Acting Navy Secretary Modly has resigned, Tuesday after publicly apologizing for his “profanity-laced” vitrolic attack on the USS T. Roosevelt Captain whom he had relieved. He called the Captain either “stupid” or “naive.” And demonstrated how stupid he (Modly) was.
I’m not saying that Modly was wrong about the ship’s commander. He could have added a few more accurate words: cowardly, oath-breaking, and betraying the faith of his officers and sailors (and Marines) in him. This senior officer panicked. He was a failure in being a leader. He certainly did NOT live up to the standards and traditions of his service. The Navy, and the Navy’s sailors, deserve better. As does the nation.
Yes, he was concerned for the welfare of his men and women. But he failed to balance that welfare with his other duties. In time of war, no one could have trusted him to carry out a mission which involved risk to those same men and women, no matter how critical that mission was. He betrayed his oath, and those he led. And apparently did that for, in part, notoriety. He broke the rules by which he was expected to live. But worse, he broke the rules FOR NO GOOD REASON and for NO EFFECT. Every officer has the duty to “fall on their sword” and break the rules when there is (a) a sound reason and (b) there is some small chance of success. It was not his concern for his people that got him relieved. It was not his planning to evacuate people off the ship. It was his failure to recognize and perform his duties: to protect and defend. And if necessary, to offer up the “last full measure” – whether it was HIS life or health, or that of his entire crew – to carry out his mission.
Given the current dawning understanding of the danger China presents to the world, it is even more a concern.
But Modly is even worse. He may have said that the relieved officer was “either” stupid or naive. Modly publicly demonstrated his stupidity. And betrayed the men and women not just of the USS T. Roosevelt, but ALL of the men and women of the Navy and the Marine Corps. He demonstrated an incredibly stupid response and treated the men and women of the ship and the entire service in an appalling manner.
It wasn’t just his cursing – bad as that kind of example is. He demonstrated his inability to respond appropriately to a bad situation. He treated a man, no matter how bad his actions, in a cavalier and disgusting manner, destroying the trust of those he managed in the same way as the man he condemned. He failed to demonstrate any self-discipline. And finally, he demonstrated his incompetence.
In what is in essence a time of war, both these men demonstrate the low state into which both our “public services” and our military and naval forces have fallen. And what we see in the USS T. Roosevelt incident is just the tip of the iceberg.
My perception, given the last couple of decades, is that the decay is primarily, not exclusively, but primarily at the top. I don’t know if that would be a good thing or a bad thing, top versus below. Yes there are some bad actors below, but given the numbers involved, per capita I think we have been seeing a leadership quite lacking in morality, ethics, and fulfillment of their oath. As a reader of multiple military periodicals, I think there is a lot of seething within senior retirees’ corps — read a couple of issues of The Naval Institute’s magazine, for example, and one might wonder how many more are of like mind but just not into writing and publishing.
Bob, I appreciate your insight. The seething isn’t just within the ranks of senior retirees, or even relatively junior officers. The anger is growing in many who left active duty or were medically retired in the E-5 to E-7 range, and WO to O-4 range. Honestly, the impact of two full decades of corrupt civilian leadership was converted into a similar corruption in the ranks of flag officers. I think you are write: many more of like mind are not into writing and publishing – at least not in the military and naval press. But they ARE talking and writing in the back channels.
It is good to hear that there is at least a core of mid-range dissatisfaction. I was a Chief for the last ten years of my career, all in special duties (’63 – ’93 USAF with some joint work), a span of several presidents and their administrations, and a wide range of policies at that, but it seems to me only the last 20 years or so have had such a radical trend. Hard to figure. Sure, the fiscal aspects in my time were a wide swing, and several personnel policies changed (Zumwalt uniforms and beards, anyone?), but no such decay occurred, at least in my view. I had my time of influencing leadership and it is oh so frustrating to see what has been happening.