ComNavOps has repeatedly stated that the Navy has become a purely defensive force rather than offensive, has become risk averse, promotes the wrong type of commanders, and has abandoned any semblance of tactical or realistic training. Well, here’s the Navy finally beginning to recognize those facts. The following is part of a written summary of the Distributed Lethality workshops and is authored by Captain Joe Cahill, USN, Director, DL Task Force Commander, Naval Surface Forces (1).
“Finally, to realize a more offensive culture within the surface forces, the warfighter ethos must shift to a more proactive and ferocious fighting spirit. Offensive tactics and the requisite training need to be hand-and-glove in order to leverage lethality. Engraining within the surface forces such a fighting ethos with the training to back it up must be a top priority for the commander.”
There you have it. Now, even the Navy is admitting that they no longer are a fighting force. They’ve become a peacetime business organization that exists to build ships and promote careers.
Consider the type of command element the Navy is selecting for. The main focus of command selection is on finding people who will not make waves, who get along – go along, who won’t appear in any headlines, who won’t reflect negatively on the Navy, who have a fine appreciation for gender equality and diversity (again, to avoid headlines), who have made no mistakes in previous assignments, and who won’t respond aggressively to provocations at sea.
Note that we’re selecting for negative qualities – things that the candidate won’t do, rather than things that they will do.
Despite this, we still wind up firing 20-30 commanders each year.
Look what we’ve created. Our commanders cower on the bridge hoping against hope that no one will make a mistake during their command tour and micro-managing everything to try to reduce the chances of a mistake. We fire commanders for some pretty innocuous things. We’ve created a zero-tolerance for headlines. If one sailor complains about something, real or imagined, it can destroy a commander’s career.
I have nothing against firing commanders if it happens for the right reasons. By all means, fire commanders for tactical incompetence or lack of warrior spirit. Unfortunately, none of the 20-30 commanders fired each year has been fired for those reasons.
We have ruthlessly eliminated the warrior spirit. We have weeded out any commander with a contentious, aggressive, abrasive, fighting personality.
The Navy is no longer a fighting force. It’s a gender sensitive, diversity focused, environmentally responsible, social experiment of a business organization.
Somewhere, Bull Halsey is weeping for his Navy right now, as am I.
(1)USNI, “Essay: Taking Distributed Lethality to the Next Level”, Scott C. Truver,