Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command, Rear Adm. Collin P. Green delivers remarks during the change of office ceremony July 30, 2019 during which NAVSEA 06 (PMS-340) Major Program Manager Capt. Robert “Chad” Muse was relieved by Capt. Brian O’Lavin. (U.S. Navy photo/Laura Lakeway)
A few hours ago, the Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, demanded and received the resignation of Richard V. Spencer (ordinarily I don’t use middle initials but Richard Spencer is such an unfortunate name to have right now that if I didn’t, I can only imagine the protests over an alt-right spokesman being in a high office) from his position as Secretary of the Navy. This all goes back to the Navy leadership saying “you’re not the boss of me” to the Commander in Chief.
The reason for Spencer’s firing was that, apparently, he hatched a plan whereby the Special Warfare Command commanding officer, Admiral Collin Green, would convene a disciplinary board to evaluate SEAL Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher, and the board would vote to retain Gallagher in the Special Warfare community. This would, by Spencer’s lights, support the Navy’s desire to hold the board and by rigging the outcome it would give Trump what he had demanded in the first place. He just neglected to tell his boss, the SecDef about the plan. When the SecDef found out about it from the White House, he was less than amused. Via the letter firing Spencer:
After Secretary Esper and Chairman Milley spoke with the Commander in Chief on Friday regarding the case of Gallagher, Secretary Esper learned that Secretary Spencer had previously and privately proposed to the White House – contrary to Spencer’s public position – to restore Gallagher’s rank and allow him to retire with his Trident pin. When recently asked by Secretary Esper, Secretary Spencer confirmed that despite multiple conversations on the Gallagher matter, Secretary Esper was never informed by Secretary Spencer of his private proposal.
This is Spencer’s letter of resignation.
I find the letter to be little short of bizarre. Self-serving, counterfactual bullsh**, would be a better description. For instance:
I have strived to ensure our proceedings are fair, transparent and consistent,
So transparent is cutting a backroom deal to set up a sham proceeding so that an admiral can save face? A fair proceeding is allowing an admiral who is hellbent on running a highly-decorated SEAL operator out of the Special Operations community (see Stu Cvrk’s Enough of the P.C. B.S. About Chief Eddie Gallagher! and you’ll find that Chief Gallagher was SEAL Sailor of the year in 2017) to personally decided what witnesses Gallagher could call in support of staying in the SEALs. I can’t think of many actions more corrupt than supporting a procedure designed to railroad a man out of the SEAL teams because he had the temerity to be found innocent by a court-martial instead of laying down and being a sacrificial example.
Unfortunately it has become apparent that in this respect, I no longer share the same understanding with the Commander in Chief who appointed me, in regards to the key principle of good order and discipline. I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took in the presence of my family, my flag and my faith to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Let’s hit the easy part first, his oath. The President is the Commander in Chief. Period. Full stop. He does not head a committee, he does not answer to a board of directors made up of the military leadership. Spencer had every right to not like Trump’s order. But, no matter how ill-advised he thought the order was, it was clearly legal. He objected. He was overruled. He was obligated by law to obey. That’s the end of the constitutional issue. The fact that Spencer thinks the issue is more complicated than that speaks more to the problem of the permanent bureaucracy, the Deep State, the, as we heard it described last week in Adam Schiff’s little play-trial, “the Interagency” than anything else. His loyalty was not to the Constitution it was to the Navy bureaucracy, uniformed and civilian, that saw its prerogatives under attack by…their Commander in Chief.
The second part of the paragraph deals with “good order and discipline.” These are the lodestars of military units. Without them, you have nothing. Good order and discipline are founded upon the concepts of subordinates swiftly and efficiently carrying out lawful orders from superiors. As I mentioned in another post, for a commissioned officer the standard is that you carry out all lawful orders with the same zeal no matter if you like them or not. When you stop carrying out lawful orders, you are committing an offense against good order and discipline. I believe, and I posted on this earlier, that the actions of Admiral Green in this incident crossed the line from disrespect to actual mutiny. The offense against good order and discipline occurred when Admiral Green decided that he’d say f*** you to the President and get some licks in on Chief Gallagher despite the not guilty verdicts at court-martial. Despite the President’s pardon. That is the only reasonable interpretation of his actions. Those actions were compounded by his actions on Friday, assuming the New York Times reporting on the incident is correct, when he said he would not carry out the order and would have to be relieved and replaced before that happened. Good order and discipline were further eroded when the SecNav weighed in in support of Green. They were eroded again when Spencer proposed a sham tribunal that would have inevitably been exposed to the press. And they were broken when Spencer basically lied to his boss the SecDef.
I think it is acknowledged that the Navy is suffering from a lot of dysfunction and indiscipline. We’ve seen this in the ship-handling incidents in the WESTPAC and with SEAL teams being expelled from combat zones for lack of discipline and for some instances of what seems like organized thuggery in some SEAL teams. But what is not needed to cure that problem is bullying Captain Queeg types pursuing personal vendettas for the sake of their hurt feelings or deeply compromised people so in awe of their own subordinates that they simply cannot make them obey the law.
So Spencer is gone. Now what? The Navy needs a thorough housecleaning. In my view, every commissioned officer in Green’s direct chain of command needs to be relieved and retired because none of them had the moral courage to actually defend the Constitution or to resign in protest. They acted from a sense of entitlement, not service. Like ill-disciplined toddlers, they demanded to do what they wanted, when they wanted, and how they wanted and were aghast that anyone would tell them NO. Only when sailors start seeing the elite subject to the same disciplinary measures they are liable to will the rot stop. Only with the injection of fresh commanders who are devoted to service over career will the wounds heal