From the Deckplates - Earn Back the Trust and Reconsider the Model

By Senior Chief Jim Murphy, U.S. Navy, Retired

Along with delivering the reprimands, Secretary Mabus made an unconditional statement regarding his expectations of senior officers: “All Navy officers, particularly our senior leadership in positions of unique trust and responsibility, must uphold and be held to the highest standards of personal and professional behavior.” Further, Mabus highlighted that some officers had not only exhibited “poor judgment” but also “a failure of leadership.” Every member of the Department of the Navy needs to heed those words. When one of us fails, we must demand defense of the institution based on adherence to the highest standards and honest assessments. This is not new, but a necessary reaffirmation by the senior leader of the service. The first step in rebuilding trust is to give the public and junior Navy personnel reason to believe that this standard will be upheld.

The business model that pervades the Navy must also be questioned. We should not be relying so heavily on for-profit businesses, which sometimes come with unethical leadership of their own. The potential is too great to create situations in which Navy leaders might be tempted, as we have seen. Changing that model might have helped in the Fat Leonard calamity, but it remains the case that a serious breach of leadership is also at issue.

Secretary Mabus’ words should be a warning to reinforce the integrity of officials who might face temptations similar to those involved in the current debacle. Should this happen again, the results will be devastating. This scandal has diminished trust in the Navy among the public, the Congress, and our sailors. Secretary Mabus’ censures are the first vital steps in earning it back. As a second step, we should take a hard look at our outsourcing practices.

Senior Chief Murphy retired from the Navy after 21 years of service. He is a contributing author to Everyday Leader Heroes (Caboodle Books).


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