Now Hear this - Admirals (and Generals) For Life

By Vice Admiral Doug Crowder, U.S. Navy (Retired)

In my mind, the Crowe endorsement opened the floodgates for future retired flag and general officer political endorsements. Retired Commandant of the Marine Corps General P. X. Kelley made public endorsements for President George W. Bush in 2004. Retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General John Shalikashvili spoke at the 2004 Democratic Convention. But by the 2012 presidential campaign we reached a new high (or perhaps low) point, as opposing candidates started referring to the number of retired generals and admirals on their teams, including a full-page advertisement in the Washington Times , listing the well over 300 retired flag and general officers who “Proudly support Governor Mitt Romney as our nation’s next President and Commander-in-Chief.” What’s the issue here? Aren’t retired admirals and generals allowed to publicly endorse presidential candidates? In short, yes we are allowed. But should we? I think not.

We are not merely private citizens after retirement. A colleague once told me that when you are elevated to flag rank in the armed forces, you are an “admiral for life.” I for one do not mind that moniker, but we cannot be so just some of the time . It is difficult for the public to discern the difference between when we are admirals (and generals) and when we are acting purely as private citizens.

As the 2016 election approaches, I humbly propose that we retired flags stay on the sidelines and away from public endorsements of presidential candidates. I fully understand we have the right to participate in these campaigns, but I am convinced it is not the right thing for the country. This plea is not meant to criticize any retired admirals or generals who have made such endorsements in the past. I merely ask that all of us consider the larger ramifications of doing so and settle for being admirals (and generals) for life.

Vice Admiral Crowder is president of Crowder Strategies & Solutions LLC. He retired from the Navy in 2010 after a long and distinguished career, his final assignment being Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans, and Strategy. He served in several command capacities at sea and was Commander, 7th Fleet.




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