Tuesday, September 15, 2015

I Don't Need Data, My Mind's Made Up

By now you’ve heard that Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, has publicly announced that the Navy will not ask for any exemptions for women in any combat job including SEALs or the Marines.  You’ve also heard all about the Marine’s study demonstrating that women drag down the performance of their units when compared to all-male units.  I’m not even going to bother offering a reference link.  The information is all over the Internet.  You can find it easily.

What I’d like to address is not the idiocy of women in combat positions – that’s self-evident – but, rather, Mabus’ leadership regarding this issue. 

The Marines initiated a pretty large and comprehensive field study to examine the ability of women to perform combat tasks.  I have to say, I was fairly impressed with the structure of the study and looked forward to seeing the results even though extensive personal experience assured me that the results were a foregone conclusion.  Still, hard data is difficult to argue with (unless you’re the SecNav).

Let’s set aside opinions on the wisdom of women in combat and, instead, ask why, if Mabus already had his mind made up, did he allow a therefore meaningless study to proceed?  A lot of time, effort, and money went into the study.  During this time of constrained budgets that money could have been well spent on a multitude of other things.  Instead, Mabus allowed the study to proceed knowing full well that he intended to ignore the results.  That’s a colossal waste of resources and an outstanding example of poor leadership.  If his mind was already made up (and he’s made no bones about stating that quite clearly), he should have cancelled the study, redirected the money and effort, and moved on.

This is just another in a seemingly endless series of very poor decisions by the highest levels of Navy leadership.


  1. UGH and double UGH.

    Lets face it, the study was created to provide an answer that supported SECNAV's decision. Ideally, that would give him the "cover" to proceed; after all, it was "studied." Interesting that during the past few months, he made it perfectly clear how he wanted the results to look. I'm guessing the Marines thought long and hard about going public with results that countered the "correct answer."
    The problem with this type of leadership, IMO, is that when leaders repeatedly demonstrate they have made up their mind and won't listen to their staff and subordinates, those individuals stop offering advice and input.
    Think Rumsfeld in mid-2000's. His staff was afraid to provide input lest it not support the pre-ordained answer. Look at Iceland...Rumsfeld makes a comment asking why we are still there and we pull out. No thought out analysis or alternatives...just a statement and an action. And, what was DEPSECDEF doing last week? Talking with Iceland about coming back. Oh, sure you can come back..we were thinking about this level of support!!!

    Great examples of poor leadership when the principles don't NEED studies or input, after all, they already KNOW!!

  2. I don't see this getting better any time soon.

    We have not seen any attempts to cancel any "failed" weapons systems, bring in cost accounting, or any real learning from past problems.

    Also, on the F-35, there are claims that it's pretty widespread across all variants:

    I'd love to know if there is anything like this on the "C" variant. Knowing the USN, there probably will be.

  3. I think this goes higher, all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

  4. Ugh. We can't have nice things.

    I see two things going on: Politicians using the military as a football; with either an 'Everything's fine' attitude (There are these things called aircraft carriers...) ignoring the obvious strain on the machines and sailors we've talked about here, or a 'We just need to throw more money at it!' attitude that feeds right into the F-35/LCS fiascos.

    On the military side, it seems the higher ups have fallen in line with the idea that using the military for social engineering is fine.

    I'm not saying that the military is immune from societal pressures. And there are some changes I think that have been made that are good, but in too many cases the military has become a societal expiriment and acquisitions have become a cash cow.

    When we have some seriously wondering if we could face off against Russia, with all her economic and military problems, and come out on top in a conventional fight, we have major issues.

    As always, just my $.02.

  5. Mabus wants bragging rights at toney wine-and-cheese parties - and damn those who end up getting hurt when these social experiments end up causing the loss of large numbers of personnel. I just hope Mabus has to be the one who writes the letters to the families.

    1. Loss of large numbers of personnel ? really?
      The whole war thing, the real boots on ground is very very messy and unpredictable.
      the idea that its only doable by some sort of superwarrior is absurd. Even the special forces have specialized support units as they realise these 'guys' cant do it all.


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