Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Why Tom was wrong not to take this Navy skipper’s screw-up more seriously

The other day I said I expressed some sympathy for the Navy captain, the skipper of the USS Enterprise, who made stupid videos. Since then I have been persuaded that the guy should have been fired, rather than reprimanded, because a top leader shouldn’t be doing frat-boy stuff. Now comes "Sam Kotlin," a veteran Navy ...

U.S. Navy
U.S. Navy
U.S. Navy

The other day I said I expressed some sympathy for the Navy captain, the skipper of the USS Enterprise, who made stupid videos. Since then I have been persuaded that the guy should have been fired, rather than reprimanded, because a top leader shouldn't be doing frat-boy stuff. Now comes "Sam Kotlin," a veteran Navy skipper, to explain why I should have taken it even more seriously than that. Reading this note over, I think he is right.

This is gonna rattle around awhile.

IMHO, the case against the Navy has four charges:

The other day I said I expressed some sympathy for the Navy captain, the skipper of the USS Enterprise, who made stupid videos. Since then I have been persuaded that the guy should have been fired, rather than reprimanded, because a top leader shouldn’t be doing frat-boy stuff. Now comes "Sam Kotlin," a veteran Navy skipper, to explain why I should have taken it even more seriously than that. Reading this note over, I think he is right.

This is gonna rattle around awhile.

IMHO, the case against the Navy has four charges:

1. The atrocious judgment and manifest egomania of XO Honors.
2.
The failure of his boss and his boss’s boss to put a permanent end to the videos after the very first one was aired. ‘Didn’t know?’ BS. Supposed to know, couldn’t avoid knowing. By not judging this first evidence of impending doom to be unacceptable they made it acceptable.
3.
The hopeless effort to contain the damage with that first disastrous press release last weekend, adding an air of cover-up to the Navy’s list of woe and another data point on Honors’ poor judgment.
4.
Most seriously, the abusive and derisive tone of the videos towards other shipmates. An XO is supposed to protect his people. Honors ridiculed them and made it much easier for others to do likewise. For this alone I judge him guilty of conduct unbecoming, abuse of authority, and dereliction of duty.

Tom again: I accept the instruction gratefully and go forward hoping to do better next time.

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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