Oleg Zabluda's blog
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Red Over Red, The Failure Of U.S. Navy Leadership
Red Over Red, The Failure Of U.S. Navy Leadership
By Captain John Konrad (gCaptain) Last week the Secretary of the U.S. Navy released a 41 page inquiry report on the “Deaths of Seven Sailors Aboard The USS Fitzgerald” alongside comments from the Navy leadership which fail to discuss the cause of the tragedy and blames both vessels for exhibiting “poor seamanship” in the moments leading up to the collision. The inquiry continues with damage photos, diagrams, an emotionally heart wrenching narrative and overwhelming praise for the damage control efforts of (mostly) enlisted sailors among her crew.

The question is… why was this document released and to what benefit? The answer is that this document was written and released for one primary purpose: Public Relations.

Decades ago each major media outlet had dock reporters; journalists who wrote exclusively on maritime affairs and had an extensive list of high level maritime contacts as well as a working knowledge of ships. Today I only know of one journalist with this background, Carl Nolte of the San Francisco Chronicle. All the rest are generalists who are too easily confused by complicated facts and too susceptible to emotional triggers. As Ryan Holiday, author of “Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator” says in this bestselling book… “today’s most effective public relations firms oversimplify facts and compensate by giving the public what it craves: an emotionally compelling story.”

The US Navy’s “Deaths of Seven Sailors Aboard The USS Fitzgerald” is just that, the vapid telling of a story about a few brave and honorable sailors fighting floods, destruction and death itself with a cursory acknowledgement of fault. It does nothing to prevent future collisions at sea and everything to send the message to the fleet that mistakes will not be tolerated and junior officers will be punished.

As a work of fiction it would be praised for pitting man against machine and for well painted characters – with strong wills and moral courage – placed in extraordinary circumstances to save the lives of shipmates and friends. But this is not a work of fiction or, at least, it is not supposed to be. It is supposed to be a preliminary investigation report filled with hard facts and harder questions that remain unanswered. This report contains very little of either.

I have no doubt that the ad hominem attacks directed at myself and gCaptain from US military personnel will continue. Like the report, they are devoid of meaning and attempt to engage the emotions. I will not apologize. No one should apologize for being right. Also unlikely is that I will ever apologize for saying this: the Navy has blamed the wrong people.
The U.S. Navy has experienced four major failures in navigation this year alone. The men who are cumulatively responsible for these incidents are the same men who are responsible for other troublesome oversights, like the widespread and pervading ignorance of US Naval Officers as to how merchant ships operate at sea [1]. These men have not been called to face “administrative punishment”. At the very least they include Adm. John Richardson, Adm. Bill Moran, Admiral Scott Swift and, the author of the Damage Control Inquiry, Rear Adm. Charles Williams.


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