Navy study ex­poses mis­trust of se­nior lead­ers

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

Navy sailors har­bor “wide­spread mis­trust” in the ad­mi­rals who com­mand them, com­plain­ing of poor lead­er­ship and a dis­ci­plinary en­vi­ron­ment that tol­er­ates ab­so­lutely no mis­takes, says a survey of the fleet.

The dis­gruntle­ment runs deep­est in the of­fi­cer corps, where scores of com­man­ders have been re­lieved of duty in re­cent years.

“Se­nior lead­er­ship should stop proac­tively high­light­ing the re­liefs for cause of com­mand­ing of­fi­cers, com­mand master chiefs, and other se­nior en­listed ad­vi­sors,” said the re­port “2014 Navy Re­ten­tion Study.” “What was orig­i­nally in­tended to demon­strate ac­count­abil­ity to the pub­lic has, in­stead, re­sulted in a sig­nif­i­cant breach of trust with our sailors and re­sult­ing in an almost ‘re­al­ity TV’ men­tal­ity.”

The in­de­pen­dent survey was re­leased amid com­plaints by some avi­a­tors about ex­ces­sive po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness as the mil­i­tary seeks to stamp out sex­ual ha­rass­ment and mis­con­duct in an in­creas­ingly gen­der-in­te­grated Navy.

“Most trou­bling is the per­cep­tion sailors hold of se­nior lead­er­ship,” the re­port says un­der the head­ing “Wide­spread Dis­trust of Se­nior Lead­er­ship.”

“Sailors feel strongly about their dis­trust of se­nior lead­er­ship, and be­lieve the Navy has a sig­nif­i­cant risk-averse cul­ture and zero-de­fect men­tal­ity,” the re­port says. “Of­fi­cers in par­tic­u­lar hold an in­cred­i­bly neg­a­tive view of the cur­rent state of af­fairs, with vast ma­jori­ties de­cry­ing the over­whelm­ing per­cep­tion of a risk averse and zero-de­fect men­tal­ity cul­ture.”

When asked whether they agreed that the Navy op­er­ates a risk-averse cul­ture, nearly 90 per­cent of of­fi­cers an­swered “yes.”

Sailors also do not like wartime at sea de­ploy­ments that stretch from six months up to nine months.

The re­port, based on an In­ter­net survey that gar­nered re­sponses from more than 5,000 sailors, was com­piled by a group of ac­tive-duty Navy sailors and civil­ian re­searchers, with the Navy’s support.

It was led by Cmdr. Guy Sn­od­grass, a “Top Gun” F-18 Hornet pi­lot who was a speech­writer for the Navy’s top ad­mi­ral and now is ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of a car­rier strike fighter squadron. Cmdr. Sn­od­grass has ar­gued that the work cli­mate will lead to a re­ten­tion cri­sis if not ad­dressed.

Cmdr. Christo­pher Servello, a spokesman for the chief of naval per­son­nel, said: “Not sure we agree with all of the con­clu­sions that were drawn, but we are grate­ful for the ef­fort done by this group. … Much of the raw data col­lected matches what we have seen in our own sur­veys.”

Cmdr. Servello said ac­tions be­ing taken in­clude “push­ing decision-mak­ing down to the low­est lev­els of com­mand and em­pow­er­ing units’ lead­ers to train and fo­cus on war fight­ing first.”

He said re­ten­tion is above av­er­age for of­fi­cers and en­listed, but there are “pock­ets that have lead­er­ship’s at­ten­tion.” Th­ese in­clude the nu­clear Navy, ju­nior flight of­fi­cers and spe­cial war­fare, which in­cludes the SEALs.

Cmdr. Sn­od­grass’ re­port lan­guage is tamer than an ar­ti­cle he wrote last win­ter on the U.S. Naval In­sti­tute web­site.

“Un­for­tu­nately,” Cmdr. Sn­od­grass wrote, “the fact that a grow­ing num­ber of qual­ity of­fi­cers have al­ready left the ser­vice or are plan­ning to head for the doors seems to be go­ing un­de­tected by se­nior lead­er­ship.”

He wrote of “a re­cent shift within the Navy to erad­i­cate be­hav­ior that is, by its very na­ture, in­erad­i­ca­ble.”

“Put sim­ply, there is no dol­lar amount that can be spent, or amount of train­ing that can be con­ducted, that will com­pletely erad­i­cate com­plex is­sues such as sui­cide, sex­ual as­sault, or com­mand­ing of­fi­cer re­liefs for cause — yet we con­tinue to ex­pend im­mense re­sources in this pur­suit,” he said. “Sailors are bom­barded with an­nual on­line train­ing, gen­eral mil­i­tary train­ing, and safety stand-downs — all in an ef­fort to com­bat prob­lems that will never be de­feated.”

“Sailors are bom­barded with

an­nual on­line train­ing, gen­eral mil­i­tary train­ing, and safety stand­downs — all in an ef­fort to com­bat prob­lems that will never be de­feated.”

— Cmdr. Guy Sn­od­grass

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