Mabus served during the Obama administration, and oversaw several organizational changes in the United States Navy including the integration of women into all combat positions and the repeal of the controversial “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which prohibited openly gay U.S. citizens from entering the military.
“We want a more diverse force, not for diversity’s sake, but because a more diverse force is a stronger force,” Mabus said. “The only qualification to do the job should be the qualification to do the job…Things like gender, color, sexual orientation, just shouldn’t matter.”
At the event, Mabus spoke about current innovations and future developments in military technology and strategy. The United States military has invested heavily in solar and wind energy, according to the U.S. Army 2014 Sustainability report, which details efforts to reduce waste in military practices.
“We’ve got SEAL teams in the field that are net zero in terms of water or energy,” Mabus said.
During his tenure as Navy secretary, Mabus made climate change a trademark issue for the branch. On Tuesday, Mabus reiterated that he considers climate change a national security issue that, if left unchecked, would result in physical danger to the United States.
Mabus said rising sea levels could destroy naval bases or entire cities. Additionally, as storms get more and more violent, Mabus said Marines will be put in greater danger as they respond to more intense natural disasters around the world.
Mabus also spoke about ethical questions on the use of unmanned drone strikes and the future of modern warfare, and said railguns—which eject projectiles that can break through many solid surfaces—are particularly strong prospects for future weapons development.
Towards the end of the event, Mabus stressed to attendees the necessity for adaptation and flexibility in future defense strategies.
“Nothing is permanent, nothing is immutable.” Mabus said. “And if you start thinking that way, you become defeatable.”—Staff writer Lucas Ward can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter at @LucaspfWard.