Thursday, April 18, 2013

Task Force KAFKA: the strange case of the wandering IG

It is time.

Someone has to do this, so why not me?

Everyone go get a fresh cup of coffee; close the door; put the phone to voice mail - and let's dive in.

Post FOIA, go ahead and follow the click for the NAVINSGEN 201203467 Senior Official Investigation Commander Strike Group THREE 8 Feb 2013 - or just read below. Either way, you'll need it as we'll be discussing by paragraph.

I want you to keep this in mind for the rest of this post as it is critical for all that follows; the core of this IG is in para. 1. Scroll to it then come back ... I'll wait.

All else is secondary to this central initiating charge; "Complainant alleged that Subject was an abusive leader ... "

That is, in the end, what this is all about. The Complainant did not like that the Senior Officer Present Afloat (SOPA), the Subject, called him on his unnecessarily hazardous shiphandling while SOPA was there and ultimately accountable for anything that followed - something every 1/C MIDN understands.

Officers, keep this in mind as well to how we came to this point. Remember what we teach about conflict resolution and redress of grievances. Keeping to the lowest level and try to resolve via an informal process first, then formal. In broad strokes, correct? Correct.

In this case, the Complainant just blew this off.  Nowhere do I see where he talked to the Chief of Staff or the next superior in the Chain of Command first. No, he did two things; 1) immediately selected the nuclear option and initiated an IG and 2) in a spiteful and knowingly ruinous manner, then using his interpretations of private conversations between him and the Subject, rolled in unrelated, highly subjective, and unprovable allegations that were related to the 3rd rail of the Navy; (D)iversity.

To h3ll with the Attorney General and his desire to have us not, "be a nation of cowards" about race - oh no - not in the Navy. You are to be a coward and to be in receive only - even in private conversations - as will be demonstrated in detail, but I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let's look at the allegations.

In para 5, there are four Allegations. #1 is what could best be looked at as a "General Article" i.e. NAVREGS, Article 1131, Exemplary Conduct. That is more or less the Executive Summary.

Allegation #2 goes back to the initiating cause of this IG, Article 1023, Abuse of Authority.

Allegations #3 and #4 are both related to the nasty nature of the Complainant's actions; SECNAVINST 5350.16A, Equal Opportunity within the Department of the Navy and OPNAVINST 5354.1F, CH-1, Navy Equal Opportunity Policy - and NAVREGS, Article 1133, Language Reflecting on a Superior.  

Yes, to be publicly denounced in #3 and #4 as described, innocent or guilty, will end all that took decades to build. The Complainant knew that - he knew exactly what he was doing. The part that makes me feel unclean even reading it, is that it was based on private conversations - candid conversations - and conversations that the details of which vary widely depending on who is telling the story. The fact that the IG defaulted to an already discredited source and the worst case option is highly disturbing.   

There are lessons from Allegations #3 and #4 that everyone who wears the uniform will need to take onboard.  I was taught it as a JO by a wise DH - and it didn't make me the most social person in the Wardroom - but it served me well. We'll get in to that later.

So, the long pole in the tent - what we actually hire a Carrier Strike Group Commander to do is in Allegation #2 and is why this was all started. Let us speak as adults here - it is what happened on the bridge that is important - everything else is just the poison slathered on the edge of the blade.

Para 11 outlines the Complainant's charge that Subject, "exploded and launched into an unprofessional, unbalanced, and disturbing tirade" during a VTC. 

Well, testimony from different people in paras 14, 15, 16, and 17 state in part, "never heard (Subject) raise his voice, .... did not recall a time when Subject had shown and explosion of anger ... had never felt "humiliated" or "personally attacked" by Subject ... could not recall a time when any Warfare Commander was openly reprimanded by Subject ... "

Did people describe a Strike Group Commander who could be a bit "flinty" in Salamanderese? Sure ... but what Shoe Admiral isn't? Military leaders are allowed to be "flinty" and everything I have read, and the first person testimony describes, is well withing half a standard deviation of behavior.  Funny - the only person who seems to have an issues is ... the Complainant. All witnesses are more aligned with the Subject than the Complainant. 

Also remember, this isn't an 8-year YN3 making this charge, this is a Navy Captain. I have to keep reminding myself of this.

Para 20 is when we get to a discussion about what happened on the bridge.  Complainant stated that the Subject, "blew up at me and launched into a tirade in front of my junior personnel. [It} was a clear attempt to debase me in front of my bridge team at a very critical time of the transit."

You need to read para 21 for the context, but here is the point when I come to a full stop and am frankly shocked that this needs explaining .... but the Subject, as SOPA had to explain it. As per the Subject; "I was mindful of the ARLEIGH BURKE incident in Norfolk, where the Commodore was on the bridge, knew the ship was standing into danger and did nothing. And it was my responsibility as Senior Officer Present Afloat to weight-in."

In my world, the SOPA when his Flagship is in danger is cleared hot to act in any way necessary ... but in this specific case, how do objective witnesses report what happened?

Para 23 has the Subject's take on what happened, and then paras 24-31 have a few of these comments; "I saw [the Complainant] and the Admiral have a brief exchange of words. I couldn't make out anything they were saying ... It was brief, and the Admiral left the bridge. ... the Subject did not blow up or yell at Complainant ..."

So, again - we have a situation where the Complainant makes an exaggerated claim that no witnesses agree with - and actually state just the opposite took place. Also, if you have not, I cannot emphasize the critical requirement for you to read paras 27-30, especially if you have transited the waters in question.

Yes, this is mindsplittingly painful to read. You need some comic relief ... and the IG supplies it at a perfect time. Read paras 32-33 only because it has one adult acting butthurt because he thinks the other called him a "fucking shoe."

No, I am not making that up. Para 36 again makes the Complainant seem very small and petty.

Skip to para 50 and read on to 62, and yes, you are reading what you are reading.  42 witnesses were interviewed because one US Navy Captain was concerned that potty-mouth language was used by a Rear Admiral against a nation that has been killing Americans for almost 35-years. 

I really have nothing more to say.

Then all you 13XX types and/or those who have done a Carrier tour, gird your loins ... get your smelling salts ... and prepare to have a good cry; Foc'sle Follies from para 63 through 76. 

Do you know that four letter words and unseemly hand gestures may have been used? My stars and garters!

Again, I don't really have anything to say - I'm gobsmacked that this is where we are. I'll let the Subject speak for me; "We live in a culture where we ask people to risk their lives. Especially the pilots that land those machines on those carriers. They have a culture. A culture based on mutual teasing. Giving each other a hard time. For the purposes of my presentation of Foc'sle Follies, I was adapting to that culture."

Well, so much for multi-culturalism, I guess.

I want to stop for just a moment, and I want everyone to re-read those paragraphs in the attached document. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Now, think back to your deployments, your Shipmates, your Foc'sle Follies - are you ready to be held to this standard? Really? You think this is good? Even better - as Captain Honors taught us - are you ready to be held accountable retroactively

Now for the nasty bits.

As a scene setter - ponder what we have been told over the last couple of decades about "Diversity." Specifically CNOs Mullen and Roughead were beating the drums hardest to ensure that we take (D)iversity in to account in everything we do. Accountability reviews, different recruiting and admission standards based on race and ethnicity, specific career tracking and guidance based on DNA. We have seen Flag Officers shopping (D)iversity lists to potential board members of people who shared their DNA background for goodness sake - and people are supposed to not assume that this does not result in selection results down the road?

We have seen all these things and more, heck - I've participated in special treatment for some due to their DNA as ordered from higher up the chain. It is part of this business and has been for awhile. As a result - would it be unexpected if the topic came up?

Paras 77-100 are dedicated to a Kafkaesque mix of he-said-he-said where in the end - the benefit of the doubt is given to the Complainant who earlier on in the investigation was shown to see the world vastly differently than others who had first hand knowledge of the Subject's words and behavior. Why this change by the IG? Simple; they see anything (D)iversity related as more important than anything else, it is radioactive and if it blows it has one he11 of a frag pattern. Goodness knows the IG doesn't want to be accused of not taking (D)iversity seriously. 

If the allegations are true or not is not central in their mind - it is the charge that gets them excited, and the IG's lack of clear-headed focus is shown early.

Note in the personal email described in para 77, "... and email to six White senior members ..." - stop right there. 

What difference does that make? What if the email was sent to a, dare I say, diverse mix of race and ethnicity ... would that make a difference? Is the IG implying some larger racial context, and in doing so - casting dispersion on all in the email?  

Oh ... but wait ... check footnote #9.  Looks like the Zimmerman rule is in effect; "...(PERS-8) stated that these officers self-reported in their official personnel file that they were White, No Ethnicity, with the exception of Complainant who is listed as White, Mexican."

Yes, the IG made the effort to send names to Millington to get the Navy's Erbgesundheitsgerichte Department of Eugenics' opinion of racial classification of those in the email. Welcome to post-racial America Shipmates.

So, the email wasn't sent to the executive committee of the Grand Kleagles .... and the Complainant was part of that email and claims, I guess, to be Hispanic?

A reminder people; go online and change your ethnicity to anything but White. Get an account at and claim something else you find there or, more accurately, claim mixed race of some kind.  We have Flag Officers who have claimed more with less ... as we've covered here. Just click the Diversity tag and you'll find it all.

Then there is the whole sorted mess about how all of a sudden, Mel Brooks movies are now considered racist.  Has someone told Mel?

How many people here have watched Blazing Saddles? Are we to confiscate all copies of them on Navy ships now? In decades of watching that movie with every sliver of the glorious rainbow that is our Navy ... "I am uncomfortable" was spoken by no one, ever.

Para 81 through 100 cover the topics of private conversations that the Complainant and the Subject had together about some minority Flag Officers. 

Yes, there are no private conversations with the Complainant that will not be kept in strategic use for him to use against you later if needed. Keep that in mind everyone. 

As to the details, there is a wide difference between what the two say was discussed - and based upon what we know in totality, I'll let you judge who should get the benefit of the doubt - but it is a ligit topic.

As for the topic in question, we know that we have special programs, standards, and procedures in dealing with people based on self-identified ethnicity. It is much more than giving more attention to one group vice another; it is more than what goes on in the zero-sum game that is recruiting and admissions (again, just click the Diversity tab if you need context and reference) - no, it is policy. Why can't we talk about possible second and third order effects of said policy? Oh, that's right. 

The tremendous pressure that come via the accountability reviews, phone calls, and yes - IG complaints - make it common knowledge that some, though not all of course, are being selected for reasons other than performance. Who? That is the sad part - most would make it on their own, but because of the different treatment, there is always that doubt. Not fair, but the fault is all Big Navy - not those who talk about it in private. 

As an organization, we admit that we act that way all the time - it is a goal that we are pushing harder in the name-by-name tracking and career management policies based on race that we have documented through the years. It is beyond even Kafkaesque to be punished for actually saying this in a private conversation - when we bring Reserve officers on ADSW just to create the PPT briefings saying so.

People talk of such things in the Fleet. I have had such conversations with people of all races - does that mean our private conversations of grass being green and water being wet are now subject to some bizarre combination of Grand Inquisition and the Star Chamber? The conversation I had with a peer who is of mostly sub-Saharan extraction while fishing - where he brings up topics as outlined in the IG report - does that mean I need to report him? 

Is it worse than minority Flag Officers who have discussed this topic in open forum (watch out, those dudes with loops in the back of the room have ears dontchaknow) - and have bragged about how they were going to ensure that more of their ethnicity would advance through direct intervention based on race?

Have we reached the point that he-said-he-said defaults to whatever sounds worst? Do we make the innocent prove a negative?

The IG totally loses me after para 105 stating, "Our last major discussion of Article 1131, in a senior official investigation conducted in 2003, indicated our belief that no discussion of the standard would be complete without reference to the following John Paul Jones description of a naval officer:..."

Yes, for the love of Pete they use that thoroughly debunked false quote from JPJ in an IG report to judge a real, actual, active duty Rear Admiral. Pathetic.

This whole episode is sad and is a blazing (pun intended) example of a rot at the core of our system. 

Let's summarize. 

What we have here is a subordinate officer whose vast majority of statements concerning what he accuses a superior officer of saying are not in alignment with witnesses' reports. The subordinate shows all the signs of a highly insecure officer who had his feelings hurt. As a result, and knowing that what hurt his feelings could not be used to "get back" at the senior officer, he folded in a toxic stew of unrelated racial accusations based on personal conversations in dispute and a joke from a Mel Brooks movie - none of which offended anyone except the IG.

The Subject is cleared of what is the real issue - but it is the political ones that got him. Yes, it is political.

We have an IG who is trying to survive and do the right thing in a highly politicized environment where anything concerning race is radioactive - regardless on how accurate it is. The results speak for themselves.

No one could survive a dragnet like this. No one. This is a very sad tale - not just for the subject of the IG, but for our Navy - and specifically those on the STENNIS who are still serving under the Complainant; someone whose character we know a lot more about now than we do about the Subject.

Like I said over the weekend, Karma is a b1tch. Complainant, take note.

Those junior, ponder a few special lessons so you don't inadvertently give those who would do you harm weapons to use against you.
1. Trust no one. Contrary opinion and/or statement of fact is now punishable.
2. Put nothing in an email or paper that an IG can get hold of that is not official in nature.
3. Get an account. Use broad brushes. ABW; Anything But White. Don't worry about being untruthful; race/ethnicity is just a construct of the mind - just look at Hispanic from Afro-Cuban to Chilean Germans.

Finally, a point for those who love our Navy;
1. At every point where you can do so without leaving fingerprints or getting yourself in trouble; undermine the (D)iversity machine that is now not just being used just to build up some at the expense of others - but to destroy through denouncement. Introduce errors in to their metrics. Listen respectfully but do not act where you have the option. Slow roll, avoid, re-direct. Keep evidence, names, numbers, images of slides of those things you can being used by those who are abusing the system for their own agenda. This system is not fighting fair, prepare to defend yourself. Wrong but lawful is still wrong. If you cannot act, help those who can. Help those who are being abused by the system - help hold accountable those who are using the system to abuse others and for their own gain.

Our Navy is better than this; our Sailors deserve better than this.


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