Navy Secretary Hearing After Damaging Report Released

Navy Secretary Hearing After Damaging Report Released

Navy Secretary Hearing After Damaging Report Released

One year ago this week, the LHD-6 Bonhomme Richard caught fire in the San Diego Harbor. It took four days to fully extinguish the fire and the Navy scrapped the ship rather than repair it. No cause for the fire has been released. A Covid outbreak on the U.S.S. Roosevelt led to the resignation of the Acting Secretary of the Navy. This and other mishaps led four Republican lawmakers to commission a survey of sailors. The results are depressing.

The four Republican lawmakers are all serious men and all have military experience. They are:

–Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, U.S. Army Captain, eight years service.
–Congressman Dan Crenshaw of Texas, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander, ten years service.
–Congressman Jim Banks of Indiana, U.S. Navy Reserve Lieutenant, 2012-present.
–Congressman Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, U.S. Marines Captain, seven years service.

The lawmakers tasked two well-respected retired officers to conduct the survey. They are:

–Lieutenant General Robert E. Schmidle, USMC, Ret. – His impressive biography can be read here.
–Rear Admiral Mark Montgomery, USN, Ret. – His biography can be read here.

Serious people do serious work. Their full report “A REPORT ON THE FIGHTING CULTURE OF THE UNITED STATES NAVY SURFACE FLEET” can be read here. Seventy-seven current and recently retired surface warfare sailors were surveyed. The U.S. Naval Institute News reported:

The Navy’s surface warfare community is weighed with a culture that values administrative chores over training to fight, ship commanders that are micromanaged and an aversion to risk, according to a new survey overseen by a retired Navy admiral and Marine general at the behest of a group of Republican lawmakers. That culture was at least partially responsible for a string “of high-profile and damaging operational failures in the Navy’s Surface Warfare community,” the report found.

The aversion to risk is known as “zero defects”. Regarding incidents like Bonhomme Richard, two destroyer collisions in the Pacific and, I hate even thinking about this one, the riverine sailors who surrendered to Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps:

“When asked whether incidents such as the two destroyer collisions in the Pacific, the surrender of a small craft to the IRGC in the [Persian] Gulf, the burning of the Bonhomme Richard and other incidents were part of a broader cultural or leadership problem in the Navy, 94 percent of interviewees responded ‘yes’,” reads the report. Fifty-five percent said there was a direct connection between leadership, culture and the incidents.

Yes, according to reports, at least two Admirals had warned that the sailors in the boat surrender incident were not prepared for their mission. And, nobody listened?

From the Washington Examiner comes this devastating take from a Black, female sailor, who sounds pretty darn squared away:

“Sometimes I think we care more about whether we have enough diversity officers than if we’ll survive a fight with the Chinese navy,” according to an officer the report describes as “one lieutenant currently on active duty.”

“It’s criminal. They think my only value is as a black woman,” she added, according to the report. “But you cut our ship open with a missile and we’ll all bleed the same color.”

This from a formerly active and now reserve officer:

“We’ll spend hours and hours on drill weekends or other areas talking about like, ‘OK, what’s the checklist you have to have in place? Do you have all your right uniforms?’ But there is no training like, ‘what is the current situation in China?’” Montgomery and Schmidle quote “a former active-duty surface warfare officer and current reservist” as saying. “And to me, if we’re focused on the front-line warfighting, we should know the worst we’re going into and what the greater context is. There’s none of that right now.”

Today, the hearing commenced for the nomination Commander Carlos Del Toro U.S. Navy (ret.) as Secretary of the Navy. Del Toro was impressive and sober in his back and forth with Tom Cotton. The “sober” is a nod to Josephus Daniels who abolished alcohol on Naval ships.

The fear of making a mistake (zero defects) will have an attrition effect on personnel and lead to the most cautious officers rising through the ranks. I liked his answer on micro-management too. As a former Naval Commander, he is in a unique position to understand these issues. Since the Russian Navy is no longer considered a peer, the Navy hasn’t really had a peer to focus on. Yes, the Chinese Navy is rising, but they are not our equal. And, the People’s Republic’s top down command leaves naval leaders afraid to make any decision.

With Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, looking for white supremacists in the military and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Mark Milley, studying his white rage, it will fall to the individual service Secretaries to maintain our standing military. When Carlos Del Toro is confirmed, he has a big job ahead of him after this report.

Featured Image: Bonhomme Richard/U.S. Pacific Fleet/ Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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  • Mark says:

    This looks like it developed as a multi-generational problem. However, to complicate issues, the current administration seems likely to want to exacerbate the problem by forcing in their transgender and other social engineering issues.

  • JAW3 says:

    God bless that black woman sailor for her patriotism. I have a friend who served on the Bonhomme Richard and he felt it bad when the ship burned. The sailors want to do well. And the part of the report that rings the bell loud is the zero defect stress put on the commanding officers. I hope good comes from this report for all our sakes.

    • Toni Williams says:

      My son’s h.s. girlfriend served on the Bonhomme Richard and loved it. She was gutted when it burned. Arson is suspected. Zero defect will stultify any organization.


  • Vetmike says:

    Firstly, ‘zero defect’ is impossible as long as humans are in the equation. Strive to best the best and have a plan for when things go sideways. The strive to have absolutely no defects causes severe stress attacks on the command level which floods down to the lowest AB.
    Secondly, the military isn’t a social experiment. We close with the enemy and kill him. It’s like the stress cards the Army used for awhile; they don’t stop bullets

  • BKMart says:

    I retired from the Navy in 1996, the writing was on the wall then…

    • Toni Williams says:

      You are right, sadly. Thank you for your service. I hope that doesn’t bother you. My son and nephews don’t care for it.


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  • Sailorcurt says:

    First, the cynic in me says a survey of 77 people is hardly representative of the broader Navy. Why so few? A typical aircraft carrier with airwing has an on-board crew of about 5,000. I wouldn’t trust a survey of 77 people to be representative of the opinions of that crew, let alone the entire Navy.

    With that said, the results of this survey align well with what I know to be true. Granted, I retired some 18 years ago, so my experience is hardly current, but I do still live 5 minutes from the largest Navy base in the world and interact with active duty sailors on a regular basis; based on that, I’d say the results they reached pretty accurately reflect the opinions of the sailors I know.

    I do want to specifically mention the attitude of the black female officer: She is exactly right, we all bleed the same color. Promoting blacks and women specifically because of their pigmentation or lack of y chromosome actively places the combat effectiveness and safety of the ship at risk. Incompetent senior enlisted and officers are the death knell of a ship’s crew and incompetent senior enlisted and officers is how you end up with ships bouncing off each other, small boat crews surrendering to rabble and ships in port burning to the waterline. Competent senior enlisted and officers ensure they have competent crews and those things don’t happen with competent crews.

    The problem is, now that “woke” has taken hold, how do we reverse the trend? We’ve got several generations of kids who’ve been indoctrinated to believe that the US is the ultimate evil and not worth protecting. This indoctrination has even filtered into our military academies. This is the pool of youth from which we choose our future military leaders. How can a machine be repaired when the replacements parts are even more broken than the parts being replaced?

    And the military isn’t the only part of our society that’s in serious trouble. It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better…if it ever does.

  • bob sykes says:

    Does anyone want a competent military? The prime function of any military is to keep the country’s civilians in line. Certainly, an incompetent, corrupt military, like the one we have, is preferable to one that can find you out and kill you quickly.

    • GWB says:

      That’s an incredibly stupid thing to say. A country’s military exists to defend the nation. It’s police force exists to keep the people “in line” (for various values of that). In some places the military has police duties – but not in America.

      That doesn’t mean some idiot might not try to use the American military for that. But that is most certainly NOT their purpose.

  • GWB says:

    the LHD-6 Bonhomme Richard caught fire
    A minor correction. It should be “LHD-6, the Bonhomme Richard” or “LHD-6, Bonhomme Richard“. “LHD-6” is a specific designator and should not have ‘the’ in front of it.

    The “sober” is a nod to Josephus Daniels who abolished alcohol on Naval ships.
    A man who should not be feted.

    And this is a real problem. And yes, it’s been around (in the Air Force, at least) since the 90s – “Quality Management” being just one example. (Also, quotas for affirmative action since the late 80s. Do not even talk to me about “white privilege”.) The problem is that we end up promoting managers, not leaders, and that leads to all sorts of silliness – like treating recruiting and personnel as an HR problem.

    You would hope that two crashes and a burning ship might actually drive a corrective. But, we probably won’t see that until one of the top brass is on the ship while it’s burning or crashes or some other disaster. Or maybe a son or daughter of a congressman. Until then, the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines will suffer for the sins of the generals and admirals (and the progressive priests and prophets).

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