The Navy’s surface warfare community is weighed with a culture that values administrative chores over training to fight, ship commanders that are micromanaged and an aversion to risk, according to a new survey overseen by a retired Navy admiral and Marine general at the behest of a group of Republican lawmakers. That culture was at least partially responsible for a string “of high-profile and damaging operational failures in the Navy’s Surface Warfare community,” the report found.
The study, titled “A Report on the Fighting Culture of the United States Navy Surface Fleet,” surveyed 77 current and recently retired surface sailors “about their insights into the culture of the United States” and how it related to incidents that included the 2017 fatal collisions in the Western Pacific that killed 17 sailors, the 2016 incident in which the crews of two Navy patrol boats were captured by Iranian forces in the Persian Gulf and the pier-side fire that resulted in the total loss of the former amphibious warship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6).
“When asked whether incidents such as the two destroyer collisions in the Pacific, the surrender of a small craft to the IRGC in the [Persian] Gulf, the burning of the Bonhomme Richard and other incidents were part of a broader cultural or leadership problem in the Navy, 94 percent of interviewees responded ‘yes’,” reads the report. Fifty-five percent said there was a direct connection between leadership, culture and the incidents.
The study – sponsored by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) – was conducted by retired Marine Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle and retired Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, without the direct participation of the Navy and was released a day ahead of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s confirmation hearing for Navy Secretary nominee Carlos Del Toro and a year after the Bonhomme Richard fire.