The Navy has terminated nine commanding officers for sexual harassment or inappropriate personal relationships over the last 18 months, The Washington Post reported Friday. Three others were dismissed for alcohol offenses and two others on unspecified personal-misconduct charges. Such terminations represent nearly half of the 29 commanding officers dismissed during that period, the newspaper said.
"The divide between our private and professional lives is essentially gone," Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, told the Post, calling the spike in terminations "bothersome."
"People can engage in the debate -- does it really matter what a commanding officer does in their personal life? We believe it does, because it gets right to the issue of integrity and personal conduct and trust and the ability to enforce standards," Roughead said.
"It's a phenomenally high number," Norman Polmar, a naval historian in Alexandria, Va., who has served as an adviser to top Navy officials, told the Post. "There is something seriously wrong."
"Perhaps we don't have the best and brightest," Polmar said, adding it is the naval leadership's responsibility to communicate appropriate standards and ensure commanders are qualified.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus downplayed the numbers in a telephone interview with the Post, saying, "We hold absolute standards of conduct and if you breach those, you're going to be relieved. But I don't see a pattern, and I don't think it's an epidemic in that sense."
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