Team, thanks for the many thoughtful posts you have submitted. As always, I gained a great deal from reading through them and would like to take this opportunity to respond to some of the points made and questions asked.
To stand-up, speak out and take action in support of the best interests of the Navy and in support of our core values - honor, courage and commitment - whenever we see those core values threatened or those interests undermined by an individual's behavior, whoever that individual may be and wherever in the chain-of-command that individual resides, is our duty. Doing your duty to the best of your ability, and knowing in your heart you have taken the right actions despite the possible repercussions on your career or your physical well-being, is its own reward.
For those of us who have raised our right hands and sworn an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies ...," doing one's duty without regard to possible consequences, good or bad, is the essence of our profession.
It is always to be hoped that properly performing one's higher duty for the good of the Navy will be appropriately recognized, be the matter large or small, by the chain-of-command as the particular issue is resolved. But as hard as so many good people in our Navy work to do the right thing under sometimes very difficult or challenging situations, there can be no guarantees your actions, however righteous, will be truly recognized for what they are and not leave you open to negative repercussions.
Our Navy, an institution that has done so much for our nation over the past 235 years and in which so many have been, and remain, so proud to serve, is made up of people. And any organization composed of people, however well-ordered and well-intentioned that organization may be, is ultimately an imperfect one. I do not say that to justify improper actions that have happened to individuals doing their duty to the best of their ability, but simply to explain what I expect you already know.
Do your duty to the best of your ability and "to thine ownself be true" - to know you have stood tall when the Navy most needed you to stand tall may be your only reward; that must be enough.
Over the years since I first commanded a destroyer - USS DAVID R RAY (DD 971) in 91-92 - I've been intensely interested and deeply involved in how we screen officers for command in all our professional communities.
As a Captain and a Rear Admiral I served on a wide variety of selection and screening boards and when I served as the Navy's Chief of Naval Personnel I routinely reviewed and approved their results.
So whenever we have a failure in command, for whatever reason, I take it very seriously and try to find out as much as I can about the process by which the particular officer was selected and what that process may have missed and why.
Some background - Navy's selection board process, for both the administrative screening boards in which we select COs, XOs, etc and the statutory (governed by federal law) promotion boards for selection to higher rank, has evolved over the years to its current unique balance between ensuring equity (fairness for the officer whose record is being reviewed) and achieving effectiveness (selecting only the officers who are both best and fully qualified). As a matter of policy, we run our administrative boards in a manner very similar to our statutory boards to ensure the overall fairness and integrity of the process.
In 2010 and thus far in 2011, we have had a definite spike in the number of officers who have been relieved of their commands for a variety of personal conduct (ex, fraternization) and professional performance (ex, collision at sea) failures. This spike has involved officers in each of our warfare communities and other professional communities in the Navy as well.
A marked increase in the number of COs relieved for cause similar to what we are seeing last occurred in 2002; the Navy's IG conducted a detailed investigation into each of the 2002 reliefs looking for possible common threads or shared root causes. Nothing definitive was found.
As we dig deeper in the 2010-2011 CO failures (as well as those of the XOs or CMCs who have been removed from their positions), I'll be focusing on the screening process. Over the years, I've become a strong believer that we need to find a way to bring a 360 degree type of review into our administrative screening boards. A 360 review process would incorporate the comments of those junior or equal in rank to the officer in question as well as the traditional evaluation made in the officer's fitness report by the reporting senior. Based on what I've learned of the technology and methodology in conducting 360s, I think it very possible we can bring these comprehensive reviews into our administrative screen board process in a way that maintains equity for the individual while improving the effectiveness of results for the Navy, a deeper and more comprehensive evaluation of an officer's performance over the years.
Much more to follow on this issue so stay tuned.
In the meantime, I continue to look forward to receiving your comments and questions. All the best, JCHjr