Q&A: Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Department of the Navy

The attorneys for the lone pirate to survive the Maersk Alabama incident contest he is not actually a mercenary pirate but a guerilla defendant of a country in anarchy. Does that defense hold any water at all?

The fact that there is not a real functioning government in Somalia doesn’t excuse piracy. That’s using the broken-home defense for committing a crime.

How involved is the navy on the war on drugs? I’ve read that submersibles are a primary method of smuggling cocaine into the United States.

The navy is involved in the waters south of the continental U.S., getting closer to our shores. I saw the same thing you saw about submersibles, and about how people smuggling drugs have upped the technological ante. We have naval assets that can find those and defeat them. I won’t broadcast what those are, but if I were a smuggler, I’m not sure I’d get too comfortable with submersibles.

Women aren’t allowed on submarines, but I’ve heard conflicting reasons why. Are the rumors true—that it’s so they won’t get pregnant? [Pregnant women aren’t allowed in combat.]

I’ll be absolutely truthful—I know submarines are the one place where women don’t serve, but after this conversation I’ll find out why.
Mabus’s secretary followed up with the official response: “The policy of not assigning women to submarines remains unchanged today because of the platform’s very unique space limitations, equipment density, design constraints and extended mission requirements. The policy is reviewed periodically—while there is no formal study per se, it is something we’re taking a look at.”

Has President Obama set forth any particular goals for you as secretary?

You’ve got a real need for our presence. We have no footprint on foreign soil—we don’t have to have bases on soil. We can be the force that’s just over the horizon; it reassures allies, acts as a hedge to potential competitors. I have general goals. Taking care of our people. Continuing to recruit incredible levels of skill and making sure they’re trained to operate. Taking care of them and their families.

Vanity Fair
7/22/9