Social “conditioning” programs aimed at making the U.S. military a kinder, gentler, more lawsuit-proof workplace have begun supplanting its core mission: fighting and killing enemies.
That’s the open message a former Top Gun instructor is sending the U.S. Navy’s top brass.
The website of the nonprofit U.S. Naval Institute is featuring this month a lengthy study by Commander Guy Snodgrass, who cautions that a lack of trust in senior Naval leadership – borne from a combination of factors that includes too great an emphasis on social issues and not enough on fighting wars – is precipitating a severe enlistment and retention crisis.
“Put simply, there is no dollar amount that can be spent, or amount of training that can be conducted, that will completely eradicate complex issues such as suicide, sexual assault, or commanding officer reliefs for cause – yet we continue to expend immense resources in this pursuit,” he wrote.
“Sailors are bombarded with annual online training, general military training, and safety stand-downs – all in an effort to combat problems that will never be defeated. The perception is that these efforts are not undertaken because they are incredibly effective, but rather because of significant political and public oversight…Sailors continue to cite the over-focus on social issues by senior leadership – above and beyond discussions on warfighting – a fact that demoralizes junior and mid-grade officers alike.”
Snodgrass, an F-18 pilot who went on to write speeches for the Pentagon Chief of Naval Operations, doesn’t solely attribute the Navy’s retention problem to its leaders’ forced fixation on sensitivity training – he lists a number of factors, each of which poses a serious problem on its own: attitudes of millennial-generation recruits about work for pay, sustained campaigns that lack tangible and principled objectives, a distressed global economy, and changes in promotional incentives within the Naval command hierarchy.