President Barack Obama’s choice to become the next Navy secretary has spent his career as an operative in Democratic politics, but experts agreed he’ll need all his skill and experience to tackle the jobs waiting for him in the Pentagon.
Ray Mabus, a former governor of Mississippi and U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, is expected to win quick confirmation in the Senate and would take over the Navy Department as it faces deep budget cuts, along with the rest of the Defense Department.
That means Mabus’ most important task will be convincing Congress to do as little violence as possible to the Navy’s near- and long-term acquisition plans, said Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense analyst with the conservative Heritage Foundation.
“The first thing is going to be the declining defense budget, how to rescue shipbuilding and aircraft from the ax,” she said.
That’s especially relevant after the Navy’s top requirements officer, Vice Adm. Barry McCullough, said in January the service didn’t have enough ships to meet demand around the world, Eaglen said.