View Full Version : Leadership Failure at Naval Academy

06-30-03, 06:19 AM

Leadership Failure at Naval Academy

By Matthew Dodd

By now, most readers are at least somewhat aware that Vice Admiral Richard J. Naughton, the U.S. Naval Academy’s 57th superintendent in its 158-year history, resigned from his post on June 3 after just 361 days in that job. What brought about this sudden and unexpected event was the release of an Office of the Naval Inspector General (IG) investigative report that was dated April 3.

An eight-page written complaint submitted by an unidentified academy employee, personally delivered to the deputy inspector general on Feb. 24, started the investigative process. Two days later, the IG initiated an investigation of Naughton’s overall leadership style and a Dec. 31 incident with a Marine sentry at Gate 3 in Annaplois, Md.

Let me summarize what I read in a copy of the signed April 3 report obtained by DefenseWatch…

Naughton, in civilian clothes, was returning to Gate 3 at the academy with two friends a little after 7:00 p.m. Naughton held out his identification card as he approached the guard shack. The Marine sentry did not recognize Naughton, so the Marine took Naughton’s card to get a better look. Naughton reached out his other hand, grabbed the Marine’s hand, shoved his card in the Marine’s face, and said, “Look, Marine, look, Marine,” in a loud voice.

Threatened by Naughton’s unexpected and unprofessional demeanor, the Marine stepped back, assumed a defensive stance per his sentry training, put one hand on his pepper spray canister, and his other hand on his handcuffs. The Marine ordered Naughton to step back. Naughton held his ground. The Marine asked a corporal to call the Sergeant-of-the-Guard. Naughton demanded to speak to the sentry’s commanding officer, and said that he did not want to talk to the Sergeant-of-the- Guard. Upon the arrival of the Sergeant-of-the-Guard, order was restored at Gate 3 and Naughton went to his quarters.

According to the report, when the Marine finally got a chance to read the card and saw that the man was a vice admiral, he thought to himself, “Wow, I’m in trouble.” The Marine was right. About an hour after the incident, the Marine’s commanding officer visited Naughton at his quarters. The officer described Naughton as angry and shouting at him. Naughton directed the officer: “Now, this is what you’re going to do. You’re going to relieve that Marine. He is never to step foot on the Naval Academy again, and you’re going to send him back to Marine Barracks Washington.” The officer carried out those instructions.

Upon learning that his sentry’s arm was grabbed by Naughton, the officer concluded that the sentry’s initial reactions were appropriate: physically taking an identification card to examine, assuming a defensive posture after being touched by an individual he did not recognize, issuing orders to the provocative individual to regain control of the situation, and reporting the incident through his chain-of-command to the Sergeant-of-the-Guard. The officer did fault the Marine for lacking the presence of mind to return Naughton’s card and to let him pass through the gate once he realized Naughton was a vice admiral, and for waiting for the Sergeant-of-the-Guard to arrive to finally resolve the matter.

The IG report concluded that Naughton grabbed the Marine’s hand, and in doing so he violated Article 128 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, assault upon a sentinel.

The term “bully” is defined in a dictionary as, “a person who hurts or browbeats (intimidates with harsh, stern looks and talk) those who are weaker.” The term “rank bully” is defined by me as, “an arrogant person who, in the presence of those junior in rank, title, or position to himself/herself, uses the authority of that senior rank, title, or position to: make unrealistic demands upon those juniors, expect instant and unquestioned obedience to all requests and orders, and knowingly try to circumvent the very same rules and regulations that are inviolable to and strictly enforced upon juniors.

I believe it is sad and ironic that the young Marine, with probably less than a year of service, could teach the old admiral, with 35 years of service, a few things about military bearing and maintaining a professional presence of mind. I would like to shake that Marine’s hand for having the moral and physical courage to stand up to a rank bully. He is the kind of Marine I would want providing security for me.

After reading the details of this confrontation, I was reminded of a humorous anecdote that I heard years ago…

A few years back one the new Marines at the barracks at Yorktown, VA was standing post at the main gate of the Naval Weapons Station. The policy was to check all identification cards, including military in uniform.

A Navy sedan drove up to the gate with a young seaman at the wheel and an admiral sitting in the back. The young Marine signaled for the car to stop, approached the driver, and asked to see both identification cards. The admiral told the Marine that he was on his way to meet with the station commanding officer and didn't have time for such nonsense.

Admiral to driver: "Go ahead."

Marine to driver: "Don't do that."

Admiral to driver: "You heard me. Drive on."

Marine to Admiral as he draws his .45 caliber pistol: "Sir, this is my

first time on post. Do I shoot you or your driver?"

The admiral showed his identification card.

I used to think the story was purely fictional, but now I am not so sure.

Besides the sentry incident, the report detailed the results of the investigation into allegations that Naughton, “on several official occasions, embarrassed and humiliated subordinates through conduct that is inappropriate for a Commander.” Let me share with you a small cross-section of sworn witness accounts of Naughton’s leadership in action…

*When an academy professor had an article published in the Washington Post critical of the academy’s admissions policies, Naughton was “livid…very distraught and very emotional” when he said words to the effect, “as long as I’m the superintendent, if you ever bring a promotion list with that professor’s name on it, I will personally take that man’s name off…I want him teaching a full load the whole time. He’s not going to be on any committees. I don’t want special assignments for that professor again.”

*When discussing with his senior executive board the confiscation of approximately 100 Midshipmen computers for illegally downloading inappropriate material from the internet, Naughton threatened to kill board members if any word of their discussions leaked outside the academy, to the press.

*Naughton was known for “drilling down” weaker briefers – rapidly and relentlessly asking detailed questions. Witnesses described Naughton in this “drilling down mode” as “harsh,” “nasty,” “belittling,” “approaching abusive,” “very difficult,” and “trying to demean.” One witness stated, “To be honest with you, we have come to expect it.”

*Many witnesses testified that Naughton was quick-tempered with subordinates who questioned his policies or opinions, even when Naughton solicited those questions in an open forum. At one O-6 (navy captain) breakfast where Naughton was the invited guest speaker, he immediately lost his temper when asked about why he had initiated an internal investigation into a particular program. Naughton used his body language and tone of voice to convey the message, “Don’t question my authority, or my decisions, or whatever.” At one point Naughton even said, “I don’t usually take on O-6s in public, but you started it.”

The report also noted that not everyone who testified found Naughton’s style inappropriate: “One of those individuals, a senior official, stated that in his opinion, the Admiral’s detail-oriented focus on financial matters “was long overdue” and he “applaud[ed]” him for it.”

What did Naughton have to say about the allegations against him? The report summarized: “VADM Naughton denies the allegations completely. He testified that his conduct, at every meeting since arriving at the Academy, has been appropriate and professional. He denied, or could not recall, making most of the inflammatory statements attributed to him.”

The report concluded that “the testimonial evidence…shows conduct that is, at times, confrontational and demeaning. It is conduct that is inconsistent with his obligations under Article 1131 of the US Navy Regulations, 1990 [Requirement of Exemplary Conduct]” which requires commanders and others in authority to:


06-30-03, 06:20 AM
“…show in themselves a good example of virtue, honor, patriotism and subordination;…and to take all necessary and proper measures, under the laws, regulations and customs of the naval service, to...