WASHINGTON — Navy Secretary Ray Mabus defended Wednesday his decision to stop identifying sailors by their job titles, which has sparked controversy from the Navy’s rank and file.

Mabus said at a National Press Club luncheon that his late-September decision to eliminate the ratings system gives sailors more opportunities for promotion and helps them find jobs in the future.

As of Monday morning, a petition to the White House, released the same day Mabus announced the decision, has more than 74,000 signatures of the 100,000 threshold, which would require the White House to respond.

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