The Washington Times
“Ethics and the Next Century's Navy”
RADM Ned Hogan, USN (Ret.)
USNA Class 1954
28 November 1999
"The Navy is building its 21st Century surface combatants and carriers with full obstetric and gynecological provisions and with accompanying day care centers ashore. This is wrong, devoid of moral motivation and without an ethical compass."
Ethics and the Next Century's Navy
The January-February issue of Shipmate contained an interesting juxtaposition of disparate views on Ethics at the Naval Academy; ranging from Bud Edney's leadership testimony, Professor Aine Donovan's case for ethics education, and a now controversial essay written by a student at the Academy. The essay, titled "Lessons Learned From Tailhook," shows the type of ethics taught at the Academy. Mr. Edney counseled "that you must act on what you discern to be wrong, even at personal cost...And, finally, must openly justify your actions as required to meet the test of right and wrong."
This prompted me to write the following commentary. I feel obligated as a citizen, Academy alumnus and a naval person to comment on what I consider to be wrong. The hope is publicly speaking out will prompt corrective action and result in a better Navy. Miss Donovan's exposition makes sense and her conclusion that, over the years, the Academy has made moral leadership an appropriate element of the curriculum, is in tune with her goal to provide today's Midshipmen "an opportunity to reflect on the most important aspect of their education: their moral motivation." Sounds good until you read the award winning essay which must reflect the current Navy and Academy views on ethics.
The essay links Tailhook with the utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill and develops four lessons learned: (1) loyalty to the Constitution, (2) the maintenance of individual accountability, (3) the concept of a continual evaluation of the utility of traditions and, (4) finally, a duty to support all politically mandated changes to the heritage and ethos of the service.
In the essay, Midshipman House espouses the utilitarian concept of a pleasure vs. pain ratio to define appropriate conduct; if it feels good and everyone is happy, then it's OK; and by inference there are no absolutes and all ethical standards are relative. The exposition takes on more the nature of a political manifesto than that of an ethical diagnosis. The essay particularly worries me when it is coupled with the pronouncements of Navy Secretary Richard Danzig in the January issue of The Naval Institute Proceedings. In that issue he says one of his missions is to ensure that, "The values of the civilian world must be incorporated in the military environment and must control that environment." Whose Values and whose ethics?
I have written a number of essays, commentaries and diagnoses on the drift of the Navy into the shoal waters of political correctness. In particular, I have been concerned about the liberal biases of the Ethics faculty at the Academy. The midshipman's essay reflects the success in having the convictions and ethics of the Clinton administration gain prominence at the Academy. That is wrong on principle and I object.
Tailhook shows that politicizing an event and ignoring the chain of command demolishes the concept of accountability. The results of that action moved the judicial process inside the Beltway and resulted in the convening of separate tribunals in the Navy and Marine Corps to prosecute alleged crimes. In the Naval hearings, all cases were dismissed by the presiding judge. At the show-case court-martial, the young black Marine captain identified by LT Paula Coughlin as being one of the assailants, was exonerated and found to not to have been there.
The feminist coalition has used Tailhook to tar the Navy in an attempt to score points in their war against the military culture, so ably detailed by Jim Webb in The Weekly Standard. In their zealousness to gain their version of gender equality, in today's all volunteer force, they have been successful in detailing America's mothers and daughters into Navy combatants in place of American men. This is a concept that Josiah Bunting, Superintendent of Virginia Military Institute, in his new book, "An Education for Our Time," describes as "barbarous to think." The feminists are winning the battle in partnership with the Navy's leadership and have gained their near-term objectives. They have created an environment ripe for disaster should a war at sea occur.
The Navy is building its 21st Century surface combatants and carriers with full obstetric and gynecological provisions and with accompanying day care centers ashore. This is wrong, devoid of moral motivation and without an ethical compass.
Unfortunately we view all this through a lens refracted and distorted by the Clinton - Lewinsky scandal, where ethics and accountability seem irrelevant. And the utilitarian concept, discussed in the essay, has at best an upside-down context where feeling your pain is my pleasure.
The danger of dismantling the Navy's ethos in order to validate the values of the political philosophy currently in vogue is that we make that idea sovereign to the theme of loyalty to the Constitution and the military tradition of Duty, Honor, Country. This is wrong and has no place in America.
I urge all fellow alumni to take a hard look at this issue and speak publicly on ethics at the Academy. Whose ethics and values currently provide the moral motivation at the Naval Academy? Bill Clinton's, of course.