July 1, 2012  

Screening Navy COs

TO CHIEF OF NAVAL OPERATIONS ADM. JON GREENERT for acting, at last, to tighten up the Navy’s process for selecting commanding officers.

For most of the past decade, the Navy has sacked COs at a rate of roughly one a month. But last year the Navy fired 22, and less than halfway into 2012, the number of sackings stood at 10.

This is not about holding leaders to some imaginary exacting standard. While every case is different, alcohol abuse, boorish behavior, inappropriate relationships, and verbal and even physical abuse of crew have all figured in recent firings. Such cases have far outstripped firings for operational accidents or errors. Yet for years, Navy leaders insisted there was nothing wrong with their screening process.

Now Greenert is changing course. Within the next year, prospective commanders will have to pass a written test and an oral board. Surface fleet department heads will receive informal evaluations from their bosses, peers and subordinates.

The Navy can ill afford to vest command in those who dishonor and embarrass the fleet. Such antics undermine order and discipline and ultimately combat effectiveness.

More changes may yet be needed, but this definitive action after a decade of looking the other way is a good step.