CNO Richardson Message on Navy Operational Pause

October 6, 2017 11:59 AM

The following is the Oct. 6, 2017 message from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson to the U.S. Navy on the results of an operational pause ordered after two fatal collisions in the Western Pacific that resulted in the death of 17 sailors.

O R 061450Z OCT 17
MSGID/GENADMIN/CNO WASHINGTON DC/N00/OCT// SUBJ/PERSONAL FOR – OPERATIONAL PAUSE FEEDBACK// RMKS/1. After the JOHN S MCCAIN collision, I ordered an Operational Pause across the Navy. All communities participated. The immediate goal of the pause was to take a break from our mission to ensure we are taking all appropriate measures to enhance the Navys safe and effective operations and to make corrections where required. The effort was to focus on fundamentals and operational risk management, to ensure our teams are reaching and maintaining brilliance in the basics.

2. While feedback from the Operational Pause is still coming in, and we will learn still more from the investigations and from ADM Davidsons Comprehensive Review, it’s very clear that we must continue to stress to our 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

The Comprehensive Review will dig into the details on training and sustainability at every level of command individual, unit, and fleet.

3. 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. My experience is that they will exceed all expectations if given these things. There is so much opportunity for leader development in our squads, divisions, watch teams, and work centers with our junior officers and chiefs.

4. In many cases, our biggest challenges and opportunities for improvement are at this scale of the command. By virtue of piling on meaningless collateral duties and programs that contribute little to operational and warfighting excellence, we have confused these leaders, making it hard for them to see through the chaff and to prioritize the personal and professional development of their people. An astute and well-trained division officer and chief will ensure that their teams are trained, certified, well rested, respectful, and ready to go. Good order and discipline will be manifest throughout the team they will be tough. They are ready to be accountable for this responsibility.

5. 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.

6. My expectation is that commanders will give high priority to developing their junior leaders and teams. No commander can do very wrong if you are training and empowering your junior leaders.

Through example, teaching, and engagement, we must produce leaders and teams who learn and adapt to achieve maximum possible performance for prompt and sustained combat incident to operations at sea. It’s the only right thing to do.

7. From the inception of our Navy 242 years ago, the duties and responsibilities as Commanding Officers and leaders have remained consistent. It is our commitment to these foundational obligations that have allowed the United States Navy to triumph at sea. By focusing on the fundamentals, we will emerge a stronger and more lethal Navy.

“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.”

These requirements are our heritage and our pact to our Sailors.
We must commit these words to heart, and be ready to sail over the horizon and into harms way.

8. CNO sends.//

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
Follow @samlagrone

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