Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Sub trouble

A former attack sub officer alleges that cheating on qualification exams is widespread in the submarine force. Indeed, Christopher Brownfield writes, it is almost enforced by other officers: My fellow officers were surprised by my failure, and wondered aloud why I hadn’t used the "study guide." When my second exam arrived, so did the so-called ...

history.navy.mil

A former attack sub officer alleges that cheating on qualification exams is widespread in the submarine force. Indeed, Christopher Brownfield writes, it is almost enforced by other officers:

My fellow officers were surprised by my failure, and wondered aloud why I hadn't used the "study guide." When my second exam arrived, so did the so-called study guide, which happened to be the answer key for the nuclear qualification exam I was taking. I was furious. Defiantly, I handed back the answer key to the proctor and proceeded to take the exam on my own. I failed again. My boss, the ship's engineer officer, started to document my failures with formal counseling so that he could fire me.

The most competent junior officer on our ship ran to my rescue, confiding that none of the other officers had passed the exam legitimately; the exam was just an administrative check-off. "Swallow your pride," he told me, and just get it done.

A former attack sub officer alleges that cheating on qualification exams is widespread in the submarine force. Indeed, Christopher Brownfield writes, it is almost enforced by other officers:

My fellow officers were surprised by my failure, and wondered aloud why I hadn’t used the "study guide." When my second exam arrived, so did the so-called study guide, which happened to be the answer key for the nuclear qualification exam I was taking. I was furious. Defiantly, I handed back the answer key to the proctor and proceeded to take the exam on my own. I failed again. My boss, the ship’s engineer officer, started to document my failures with formal counseling so that he could fire me.

The most competent junior officer on our ship ran to my rescue, confiding that none of the other officers had passed the exam legitimately; the exam was just an administrative check-off. "Swallow your pride," he told me, and just get it done.

This does make me wonder why Defense Secretary Robert Gates has come down so hard on the Air Force for missteps with nuclear weapons, but doesn’t appear to have touched the Navy on this issue. 

Bonus: Brownfield apparently went from a submarine to a similar environment, Baghdad’s Green Zone, where he prepared the daily briefing on the Iraqi electricity grid.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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