Ray Mabus has been a disrupter and a change leader throughout his career, from attacking entrenched public corruption as Mississippi’s State Auditor in the early 1980s to reviving a bankrupt publicly traded sector manufacturing company with no loss in equity and no loss to creditors to revolutionizing the Navy and Marine Corps as Secretary of the Navy under President Obama.
The longest serving Secretary of the Navy since World War I, Mabus has also served as Governor of Mississippi, Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Chairman and CEO of Foamex.
As Navy Secretary from 2009 to 2017, Mabus led America's Sailors and Marines in a time of two wars and oversaw an annual budget of over $170 billion and almost 900,000 people. If the Department of the Navy were a private company, it would be the second largest in the United States in employees, third largest in assets and fifth largest in budget authority.
Recognized by Glassdoor as one of the top 50 CEOs in the country, Mabus earned international attention for his efforts to rebuild the U.S. fleet; revolutionize energy procurement and consumption, including moving the Navy away from fossil fuels; promoting innovation in Navy personnel and business practices; and strengthening global partnerships by traveling over 1.3 million miles to meet with Sailors and Marines and leaders in over 152 separate countries and territories.
We face dynamic global security environment, more complicated than at any time in the post-WW II era, with China increasingly flexing its muscles, a revanchist Russia, wild cards in the Middle East and Northwest Asia and non-state actors – even lone wolves – spreading terror.
The leader of the world’s only global Navy and Marine Corps for the last eight years, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and a former CEO, Ray Mabus is the most traveled senior government leader ever, logging over 1.3 million miles to visit with Sailors, Marines and senior political and military leaders in 153 separate countries and territories.
Mabus offers a unique, insider’s perspective on the challenges and opportunities, the risks and potential rewards facing not just those concerned about national security, but also those whose businesses are impacted by international events – which means every business.
Achieving leadership generally is a long, hard and uphill road and those who travel it frequently take great risks in their climb, but too many become risk-averse once they actually achieve the pinnacle.
Ray Mabus has been a disruptor and change leader throughout his career. As counsel to Mississippi Gov. William Winter, Mabus wrote and helped pass the nation’s first sweeping state education reform act. As Mississippi Auditor, he fearlessly joined forces with the FBI to tackle public corruption. As Governor, he revived the education reform movement and passed the largest teacher pay increase in the country. As Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, he challenged State Department orthodoxy and stood up for U.S. citizens and businesses. As CEO of Foamex, he brought that publicly traded manufacturing company out of bankruptcy in less than a year with no loss of equity and no loss to creditors. And as the longest serving Navy Secretary since WW I, Mabus rebuilt the fleet, revolutionized energy policy by moving the Navy and Marine Corps away from fossil fuels and toward renewable alternatives.
Mabus urges leaders to lead for change, instead of changing who they are once they have the opportunity to lead. “Don’t tell me what we can’t do, or what we’ve always done. Let’s reimagine what’s possible and then get that done.” That’s the mantra that Mabus has relied on to achieve dramatic change in even a large and tradition-oriented institution like the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.
Retreating Arctic ice is opening new sea lanes, which Russia threatens to treat as its own internal waterway. Rising sea levels are putting millions of Americans, as well as U.S. military bases, at risk here and upwards of 250 million people around the world. More frequent and more intense storms jeopardize the global economy and civil order.
There is no doubt that climate change is happening and the science overwhelming concludes who is responsible and what can be done. Doing nothing will be catastrophic and far more costly than taking advantage of the opportunities that are coming with a new energy economy in which the United States will be a leader or will cede leadership to others. An increasingly aggressive Russia used energy as a weapon in annexing Crimea, but it is vulnerable as well since more than half its income is from oil and gas sales. China has become a leader in renewables partly in response to its life-threatening pollution issues.
As President Clinton’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Ray Mabus saw the geo-political impact of energy up close. As Navy Secretary, Mabus committed the Department– the third largest energy consumer in the world – to an ambitious set of goals revolutionizing which fuels are used, how they are used and how they are procured. Today, more than half of Navy energy ashore comes from non-fossil fuels and by 2020 that will be true at sea as well. Along the way, Navy’s efforts helped significantly promote domestic renewable energy production. With the reminder that “the Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones,” Mabus analyzes the rapidly changing global energy situation, the critical nature of the challenges and the key opportunities, as well as providing insights on how to bring dramatic change to one of the world’s largest organizations.