Monday, May 24, 2010

Bad COs? Look here ...

Expanding on a post from last week, there is an interesting little thought piece over at StrategyPage worth your time.
But with all this screening and winnowing, why are more unqualified officers getting to command ships, and then getting relieved because they can't hack it? Some point to the growing popularity of "mentoring" by senior officers (that smaller percentage that makes it to admiral.) While the navy uses a board of officers to decide which officers get ship commands, the enthusiastic recommendation of one or more admirals does count. Perhaps it counts too much. While the navy is still quick to relieve any ship commander that screws up (one naval "tradition" that should never be tampered with), up until that point, it is prudent not to offend any admirals by implying that their judgment of "up and coming talent" is faulty. In the aftermath of these reliefs, it often becomes known that the relieved captain had a long record of problems. But because he was "blessed" by one or more admirals, these infractions were overlooked. The golden boys tend to be very personable and, well, look good. The navy promotion system is organized to rise above such superficial characteristics, but apparently the power, and misuse, of mentoring, has increasingly corrupted the process.
Bingo. Today we call it a Mentor. Back when I was and ENS it was called a Sea-Daddy. There is an even worse manifestation of it today as well - sectarian Mentors. They, clearly on if not over the ethical line, shop lists to potential board members of officers whose sole criteria for being on their list is that their ethnicity - in some cases exclusively the same ethnicity of the Flag Officer in question. Ponder if you will what those Flag Officers are not focused on if ethinity is their #1 priority WRT Mentorees. Then again - if the CNO has sectarianism as his #1 priority, who should be shocked.

There is also this jewel - one that is a much larger problem. We have forgotten that the primary puporse of Field and Company Grade Officers is to lead at the Tactical level - that is on a ship, submarine, or airplane. Full stop.
Another problem is that officers don't spend as much time at sea, or in command, as in the past. A lot of time is spent going to school, and away from the chiefs and sailors. For example, while the navy had more ships in the 1930s, than it does today, there were fewer people in the navy. That's because, back then, 80 percent of navy personnel were assigned to a ship, and had plenty of time to learn how to keep it clean and operational.
Hat tip HP.


Brompton Choir said...

Good to nothing's changed in thirty years, including b()ttb@ys selecting for command. Looks like the only change is they're not all white males. Back then they were easy to spot. Metcalf's all had nice manicures and lots of DC time. The USNA nukes ... were ... well, you know ... charming, ... naval ... academy ... nukes.

Spade said...

<span>"That's because, back then, 80 percent of navy personnel were assigned to a ship, and had plenty of time to learn how to keep it clean and operational."</span>
<span>That's just not possible these days. Who'd do all the powerpoint or LSS related stuff?</span>

Anonymous said...

Considering the "Female CAPT Bligh" stories we just endured with the relief of CAPT Holly Graf, I don't think ethnicity is as important as special interests.  Still a problem, but wider than indicated...

Anonymous said...

There are several issues here.

One, i've noticed that the promotion boards are little more than a rubber stamp for the CO screen, XO screen boards.  Fail to make it through that wicket at your peril.  The promotion boards have a duty to look at the record and make their own decisions.  Watching a man who was ranked 1 of 43 on his last two fitreps FTS pissed me off.  He failed earlier to screen for command.

Going away.  I'm now convinced that the essence of leading boils down to going away.  Somewhere around here i have the biography that Jacky Fisher wrote.  A lot of it was going away.  I'm not so enamored of the USAF going away for PhD, and stuff.   Just give them time to get away and shoot stuff and lift some skirt.  All the other bits, when wasn't away, spent at sea or at Naval Training Stations.  Guy didn't actually tool off to be the Executive Assistant somewhere.

See the latest admiral selection list? I was shocked that there was only the one gender candidate: nurse or something.  Reading the actual precepts, a treasure.

What are we down to now, Aurora and Olympia?  Protected cruisers. :)    One of them got to shoot up the Winter Palace.

11B40 said...


As to your last observation, I seem to remember someone mentioning, "Sailors belong on ships and ship belong at sea."

Skippy-san said...

We fly less and we operate less-and that says a lot. I'd submit the board system is not broken-but it does need to some tweaking. But the problem comes with not having the ability to go out and train when you are younger-and make some mistakes, so you can put them in your experience backpack. I'd also point out that the Navy helps this along with some its personnel initatives. To be good at flying-you have to do a lot of it. When CO's were forced to manage to expense targets- rather than merely readiness and training of his crews that started the service down the slippery path.