Rick Spillman - Does US Navy Can-Do, Never-Say-No Culture Promote Accidents?

Does US Navy Can-Do, Never-Say-No Culture Promote Accidents?

From Old Salt Blog - Links to an article in Stars and Strips Can-do, never-say-no culture undermines Navy readiness, review says

Today’s admirals are generally removed from the realities of ship conditions as compared to previous generations, said Capt. Michael Junge, a military professor at the U.S. Naval War College.

“Once upon a time flag officers, even fleet commanders and CNOs, spent time underway traveling from place to place,” he said. Now they spend more time, especially at the three- and four-star level, in private jets and talking to large groups from a dais, he said.

“Too many of them think the Navy is what they experienced as they moved up the ranks,” he said.

Link to the Balisle Report

There are many problems in the upper ranks and I keep discovering more in my research. Both the army and the navy flag officers ranks are currently embroiled in scandal.

But my personal pet peeve is they, on an individual level, have zero experience with failure of any kind. How could they? If they risked anything in their career, if they did anything out of the ordinary, if they challenged the system or procedures or pushed their ships (not that most of them reached that level working on ships) to the limits in the pursuit of higher goals… Of they did anything that even had a chance to blemish their pristine records then they would have never made flag.

The system promotes people with perfect records and, considering that perfect humans do not exists… it ends up promoting people who are good at avoiding trouble. I can think of a lot of places that could use people like this but these are not the type people we want defending us during war.


Perhaps we should deep-freeze the wartime commanders between wars.

That’s been my observation as well. I saw it when I was in the CG and also later dealing with the military on the commercial cargo side.

Having said that there are a lot of good people in the military.

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Likely so, but very few of those good people will ever get a star.

Very true! But how many of those people have board seats at defense contractors waiting for them after they retire?

There are around 300 admirals in the Navy today (maybe a few less tomorrow as more get caught in the Fat Leonard thing) but in all of WW2 there were only 200. That says something.


True, and obviously if more of the top brass had a clue it would help. But that’s nothing new so it’s likely not something that’s changed that caused recent problems.

Research in defence spending reform was how James Fallows of Atlantic magazine met Col John Boyd. Fallows wrote several articles from meeting Boyd.

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In battle it becomes obvious pretty fast who the better captains and admirals are because the objectives and costs are very clear. During peacetime operations the metrics shift and during prolonged peace they can get pretty far from the ugly realities of war. The USCG and USN higher-ups I’ve run into are certainly very skilled administrators; not sure how they’ed be on a night watch.

When is the last time a US warship was lost in a battle (don’t count the Cole)? The last seizure I remember is the Mayaguez more than 40 years ago, and that was technically a merchant ship.

USS Pueblo and USS Liberty come to mind.

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Has anyone heard of mass resignations recently? How about mini resignations? A few admirals turning in their stars? No? I wonder what the Navy version of “responsibility” is?

While they might be able to make a connection between high workload and less than desired access to the taxpayer’s wallets it does not explain the incredible lack of competence demonstrated by repeated LCS failures.

I was gonna say the USS Stark but it served longer than I thought after being fixed.

And it’s not just the Navy, I recently read that the Army has demoted, disciplined or charged more flag officers than the navy this year.

It’s a sad commentary on the net result of the years of propaganda and mass hero worship designed to reduce public criticism of the military and how the government is using it. Smedley Butler nailed it when he said war is a racket and the only way to end them is to take the profit out of them.

The generals and admirals multiply like a virus, they feed on political fears stoked by defense contractors and institutionalized by a corrupted political system. Butler said “a few profit and the many pay.” What we see today is the result of a self constructed elite such as we haven’t seen since Pershing wasted the lives of more than 4,000 American dead and wounded on the morning of November 11, 1918. “Glory at any cost, by any means” should be carved above the entrance to the Pentagon.

We, the American people, have been force fed the greatest volume of Kool-Aid since the National Socialist leadership of the 1930s made Germany great again. We have been programmed to withhold criticism of anything military, especially its uniformed leadership.

Who are we mere civilians to criticize or even question the actions or suitability of the master of the USS Pinafore or the First Lord of the Pentagon?


You missed the memo. ANY type of criticisms of the military means you don’t support the troops! You know the poor underpaid (check the pay charts, and be sure to include tax-free allowances), over-worked (4day holiday weekends called by the CO), troops that are in danger daily (I think the navy killed more sailors with these two ship collisions than the rest of all operations in 2017), and a horrible family life (free housing and healthcare for family), and the horrible future (pension at 20 years, for the rest of life).

How dare you speak ill of our servicemen and women.

  • Over these three [1980-2010] decades of tracking, 82 servicemembers per 100,000 have died each year to all possible causes
  • However, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq did push the number of combat-related deaths up significantly, to a rate of 27.7 servicemembers per 100,000 per year from 2001 through 2010
  • Logging: 127.8 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2012
  • Fishing: 117.0 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2012
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