “The fact that the Marine Corps was not even consulted on such a change is disgraceful and disrespectful, and the actions of Secretary Mabus, especially knowing he has never served in the Marine Corps, amount to the desecration of holy ground — which to any Marine is recruit training.

“None of Secretary Mabus‘ social meddling will strengthen the Marine Corps‘ ability to destroy the enemy with fire and close combat — instead it will put lives at risk.”

Mr. Mabus‘ Jan. 1 memo to Gen. Neller went just short of threatening. He warned against any excuses for not carrying out Mr. Carter’s policy change.

“I expect that as the Marine Corps monitors the indicators listed in the integration plan, the Marine Corps will use its observations and data collected to measure progress, inform education programs and equip leadership at every level with the information needed to best facilitate this force integration, rather than as a justification to hinder or halt this policy,” he said.

“Similarly, as the Marine Corps adds elements such as the leadership plan that includes goals of female leadership teams, cohesive cohorts and mentors, I expect you will ensure that a worthwhile goal does not unreasonably delay or prevent the execution of a policy imperative.”

Mr. Mabus is a former Democratic governor of Mississippi who served two years as a Navy surface warfare officer.

His spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

This is not the first time Mr. Hunter has deemed Mr. Mabus unsuitable as the civilian leader of the Corps.

After Mr. Mabus openly questioned the Corps’ objectivity in various women-in-combat studies, Mr. Hunter told Mr. Carter, “He has openly disrespected the Marine Corps as an institution, and he insulted the competency of Marines by disregarding their professional judgment, their combat experience and their quality of leadership. Such a significant loss of respect is detrimental to the ability of the Navy secretary to effectively lead the men and women of the Marine Corps and ensure the service maintains the highest level of combat effectiveness.”

The degree to which the Marine establishment believes women in ground combat is a mistake emerged last Friday in the person of Gen. John Kelly, the chief of U.S. Southern Command who is retiring after over 45 years in the Corps.

Gen. Kelly, who commanded troops in Iraq’s Anbar province, said that, even though Mr. Carter has vowed standards will remain the same, commanders will be forced to lower them to attain the kinds of female numbers they need in the infantry and special operations.

“My greatest fear — right now they’re saying we are not going to change any standards,” he said. “There will be great pressure, whether it’s 12 months from now, four years from now, because the question will be asked whether we’ve let women into these other roles, why aren’t they staying in those other roles?

“Why aren’t they advancing as infantry people — persons — I guess? Why aren’t they becoming, you know, more senior, and the answer is, I think will be, if we don’t change standards, it will be very, very difficult to have any numbers, any real numbers, come into the infantry or the Rangers or the SEALs. So we have very small numbers anyway.”

In the face of Mr. Mabus‘ criticism, he backed the Marines’ women studies, specifically one that was done independently.

“The only science I know on this was not the Marine study, it was the study that the Marine Corps contracted [with] the University of Pittsburgh,” he said. “The other aspect is, because of the nature of infantry combat, infantry training and all of [the] rest, there’s a higher percentage of young women in the scientific study that get hurt, and some of them get hurt forever.”

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