As rhetoric surrounding the decision to open combat jobs to female Marines heats up, a lawmaker on the House Armed Services Committee is denouncing Navy Secretary Ray Mabus for comments questioning the integrity of the Corps' research on the subject.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., a former Marine officer and Iraq veteran, released a statement Tuesday saying Mabus' recent public comments were an insult to the service.
"Secretary Mabus is quickly proving that he's a political hack who cares more about doing the White House's bidding than the combat effectiveness of the Marine Corps," Hunter said. "Mabus is not only insulting the Marine Corps as an institution, but he's essentially telling Marines that their experience and judgment doesn't matter."
A spokesman for Mabus did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Hunter's remarks, but the office has previously said that Mabus' comments stand on their own.
Hunter's comments come a day after Mabus told an audience at a forum in Cleveland that he plans to open all Navy and Marine Corps jobs to women, despite the release of data last week showing that Marine combat teams with female members performed more slowly, shot less accurately, and received higher rates of injury than all-male teams.
Since the release of findings, Mabus has publicly criticized the study, saying the Marines in charge were biased against the idea of women in combat, and the women who participated may not have been the best the Corps had to offer.
During his Monday speech, Mabus said it's likely that gender-neutral standards will be implemented for combat jobs.
"Once you've done that, I can see no reason to say, because the average woman cannot make it through, we're not giving anyone a chance," he said.
A number of Marines close to the Corps' women-in-combat test have bristled over Mabus' remarks. Sgt. Maj. Justin LeHew, the senior enlisted Marine at Training and Education Command, said in a public Facebook post Sept. 12 that Mabus was "way off base" to question the caliber of the Marines participating in the experiment or the integrity of those conducting the test.
It's possible more lawmakers will come forward to criticize Mabus for his comments: An aide with Hunter's office said the congressman was preparing a letter to the Navy secretary from multiple members of the House of Representatives asking him to hear the Marine Corps out before making a final decision.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Defense Secretary Ash Carter maintains that the Pentagon's top official is still determining how to proceed as he awaits information from all the services regarding the impact of opening combat jobs to women.
"To the best of my knowledge, the secretary has not received information from any of the services yet," Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a briefing Tuesday. "...They have until the end of the month to provide their information, and then he has until January 1 to make his decision."