December 9, 2009 | Mark Paradies

More “Integrity” Issues in Nuclear Navy – What is the Root Cause?

While people were busy preparing for Thanksgiving, the Navy Times published an article about “integrity” issues in the Nuclear Navy.

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The article brought up a “new” test cheating incident by sailors on the nuclear aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman. It also mentioned a test cheating scandal revealed earlier this year aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (another carrier) and the 2007 chemistry scandal aboard USS Hampton (a fast attack submarine).

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One of the most interesting parts of the article was at the end of the article. It said:

“Colgary and another retired nuclear-trained officer who asked not to be named said the “nukes” are generally good people who aren’t working against the system but can sometimes be pushed too hard by it.

“We try to find the root cause of problems instead of treating symptoms of the problem,” Colgary said. “Typically it comes down to personalities. You can get overwhelmed sometimes with maintenance, preparing for getting underway, preparing for deployment. And oh, by the way, you have to balance your life at home.”

That doesn’t excuse a lack of integrity in the nuclear Navy’s zero-defect mentality.

“You have to trust every watchstander on the ship,” Colgary said. “God help you if you’re in a time of war and these things are amplified even more.”

Colgary said the exam proctor who stopped the cheaters should be commended. “It would be just as easy for that proctor to turn his back and let it go,” he said.

For the eight sailors who were kicked off Truman, their Navy careers might already be over. McMichael said sailors who are stripped of their nuclear NECs essentially lose their rating. They must then try to transfer to another rating, if there is room for them. If the alternative ratings are fully manned, the sailor may have no place to go and be administratively separated from the Navy.

Getting caught cheating also made them significantly poorer very quickly. Nukes are eligible for retention bonuses up to $125,000, depending on their rates and qualifications.”

We try to find the root causes of problems instead of treating the symptoms…” and “…typically it comes down to personalities.” You must be kidding!??

Let’s start looking for root causes other than “bad sailors” (personalities). What is the operating tempo? How short staffed (undermanned?) are these crews? How much more are they trying to do with less? How long can this “war footing” go on with too little budget and too few ships?

Even a good horse can be run into the ground if you push it long enough (“…’nukes’ are generally good people…”).

I can’t help but think there is more to the root causes of recent Nuclear Navy problems than just some bad young sailors (and, yes, some bad COs, Officers, and Chiefs).

Does anyone else have a comment on this?

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