Addressing the US navy on 6 October, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson focused on the results of the operational pause ordered after two fatal collisions in the Western Pacific that resulted in the death of 17 sailors.
As he explained, the immediate goal of the pause for the US navy was to ensure that all appropriate measures are taken to enhance the Navy’s safe and effective operations and to make corrections where required, with focus on operational risk management.
In particular, CNO Richardson said that it is vital to continue to stress to commanders the span of their ownership of their commands, and their essential responsibility to make their teams stronger and ready for their mission. This must be done in a way that:
- reaches and maintains high standards of expertise in operations and warfighting
- does so in a way that is sustainable at the team and individual level of performance
“While there is more to follow soon on those important matters, it is clear now that a center of gravity for our immediate efforts going forward must be to enhance the role of small teams and their leaders. When I hear about problems like persistent lack of sleep, consistently long work hours in port, problems in basic watchstanding, and more, it’s clear to me that much of the fix is with our junior leaders. They can control so much if we give them clear guidance, responsibility, authority, and accountability allow them to own their situations.”
The biggest challenges and opportunities for improvement are at this scale of the command, Mr CNO Richardson said, underlying that an astute and well-trained division officer and chief will ensure that their teams are trained, certified, well rested, respectful, and ready to go.
“In too many cases, we have stolen leadership opportunities away from our small team leaders; we’ve used a slide show instead of leadership by personal engagement. We have robbed our junior leaders of the ownership they so crave. We have smothered their initiative. We need to give it back – its why they joined the Navy.”
Concluding, CNO Richardson suggested that through example, teaching, and engagement, the navy must produce leaders and teams who learn and adapt to achieve maximum possible performance for combating incidents at sea.
“The responsibility of the Commanding Officer to his or her command is absolute…The Commanding Officer or his and her subordinates shall exercise leadership through personal example, moral responsibility, and judicious attention to the welfare of persons under their control or supervision.”