The nominee for the Navy’s top uniformed post promised to “quickly and firmly” deal with any leadership failures among his service’s special operations forces in the wake of a series of embarrassing scandals for the elite sailors.
Tapped to take over as the next chief of naval operations, Vice Adm. Michael Gilday told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday that investigations into alleged misbehavior by those service members are still ongoing and he was anxious to review the findings.
“Ethics is a particularly important point for me and that begins at the top of my leadership and extends through all of the flag officers as well as our commanders, right down through the chief petty officers, who I consider a critical link to ensure that every day we go to work, we bring our values with us," he said.
"It is especially important in combat that those values be maintained.”
Last week, Special Operations Command officials in Iraq booted a SEAL platoon from there after accusations surfaced involving drinking, fraternization and sexual assault among its members. Days later, a member of SEAL Team 6 was charged with soliciting nude photos of women while impersonating other people.
The reports come between two high-profile trials of other Navy SEALs.
Earlier in July, Special Warfare Operator Chief Edward Gallagher was found not guilty in connection with the stabbing death of an Iraqi detainee but witnesses detailed a cowboy culture of deployed service members, punctuated by boozing on the battlefield and mugging for photos with the dead prisoner of war.
Special Operations Chief Tony DeDolph also goes on trial next week in connection with the hazing death of a Green Beret two years ago.
Despite the flood of negative news, Navy officials have publicly stated they do not see cultural problems eroding the sea service’s community of special operatorrs.
Under questioning from lawmakers, however, Gilday promised a closer look at that concern.
“I’m committed to the idea that we need people with dignity and respect,” he told senators. “Physical violence, sexual assault have no place in the Navy.”
Gilday, who has previously served as the head of U.S. Fleet Cyber Command and 10th Fleet commander, was thrust into the path for the top Navy job after the sudden retirement of Adm. Bill Moran.
He had been confirmed for the chief of naval operations post before details emerged of a continuing professional relationship with a former public affairs officer embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal.
Despite that unexpected leadership shake-up, senators spoke highly of Gilday’s experience and said they expected an easy confirmation for him.
“It has never been more important that our Navy have principled leaders who promote respect throughout the ranks, and adhere to a moral code that can serve as an example to all our sailors and Marines,” said committee ranking member Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I. “We all expect and demand that you will be that leader.”
The timing of that confirmation may be complicated, however. Senate officials were hoping to speed a final vote on Gilday’s promotion through their chamber this week, ahead of the scheduled extended summer break.
If that action doesn’t take place in the next few days, a final confirmation vote won’t occur until early September, when lawmakers return to legislative business after work in their home districts.