A joint assessment of a retired rear admiral and general made disturbing findings about the U.S. Navy’s performance.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and GOP Reps. Dan Crenshaw (Texas), Mike Gallagher (Wis.) and Jim Banks (Ind.) commissioned Marine Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle and Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery to assess the state of the Navy.
The decision came following a series of recent accidents, including the USS Bonhomme Richard fire in San Diego, two Navy ship collisions in the Pacific Ocean, and two small vessels surrendered in Iran.
The retired military officers conducted their assessment based on several hours of anonymous interviews with 77 individuals. Interviewees included enlisted sailors, senior officers, and those in either active duty and retired.
Their final report revealed a troubling finding: there is a lack of combat training, and sailors know virtually nothing about how to deal with real armed conflict.
The pair found there was too much focus on training personnel in “diversity,” firing sailors and officers for making small mistakes, and a general hesitance to take risks. Senior ranks also appeared to focus more on good publicity and superficial reputation, instead of making decisions based on the Navy’s guiding principles. There was too little investment in training and ships were poorly maintained.
An overwhelming 94 percent of interviewees blame the Navy’s accidents on weak leadership and cultural problems within the military as a whole.
One of the issues of greatest concerns is the Navy leadership does not emphasize real combat training.
“Finding and sinking enemy fleets should be the principal purpose of a Navy but many sailors found their leadership distracted, captive to bureaucratic excess, and rewarded for the successful execution of administrative functions rather than their skills as a warfighter,” the report said.
Too much attention was paid to creating awareness of diversity and other progressive agendas. Nearly no time was provided for training in actual combat.
“Sometimes I think we care more about whether we have enough diversity officers than if we will survive a fight with the Chinese Navy,” one lieutenant on active duty said according to the report. “It is criminal, they think my only value is as a black woman but–[if] you cut our ship open with a missile–and we will all bleed the same color.”
Apparently combat training is only performed on paper. Administrative duties have reached an extreme point where sailors do not even think they will ever join an armed conflict.
Service personnel have repeatedly complained about the Navy’s culture of zero-tolerance for mistakes. Sailors and officers allege they are punished with termination instead of being provided opportunities to learn, correct, and advance.
Many leaders have responded to this culture by avoiding risky decision-making that might result in mistakes and disciplinary action.
Sailors consider this intolerance of shortcomings to be the product of careerism, a practice that drives away bold and combat-focused leaders. It instead attracts a breed of relatively timid bureaucrats, many of whom presently lead the Navy.
Press takes charge
Commanding officers are so wary of negative headlines they sometimes prefer to avoid any kind of military confrontation, lest it results in bad press.
“Frustration among interviewees was palpable, with both the national press corps and the manner in which Navy leaders react to the press,” the report said. “‘[Admirals] are supposed to lead us into battle but they hide in foxholes at the first sight of Military.com and the Military Times,’ said one intelligence officer with disgust. ‘The reporters are in charge, not us.'”
A growing number of sailors have lost faith in the chain of command. When faced with a damaging news story, higher ranks increasingly choose to sacrifice junior personnel to preserve the unit’s credibility or just the senior leader’s career.
Disciplinary decisions also appear to bend according to the whim of public perception, instead of the Navy’s own rules and regulations.
Other findings include a lack of ship maintenance and investment in training.
‘Fighting and winning’ not prioritized
The report stresses there are many active-duty sailors who are unfit for real conflict.
“Sailors interviewed for this report do not believe the Navy prioritizes fighting and winning, because Navy leaders do not talk about fighting and winning,” the report said.
Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis previously testified the United States does not have a “preordained right to victory on the battlefield.”
“Unless changes are made the Navy risks losing the next major conflict,” the report said.