Damning report on Naval readiness reveals lack of attention paid to training warfighting skills

President Joe Biden and his top Cabinet officials, including top Defense Department leaders, often seem far too preoccupied with fighting cultural wars instead of preparing for an actual physical shooting war.

That perception sadly appears to be the case for the U.S. Navy, according to a damning new report written by two retired naval officers at the behest of several members of Congress, The Daily Wire reported.

Those members of Congress included Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Reps. Jim Banks (R-IN), Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), and Mike Gallagher (R-WI), and they wanted to know, in light of several recent high-profile accidents and incidents, whether the Navy’s surface fleet was truly prepared and ready for a major military conflict that might arise.

Navy’s “morale and readiness” negatively impacted by cultural and structural issues

The 23-page report, the result of numerous long-form interviews with active-duty and retired service members ranging from newly enlisted to high-ranking officers, was written by Ret. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle and Ret. Navy Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery.

“There was a broad consensus across interviewees on numerous cultural and structural issues that impact the morale and readiness of the Navy’s surface force,” the authors concluded.

Culturally, that included “insufficient focus on warfighting skills;” a “zero-defect mentality” in terms of mistakes; “micromanagement” of ship captains and officers by senior leaders; and “over-sensitivity and responsiveness” to the modern media. Structurally, the problems included a lack of resources or consistency with training programs and an “underwhelming commitment” to ship maintenance.

Too much attention to diversity training, not enough on warfighting skills

Arguably the “most concerning and consistent” issue raised in the interviews was an increasing lack of focus on sharpening warfighting skills and an increasingly inordinate amount of time and resources spent on non-combat training, particularly with a focus on so-called “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” or DEI, according to The Daily Wire.

A recent destroyer captain explained in an interview that it truly showed where the Navy’s priorities were, and said, “We’ve got so many messages about X, Y, Z appreciation month, or sexual assault prevention, or you name it. We don’t even have close to that same level of emphasis on actual warfighting.”

“Sometimes I think we care more about whether we have enough diversity officers than if we’ll survive a fight with the Chinese navy,” an active-duty lieutenant said. “It’s criminal. They think my only value is as a black woman. But you cut our ship open with a missile and we’ll all bleed the same color.”

Lack of training, media focus, micromanagement, poor maintenance

Meanwhile, interviewees also lamented how even small mistakes made could suddenly end a career, in part due to a sharp focus by commanders and senior leaders on what the media may or may not say, which was also a factor in complaints about “micromanagement” from senior leaders and a “risk-averse” culture that had sapped all of the boldness and innovation from sailors and junior officers.

Then there is the fact that both ship maintenance and combat training had been under-resourced and deprioritized, that when combined with some of the other issues mentioned above, would likely result in ships and crews that would be ill-prepared for an actual combat situation or sustained conflict.

In an interview with Fox News, Montgomery stressed that his one piece of advice for the Navy was to “focus on warfighting” with “proper investments” in both sailors’ time and taxpayer money. “The sailors’ time is in warfighting, not briefings,” he said. “The government’s money is in high-end simulations and in the maintenance of the ships.”

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