U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus highlighted his efforts to reduce the incidence of sexual assault in the military to students, government officials, and veterans gathered to hear him speak at Harvard Law School on Thursday.
“We have to fix it, or the fabric that holds together our military will fray,” Mabus said. “I think we’re doing a lot of good things. But we’re not there yet.”
During his tenure, Mabus has worked to promote gender equality in the Navy. He expanded paid maternity leave from six weeks to 18 weeks, made the decision to allow women to serve on submarines, and is currently working to make male and female uniforms the same.
“A more diverse force is a stronger force,” Mabus said. “The more different kinds of viewpoints you have, the better the force.”
His speech, held as part of a lecture series organized by the Disabled American Veterans group, also touched on issues with services for veterans.
Forty percent of wounded soldiers during World War II died, according to Mabus, compared to just 11 percent today. “What that means is that people are surviving much larger and more awful injuries,” he said. “They’re going to need more rehab, more assistance, more help.”
He pointed to the growth of employment opportunities for veterans in the Navy, which has hired 70,000 veterans for non-combat roles since 2011. Under his direction, the Navy has also implemented transition programs to help veterans adjust to civilian life.
As Secretary of Navy, Mabus has also expanded the Career Intermission program, which allows Navy sailors to take time off from service, and reduced the Navy’s costs. The Navy saved $2 billion last year on its $17.8 billion contract for 10 new attack submarines.
“We’re getting 10 submarines but we’re paying for nine,” Mabus said. “It’s like getting one of those cards: Buy nine subs, get one free.”
Dean of the Law School Martha L. Minow praised Mabus and the Disabled American Veterans group for their efforts in helping veterans across the country and for their participation in events like Thursday’s.
“Their commitment to raising awareness about the needs of veterans inspires us all,” Minow said.
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