Moran’s Defenstration: A Scathing Critique On Navy, & Senior Civilian Pentagon Leadership – Or, The Lack Thereof

Monday, July 08, 2019

Moran’s Defenestration

Back in May, in a rare set up for a smooth transition in an administration characterized by “acting” officials, gapped billets, backlogged confirmations, and general staffing disarray, Admiral Moran was confirmed by the Senate to be the next CNO once Admiral Richardson’s term ended.

And then last night, news broke that he is resigning after 38-years of service.

That is the “what” but not the “so what.” Here’s the “so what.”

What happened has laid bare a deep, structural rot in our Navy that I am not sure … no, I am sure … cannot and will not be fixed with the present civilian leadership we have. As a matter of fact, they are encouraging the rot they were – as part of the present administration’s charter – sent to repair.

Let’s dive in and review the wave tops. I’ve gone through a few drafts over the last 12-hrs after some raging over on twitter, but have waited for more information to come out this AM. The core issues remain the same, so let’s run with them.

First, ignore the conjecture. Ignore the conspiracies (though there is a non-zero chance of all too normal undermining at the 4-star level). Ignore the usual suspects who are pounding on the same little tin-drum agenda they always pound on. This is very simple.

What has happened is another scalp has been handed by those who hold power to the unaccountable Star Chamber and their unsurvivable witch hunts. We have at the highest levels, non-resilient power with clay feet where titanium moral courage is needed.

The signal it sends to our Navy is cancerous and destructive to the very foundations of our service culture – or what is left of it.

Let’s go to the facts with the following assumption; words mean things. Another assumption; SECNAV Spencer and Admiral Moran are saying exactly what happened. If not, there are larger issues. I will give them the benefit of the doubt as on whole they are both good and honorable men.

First, as reported by Sam LaGrone, SECNAV Spencer;

Adm. Bill Moran recently brought to my attention that over the past two years he maintained a professional relationship with an individual who was held accountable and counseled for failing to meet the values and standards of the Naval profession. While I admire his faithful service and commitment to the Navy, this decision on his part to maintain that relationship has caused me to call his judgment into question. Therefore, today I accepted Adm. Moran’s request to retire.

The current Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, will remain the CNO. I will make my recommendation for a new CNO candidate to the Acting Secretary of Defense.

I have a strong vision for the Department of the Navy — one that includes trust among Sailors, Marines, and Civilians and an urgent resolve by all to live up to the nation’s high standards for our Navy and Marine Corps. Department leadership must reflect that vision, and there must be no doubt we are wholly committed to ensuring a culture and work environment where every person is treated with dignity and respect and free from hostile behavior of any kind.

Adm. Bill Moran has served this country honorably for decades. I am grateful for the years of dedicated service by him and his family.

Now Admiral Moran:

I informed the Secretary of the Navy today that I have decided to decline my appointment as the next Chief of Naval Operations. He has expressed his support.

I made this difficult decision based on an open investigation into the nature of some of my personal email correspondence over the past couple of years and for continuing to maintain a professional relationship with a former staff officer, now retired, who had while in uniform been investigated and held accountable over allegations of inappropriate behavior.

To be clear, my decision to maintain this relationship was in no way an endorsement or tacit approval of this kind of conduct. I understand how toxic it can be to any team when inappropriate behavior goes unrecognized and unchecked. Every Sailor is entitled to serve in an environment free of harassment or intimidation.

As painful as it is to submit my request to retire, I will not be an impediment whatsoever to the important service that you and your families continue to render the nation every day.

I believe in the institution. And I believe I am doing right by it.

Serving in the United States Navy has been a high honor and privilege. For over 38 years, I have drawn so much satisfaction from that service and nothing has made me more proud than to have been a United States Sailor.

I thank President Trump and Secretary Spencer for the opportunity they gave me, and I deeply regret any inconvenience my decision causes them.

So, the core issue here goes back to Chris Servello. If you don’t know the background of the “Naughty Santa” kerfuffle, I’ll let you google it. No CM, not even NJP, just another IG Star Chamber exercise of professional destruction.

This is now the go-nogo point for CNO? Really?

What did Moran do? He worked with a subordinate on and off for over a decade. They had a mentor/mentoree relationship as our Navy has encouraged people to do for decades. As with all long term mentoring relationships, you get to be at least close acquaintances, if not friends. That is how normal humans work.

Mentoring relationships can only properly function if there is a high degree of trust and a feeling of two-way loyalty. Again, this is how normal, healthy relationships work. Part of being a mentor is being there to provide advice and counsel through the good times and the bad. To work through rough patches and plan for a successful path through milestones and obstacles that life will always put in your personal and professional life.

You also need steadfastness. Steadfastness should come naturally to normal, healthy relationships, but it can be difficult for some as life brings enough challenges on its own – to bring the problems of those you mentor just adds to the load you are carrying. It takes men and women of character, and dare I say virtue, to be steadfast with those they mentor when they run in to tough times.

On the other side, there is a not well hidden sickness in our Navy that may be worse than in the general population due to how close you can get to people in the pressure cooker 24/7/365 that is the military; abandonment.

You will never find out faster the character of those you call acquaintances and friends than when you find yourself in any kind of scandal. At the first gust of crisis, the thin, hollow, and poorly anchored are the first to disappear. As the gale increases, more and more break away until sometimes you are alone. Being alone as the world around you swirls out of control is a nightmarish place. If you are the cause of the chaos, it is easy to fall in to self-pity at best, life-threatening depression at worse.

If when you are at your lowest, there are those who are standing there ready to help you recover, then you are a blessed person. They will be the supports that help you and those who count on you to recover and move on. They are the ones that have demonstrated character and are an example of the best personal loyalty has to offer.
By standing with you to help, they do not necessarily ignore or condone what you may have done – what they do is recognize your humanity and the fact that, like them, you are an imperfect being in a fallen world.

They know no one is perfect and life is short. What matters most is what we do for those who need us – especially those who feel they can rely on us in times of trouble.

To abandon those who you led to think could rely on you is a deeply unethical, immoral, and sociopathic act. It goes beyond seeing people as just objects to be used, it places “you” at the center of the universe and your personal comfort and ambition at the center of all you do.

Is that what we want to reward as a Navy? Is that what we want to promote in our leaders? If so, then if the present justifications stand, that is exactly what we are doing.

All Moran did here was to keep in touch with a mentoree who had a very human moment of weakness around the wrong people at the wrong time. That empathy and, yes, loyalty, is what we want in our leaders. If not, we will quickly distill nothing but a leadership that is a carnival of grotesques thoroughly populated with sociopaths, high-functioning autists, and the slippery, calculating types whose drive to power will be littered with destroyed careers, cratering retention, and an abundance of leaks when advantageous to themselves or the agendas they approve of.

For officers of character like Moran, what does it signal? I think Moran tells us; leave. This is an organization that does not desire men and women of character who see their Sailors as people, not objects; who see people has imperfect being of value, not useful block in building temples to their own ambition; who see service to nation as a driver, not using the nation to serve their rapacious egos and feed deep insecurities.

At this moment in time, what has our Navy lost? We have lost one of the most anticipated leaders rising to CNO I have seen in my adult life.

Moran was the right man at the right time for CNO. Full stop.

As we go in to the Terrible 20s where budgetary knowledge will by key in getting the most of every dime after two lost decades of acquisition malpractice, the Flag Officer who knows the budget process better than any is gone. A 38-years investment in leadership development, gone. A good man who cares about Sailors and the long term health of our Navy, gone.

Worse, a message to our fleet is clear and bright; we want sociopaths. Mentoring is only transactional.

We have punished virtue and will reap a bitter harvest.

Lastly, I have to say the advice I took myself and told anyone who would listen after Tailhook holds true.
1. Never live on base.
2. There is no such thing as a Navy social event, they are work events.
3. Never have more than 1-drink per hour at a Navy social event. Better yet, only have one drink, none if you can.
4. Show up on time and leave early.
5. When deployed, be exceptionally careful who is on your liberty crew. The smaller the better, and if possible, if you are a male do not include a female who has a DOD ID. If you have a female on your liberty crew, see #2-4 above and perform a filtering iteration of this bullet. Spin off a single sex sub-group NLT 2100 or two drinks, whichever comes first.

As for mentoring? Do the right thing, and if things go sideways – let others publish and be damned.

Who knows, perhaps you will work for someone who is willing to look the harpy commissariat in the face and tell them to pack sand. Perhaps when it is your time in the barrel, you will have the support by your superiors that you would give to your subordinates. It is a gamble, but one at the end of the day you can look yourself in the mirror and be content with.

I am willing to make this bet; Admiral Moran will have no problem looking himself in the mirror in the AM. He did the right thing. Chris should not feel bad, he’s gone through enough and this isn’t on him in the slightest.

There are a lot of people who should be haunted by shame, and if they are not, then those who know them need to be aware of the type of person they are working with and act accordingly.

What a waste. What a huge loss for our Navy. What a huge loss for our nation.

Pray for peace, as I don’t see this type of institutional character having what is needed for war.

One comment

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