Navy Worried Sailors Quitting ‘Faster Than They Can Be Fired’

WASHINGTON — In an interview with the Naval Institute’s web site last month, Vice Adm. Bill Moran, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education, suggested the Navy is puzzled and worried by the current exodus of sailors, particularly senior NCOs and field-grade officers.

“They are leaving faster than we can fire them, “ Moran told USNI. “It's creating a real gap in leadership for us. We can’t lose confidence in them, and shove them into an indefinite purgatory of indecision before ignominiously cashiering them as a warning to junior sailors if they are getting out while they still have clean records.”

Moran said that this “puzzling” trend is different from previous times senior leaders left the Navy in droves. In the early 1990s, for instance, the so-called “peace dividend” that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union coincided with what Moran called “a tremendous witch hunt” led by California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi in 1992. Pelosi's efforts came in response to allegations of sexual impropriety and assault at the 1991 Tailhook Convention, held by Naval aviators in Las Vegas.

“There aren’t any Nancy Pelosis demanding scalps today,” Moran noted. Moran, himself a former P-3 pilot who was a Lt. Cmdr. at the time, claims he was “in Antarctica, or maybe Africa, but definitely not staying on the 4th floor of the Las Vegas Hilton.”

Moran told USNI that today’s problem leads to a loss of “institutional memory.”

“If we can’t break today’s leaders on the wheel of political correctness, that’s a real loss for Navy tradition,” he said. “Senior petty officers start to think, ‘Well, maybe I ought to make a titty movie with a hidden camera in the female officers’ shower. That would probably be okay.’ Or, ‘Hey! Why don’t I recommend an honorary rank for an entertainer and former sailor, without bothering to Google the guy, and find out he’s possibly a rapist.’”

Instead, Moran noted, the Navy’s current crop of leaders in waiting are heading for the exits in droves, with clean service records, leaving no lessons behind for the junior sailors who lack options in the civilian world.

“I was reviewing jackets today, and I honestly don’t have a clue whom to recommend for USS Cowpens, just to take one example,” Moran said. "I have made ships hang signs on the quarterdeck, saying 'X Days without a relief for cause!' but that hasn't really helped."

“Maybe we’ll have to start assigning a lot of these [rear admiral] lower halves and give them ships,” he added, appearing to think out loud. “We can thin their ranks a little while still being able to say, ‘Here endeth the lesson.’”