On the 100th anniversary of the creation of the rank of chief petty officer, then-Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Frank B. Kelso II said that “In the United States Navy, the title ‘Chief Petty Officer’ carries with it responsibilities and privileges no other armed force in the world grants enlisted people.” Today, the Navy Chief Petty Officers’ Mess (CPO Mess) continues to be lauded as a vital component to mission success. Recent (and not so recent) criticism abounds, suggesting that counterproductive influences are impacting the technical focus and authority of our Navy-wide CPO Mess. I have heard concern from officers and enlisted leaders cautioning a “hollowing” of the CPO Mess—i.e., that we have become “a mile wide and an inch deep” with regard to our technical expertise and focus.
Concerns over the state of the CPO Mess are neither without precedent, nor are calls for analysis of it. Several factors could be influencing the focus of the mess, and it is important to consider the potential (or actual) impacts these have on the Navy’s overall readiness for war.