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Flash point: Being too risk-averse

Sep. 30, 2013 - 07:46AM   |  
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Flash points

Five areas where the fleet could be in trouble:
China: A rising adversary
Budget cuts: Beltway battles do damage
Fleet size: Running the numbers
Industry: Can the yards do the job?
Risk aversion: Are leaders encouraged to play it too safe?
Have your say: We’ve asked the experts, now have your say — is the fleet getting weaker? Send your thoughts to
and they could appear in an upcoming issue.


Why it’s hurting the Navy: Proponents say officials’ push for political correctness distracts officers and sailors from their true goal — war fighting. They also argue that the Navy, which hasn’t fought a powerful fleet in nearly seven decades, is shaped by a bureaucracy that favors those without flaws over those with more daring. “We’re retaining people that are comfortable in a no-risk atmosphere, as opposed to the people who take calculated risks,” said former Navy Secretary John Lehman.

Key stat: Lehman cites the high number of skipper reliefs — 25 last year — in a small fleet as evidence that officials are going too far. “You don’t necessarily throw a leader out of the Navy because he had one or two beers and got Breathalyzed,” he said.

Counterpoint: Society no longer tolerates those who are rude or offensive to others, just as it no longer tolerates drunk drivers. Most critics say cracking down on those who offend shipmates or behave badly won’t erode the Navy’s aggressiveness in war.

Key quote: “I think it’s a red herring to say the Navy’s risk-adverse,” said retired Vice Adm. Peter Daly. “I think naval officers who catapult off carriers, who operate nuclear power plants at sea, who take in lines and go to sea in the conditions that they do: They take more risk in a day than most people take in a year.”

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