Monday, August 08, 2011

Another One Bites the Dust

The Navy has fired yet another commanding officer. For those keeping score at home, that makes 16 so far this year, with more than four months left to go.

Commander Robert Brown, the skipper of Beachmaster Unit 2, was dismissed last Friday after senior Navy officials lost confidence in his ability to lead. Brown, who has been reassigned to administrative duties at the Little Creek (VA) Amphibious Base, is facing allegations that he misused government resources and disposed of them improperly. (H/T: I Like the Cut of His Jib).

The Navy's firing spree has generated a fair amount of buzz in military circles. Some observers wonder if the naval service isn't doing a proper job in screening future commanders, while others wonder if the bar is being set too high.

From our perspective, we think the Navy deserves kudos. No one wants to see a commander officer relieved of his duties, but there is a little thing called accountability. If commanders aren't up to the task (or fail to meet legal or behavioral standards), they deserve to be fired, pure and simple.

Sadly, it's a concept that seems a bit lost on the Air Force. Our old branch has allowed too many miscreants and criminals to remain in the ranks (paging Major Metzger and Major General Eidsaune), while others slithered out of the service with pension and benefits intact, despite admissions of major misconduct. That list includes such luminaries as Major General ("Spooning With My Female Subordinates") Fiscus; Brigadier General "Foot Fetish" Hassan, and Colonel (I Don't Need a Law License to be a JAG) Michael Murphy. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Want a few more? How about Major General Stephen ("Give the Thundervision Contract to My Buddies) Goldfein, or the former Chief of Staff, General Mike Moseley, who spent a weekend at the home of CEO of the firm that won that contract. Then, there's the recently retired Colonel Jeff Smiley of the Alabama National Guard, who used his F-16 for personal trips and received almost $100,000 in unauthorized compensation. And, there's former CMSgt William Gurney, who engaged in improper relationships with various female subordinates and even engaged "swinging" encounters with some of the women and his wife.

Among those enshrined in this "Hall of Shame" only Gurney and Murphy were court-martialed, and only Gurney received a bad-conduct discharge. Murphy, as we've chronicled before, was retired as a First Lieutenant--the last grade at which he honorably served. This period of honorable service covered less than 36 months of a 27-year military career.

And the Air Force keeps wondering why it has leadership issues. Maybe it's time to take a page from the Navy playbook and get rid of these problems before they fester. There were warning signs about Fiscus, Hassan, Murphy, Smiley and Gurney long before their cases erupted into public scandal. Naturally, the danger signals were conveniently ignored, until it was too late.

This is not to say that the USAF leadership is rotten to the core, or it casts a totally blind eye to incompetence and corruption. That's hardly the case; the vast majority of Air Force leaders are competent, ethical men and women who perform admirably. Unfortunately, their reputation, (along with the rest of the service) is tarnished by the actions of a few. And, the cycle will keep repeating itself until the service gives more than lip service to the issue of senior leader accountability.

Consider this: if Commander Brown was Lieutenant Colonel Brown, in charge of an Air Force squadron, would he still be a commanding officer?

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