U.S. Navy leaders are failing to “promote or advance surface ship warfighting in a meaningful way,” according to officers interviewed for a congressional report on several major naval accidents.
“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.”
The report emerged out of “77 exhaustive and intensive interviews … with sailors of all walks of naval life” — a majority of whom agreed that the loss of the USS Bonhomme Richard and other major accidents, such as the deadly collisions that damaged two destroyers over the last five years, reflect a common problem.
“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,” U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle and U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, both retired, wrote in the report. “There was considerable apprehension that the surface warfare community in particular lost its fighting edge in the years following the end of the Cold War.”
Retired naval officer Bryan McGrath, whose 21-year career included command of the guided-missile destroyer USS Bulkeley, acknowledged that “sexual assault and victim stuff” can feel burdensome during a deployment at sea, but he touted their importance nonetheless.
“It just seems like it’s never-ending,” McGrath said. “[But] the further I get from it, the more I understand why it’s important and why there does have to be very clear signals sent to deck plate sailors that they’re, you know, that issues that are important to them are important to leadership.”
Other bureaucratic pressures have contributed to a decline in martial prowess, according to the report, which portrays the Navy leadership as “risk-averse,” focused on deflecting media criticism, and unable to distinguish between minor infractions and career-ending mistakes.
“A former senior leader framed this problem using an evocative historical analogy, suggesting that none of the four key admirals who led victorious fleets in World War II would have made it to the rank of captain in today’s Navy,” Montgomery and Schmidle wrote.
Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican who commissioned the inquiry alongside three House Republicans, unveiled the report on the first anniversary of the fire that doomed the USS Bonhomme Richard while it docked in San Diego. That blaze coincided with another significant maritime anniversary — the July 12, 2016, ruling in the Hague that condemned China’s attempt to claim sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, crucial waterways for global commerce and military strategists alike.
“We call on the PRC to abide by its obligations under international law, cease its provocative behavior, and take steps to reassure the international community that it is committed to the rules-based maritime order that respects the rights of all countries, big and small,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday in a statement to commemorate that ruling.
Blinken’s message was reinforced by the USS Benfold, a guided-missile destroyer that conducted a freedom of navigation operation near one of China’s military outposts in the South China Sea, but the new report suggests that naval personnel are not being taught about the threats of a conflict with Beijing.
“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.”
Author: Joel Gehrke
Source: Washington Examiner: ‘They think my only value is as a black woman’: Sailors say Navy leaders failing to prepare for war