Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee grilled Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus on Monday for neglecting a study by the Marine Corps about the integration of women into all facets of the service, including boot camp.
The Marine Corps completed a multi-million dollar study in December that found that mixed-gender units performed poorly in ground combat tasks compared to all-male units. It has been the policy of the Marine Corps to keep ground combat all-male, and to separate men and women in enlisted basic training.
Secretary Mabus criticized the Marine Corps after it released the report, and after Secretary of Defense Ash Carter declined to exempt Marines from the requirement to open all positions to women, Mabus demanded that Marine Corps boot camp cease separating men and women for training.
At Tuesday's hearing, Marine reserve officer Sen. Dan Sullivan (R., Alaska) questioned Mabus about his handling of the report and whether he came to a conclusion before the report was completed.
Mabus admitted he had not read the full study when he overrode the Marine Corps' request for an exemption.
"You said ‘I do not see any reason for an exemption' the day after the study was published. Based on what?" Sullivan asked.
"The conclusions," Mabus said.
"Did you read the study?" Sen. Sullivan asked.
"I read the study," Mabus said.
"Did you read the study before you stated that?" Sen. Sullivan asked.
"I had read the conclusions that the Marines drew from the study prior to that, and those conclusions which were based on averages and not on individual Marines," Mabus said.
Sen. Sullivan then asked Mabus’s rush for gender-integration of the military contradicted a report on the effect of gender-integration in boot camps commissioned by the Department of Defense and completed in December 1997, known as the Kassebaum-Baker Report.
"I think that's a completely irrelevant point, Senator," Mabus said.
"You know, Secretary Mabus, this would have been a lot easier if you had not called in the press immediately and debunked what many of us view as a legitimate study without even reading it, and I don't believe that you read a thousand page document in one day. I'm sorry, but I don't believe it," Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) said later in the hearing.