Q: These guys... say: Wait a minute. We're the toughest on ourselves
there is. Our review boards are unbelievably hard. Our captains, our admirals
who sit and say, "All right, Stumpf. If you want to stand for promotion,
you've got to pass muster. We all know that Congresswoman Schroeder is out
there and everybody else is out there, and ... PC police are waiting for us,
and we're going to be really careful. And Bob, you pass muster." He passed
muster twice, two different things. He says, "All right, we're going to
promote this guy." And still, he doesn't make it, because of a little bit of
Tailhook taint. They say that's because you're playing politics with their
SCHROEDER: I have nothing to do with their process. Their process is all internal.
The Navy runs their process. The House of Representatives doesn't do anything
about their process. We do not select. Navy officers select. So while they
want to make it my fault, what's really happening is, the Navy leadership is
raising those questions. Not me, and not Senators.
Now, there may be some Senators, when you get high enough, there's a high
enough level that sometimes it goes to the Senate. Well, it does go to the
Senate Armed Services Committee to get out. So some Senators may be raising it
then. You know what? Any time anyone's up for anything and goes for Senate
confirmation, somebody raises it. Nanny-gate, Tailhook, I mean, you can name a
thousand things. Didn't pay their taxes. What do they-- And what does the
person do? They either decide they want the job bad enough that they go down
and talk to the Senators and explain it, if they think they're being unfairly,
brushed with this; or they say, "I don't think I want to be whatever that
position is, bad enough to deal with it. Forget it." And you've seen people
deal with it two different ways.
But the interesting thing has been, when Senators have asked that question
once a promotion gets high enough, people just scream. They don't go down and
really confront it and talk about that. And it's a free country. You can do
that. The Senate doors are open. They can go there.
But until it gets there, the choice is all internal in the Navy. They control
it. Not me.
Q: Tell me what you think Jay Johnson the new CNO, faces, from your point
SCHROEDER: Well, I think Jay Johnson's got a very tough road ... . I was very
saddened to see some of the types that did everything they could to bring down
Admiral Boorda, and I think, for all the wrong reasons, because Admiral Boorda
was trying to go forward with the Navy. And they were yapping, they wanted to
go backwards. They then tried to take his very tragic death and spin it. I
mean, I still sit here and shudder when I think about somebody trying to spin
a tragic suicide. But they tried to spin it, that: See, they're right. "See?
You really should have gotten rid of those women. And you should have done
this, and you should have done that. And arararara!" And they're out there,
still rumbling about all of that.
So when the new CNO takes over, you're going to have some of these retired
guys feeling all the more empowered to come out there and just continue to
raise Cain, although they shouldn't at all. And meanwhile, you have got a Navy
that desperately needs leadership for the modern world, moving forward. And
every single day we get through, it's going to be better.
I was talking to Jay Johnson today, and I said, "I hope ten years from now,
things will finally be normal, that women will no longer be like a science
project that you study every 5 minutes, and that, they will be accepted and
they will be part of the team." And he said his feeling from the real troops
was that it was probably going to happen more like in five years. Well, we
don't know when we're going to be there. The interesting thing is that he sees
what I see, that really, an awful lot of people just would like to be normal.
Could we just get on with all of this stuff and stop the finger pointing and
the screaming and the yelling and all the other stuff that comes along? But
they're going to stop, because of this tragic suicide. And they're trying to
spin it that they were right, and they're going to just keep jumping up and
down. They don't have anything to do but make noise. They're retired. What
the heck! So here we go! And I just hope he gets enough strong support from
the outside to say, "Okay, you had your day. Forget that." They get their
day, and we're going to build this thing to be a solid, unified team.
Q: Who was pressing Boorda, from your point of view?
SCHROEDER: Well, I think all the harpies that were out there were people such as,
prior to Secretary Lehman and some of the prior secretaries that were yap yap
yap yap yap. And people keep forgetting why they left, or went out of their
office. And then you had a lot of retired--not all, because many retired do go
on and have a life, and understand that the Navy, like everything, is organic.
It has to keep changing to fit circumstances. But as I say....There's some who
can't get over being captain of the ship, and they know everything that they
know is right, because when they were in the Navy and were captain of the ship,
it was right. Probably because they were captain of the ship, not because they
were necessarily right. But they therefore surmise that they will always be
right in their life, forever and ever, amen. "And who is this new little CNO?
And who is this new Secretary of the Navy?" And they have all the time in the
world to organize each other, talk to each other, work themselves into lather
about how it isn't like it used to be, and write letters to the editor, and
scream and holler and take pot shots. And nobody likes to get those kind of
pot shots. Nobody likes to read that kind of stuff.
We in politics get used to in. Another day, another 15 pot shots. So what?
But in the military, you're really not used to it till you get to that level.
And all of a sudden you're up at that level, and then suddenly you realize
everybody's firing at your head! And you thought being head of all this was
going to be wonderful. You didn't realize it was going to be incoming,
incoming the whole day. (laughs) Well, the guys who were doing all the
incomings of Boorda are rubbing their hands, I'm afraid, and getting ready to
go again. And what they're trying to do would be very devastating if they did
Q: Did you ever talk to Mike Boorda about these problems?
SCHROEDER: No. I think he was the kind who really tried to suck it up and
keep going forward, and it ate him up internally. I was always very moved by
how he talked about personnel issues. My entire history with the Navy have
been trying to get the Navy to focus on families and child care and all the
things that they were way behind in--housing, all of those things. If you
visited a Navy base and an Air Force base, you wouldn't believe that they work
for the same government, because the Air Force had much better facilities and
was way, much more progressive on these issues, because the Air Force really
pushed on that. The Navy was really focused more on ships and planes. And you
know--pfft!--what went on ashore or families, those were something you waved
good-bye to for three months or whatever. Been a long history in the Navy of
not focusing on it, and not making that front and center.
Now, that's part of what these old admirals hate. Here they had Admiral
Boorda, who really cared about those kind of issues. "Well, real men don't
care about those issues. You know. If we wanted you to have a family, we
would have requisitioned one. So who's this guy talking about family policy?
What's his problem?" You know. "And what's this stuff? He came from
Personnel. Real men don't come out of Personnel in the Navy."
And I used to find it all the time. I'd visit bases, and I'd have commanders
tell me their biggest problem was day care, or their biggest problem was
housing. They'd appear in front of the committee, and you'd say, "What's your
biggest problem?" And they'd say, oh, ships or ammunition. You say, "Are you
the same person?" They'd say, "I know. But if I say that publicly, they'll
think I have lace on my boxer shorts. You don't understand. That's a career
ender." So you had a whole tradition of that in the Navy, that was much
stronger than the other armed forces. And suddenly you have a guy who really
cares about that, and it made these guys nuts. You know.
Q: So have we gone too far? Has the Navy learned its lesson? Was
Tailhook valuable? What's your summary of it all, five years out?
SCHROEDER: Look. The Navy's a huge institution. And there are very many people in
the Navy, including my husband, who came out of the Navy, who are very fine
people, who get it. Nobody can ever say my husband was sexist or anything
else. He certainly treats people with dignity and understands. There's always
going to be some who fight and scream and holler and yell, and are really
retro. (laughs) There's nothing you can do about that. They're retro. And
the problem at the top is to figure out how you keep moving the Navy forward,
and how you get the best qualified, the people with the highest morale, that
are going to keep the top quality this country demands for its defense. That's
what the bottom line is. And it doesn't mean coddling a bunch of old retired
pooh bahs who think that the Navy is theirs and no one else can talk-- And it
doesn't mean becoming overly sensitive to every little single thing. You don't
want them to become political in that way. It means being responsive to your
troops, and making sure that at the end of the day you're training, how you're
treating your troops is perceived as fair. And when you do that, then you
build the morale that you need to get you there. And that's really what it's
all about. And nobody could really measure that, hour by hour. There's no
thermometer. But it's terribly important that be very clear as the goal, and
everybody else ought to get out of the way.