Disagreement, debate, candor, and criticism are not just permitted but encouraged within the sea services. However, Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Scheller’s recent relief from command risks giving the appearance that this is not true. Can debate exist when military leaders who challenge policy are immediately cashiered?
Yes, it can—when done professionally. There is a fine line between honest critique and undermining faith in the chain of command. On one side, service members are given wide latitude to vigorously debate policy and practice. On the other, members risk conflating private opinion for official policy, can abuse the privilege of their office, and set bad examples to those they are charged to lead. This issue is simultaneously simple and complex.
- Office of the Secretary of Defense, Department of Defense Directive 5500.7-R, Standards of Conduct (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 2011), 20.
- Office of the Secretary of Defense, Department of Defense Instruction 5230.29, Security and Policy Review of DoD Information for Public Release (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 2014), 6.
- United States Navy, Social Media Handbook (Washington, DC: U.S. Navy, 2019), 4.