Admiral Jay L. Johnson


Admiral Jay L. Johnson's responses to questions from the Senate Committee on Armed Services. The questions were part of hearings on Johnson's nomination in the spring of 1996 to become Chief of Naval Operations.

This selection of questions and answers pertains to morale and Tailhook '91:


Statement from the Senate Armed Services Committee:
The Tailhook incident, the manner in which it was handled, and the perceptions it created regarding the attitudes on Naval officers toward women have attracted significant attention for almost five years. Of particular concern is the fact, while many senior officers were aware of the type of behavior for which Tailhook conventions had become famous over the years, no one took action to preclude that type of behavior at Tailhook '91. Additionally, while senior officers either witnessed inappropriate behavior at the Convention or specifically avoided certain locations to avoid witnessing this behavior, few took action until the behavior of certain attendees attracted national attention. Some former Navy officials and other have even suggested that the disgrace of Tailhook and the pressure of the follow-on activities were instrumental in driving Admiral Boorda to suicide.

Question: What actions will you take, if confirmed, to create an atmosphere in the Navy in which Tailhook type behavior does not occur, and, if it should occur, to ensure that it is not viewed as acceptable or quietly tolerated?

Answer: First and foremost, I will set the example in leadership

and set the standard in word and deed for the entire Navy. That

will be my primary obligation if confirmed as CNO. As you know,

I attended Tailhook 91. Bad things happened there and we, the leadership of Naval Aviation, permitted an atmosphere to exist wherein such things could happen. I deeply regret that. We should have been more proactive in raising the behavior standard for the symposium. We did not--and I can't change the past. However, I can learn from our collective--and my personal--inaction and I have learned. Because I was there and have seen and felt first hand how much Tailhook hurt our great Navy, I am even more committed to ensuring that such an atmosphere will never again be tolerated.

Through personal example and programs under my direction, I will give meaning to the Navy's principles of integrity, responsibility, accountability, commitment, and high standards of professional and personal conduct. In dealing with each other, we will start with the Golden Rule--simple, yet almost foolproof. And we will work tirelessly to ensure that at all levels of the chain of command, we will look out for each other. Mike Boorda's one-on-one leadership and mentoring programs are exactly the right starting point, and I am committed to seeing them through to Navy-wide implementation. In addition, if confirmed, I would expand our Navy Leadership Continuum which requires formal leadership training for officers and enlisted at specific and critical miles--ones in each individual's career. I would also institute a Navy Core Values Workshop to reinforce formal classroom training and bridge the interval between continuum classes.

The intent will be to help each member of the team realize their full potential. This must be accomplished through the fair and equitable treatment of all hands by all hands at all times. Discrimination and sexual harassment are contrary to good order and discipline and will not be tolerated. I am fully committed to ensuring that every member of our Navy is able to contribute to his or her fullest potential in an atmosphere of dignity, respect, and productivity. We will be proactive leaders vice reactive. Any who do not measure up will be dealt with swiftly and fairly.

Question: There has been much written in the press recently about low morale in the Naval Aviation community and unprecedented resignations of post-command aviators. Former Secretary of the Navy James Webb asserted during a recent speech at the Naval Academy that 53 percent of post-command commanders in naval aviation left the Navy last year. In the absence of a challenge from the Navy, this exit rate has been repeated by others who speak with authority about the Navy. 1) Do you agree with former Secretary Webb's assessment of low morale in the Naval Aviation community? 2) Do you agree with his characterization of exit rates among post-command commanders in the Naval Aviation community? 3) In your opinion, are there measures which need to be taken to address the morale of Naval aviators? 4) Does the Navy have a responsibility for the accuracy of information about the Navy in the public domain?

Answer: I do not agree with former Secretary Webb's assessment of morale or his exit rates. First, as a Naval Aviator, I pay particular attention to the morale of the aviation community as a whole. Overall, I think we are doing well. Morale is generally high and deservedly so. Our aviators are mission and performance focused and proud of their achievements. I share their pride. Can we improve morale? You bet--and I am committed to do just that.

Regarding the exit rates among post-command commanders (PCCs), I believe the former Secretary's numbers need clarification. Our data show that in 1995, the 28 pilot PCC retirees were 12.4% of the total PCC pool. For 1996, as of the end of May, the 43 pilot PCC retirees were less than 20% of the total PCC pool.

That said, I do agree that any increase in Commander aviator retirements is cause for concern. I believe the increased numbers of retirements were partially the result of an increased flow point to 0-6 coupled with increased airline hiring. To correct this circumstance, we are seeking DOPMA grade relief which will help maintain acceptable 0-6 promotion flow point timing. Let me assure the committee that if we are losing aviators for other reasons, such as low morale, if confirmed I will make sure we find the problem and fix it.

Finally, we must ensure that any official information in testimony, statements, press releases or publications is accurate. When we find erroneous statements, we work to correct them. In fact, we analyzed former Secretary Webb's statement and provided correct information to the public domain via the Chief of Naval Information.

Question: Given your participation in Tailhook '91 and the follow-on actions, are there any aspects of the continuing processes and procedures concerning Navy officer nominations from which you envision recusing yourself? If so, what would those be? If not, explain why you believe that your participation in the convention and the follow-on actions does not disqualify you.

Answer: As I have noted above, I believe that my leadership as CNO, should I be confirmed, will be more informed, principled, proactive and fair because I was present at Tailhook and have learned its lessons. As a result, I believe that my participation or action in Tailhook-related officer nominations outweighs any concern that the appearance of impartiality of my participation or action could be questioned because of my presence at Tailhook. For that reason, I would participate or act in such cases unless the specific facts of the case indicate that it would be proper for me to recuse myself. Where I do participate or act, I will be guided.by the principles of fairness and consistency with decisions in prior Tailhook cases.

Statement from the Armed Services Committee: An op-ed piece in The New York Times on June 8, 1996 asserts that the feeling inside the Navy is that "it has lost its way as a fighting force and that three problems that are corroding confidence in the Navy's leadership include:

  • the decision to assign women to warships,
  • weapons programs that do not support the Navy's post-cold war strategy; and
  • a sinister perception that integrity can be hazardous to one's career--if it means airing problems that might embarrass the brass." Question: Do you find any merit in such assertions? If not, what is your basis for reflecting them? If you do, what do you intend to do to address these problems? Answer: I find no merit whatsoever in those assertions. They are contradicted by the preponderance of facts and are, in my opinion, little more than one individual's expression of his opinions. The Navy has a clear sense of direction as a fighting force and as an institution. Our forces consistently demonstrate outstanding performance conducting strenuous operations, and we are focused on the capabilities and operational concepts we will need to remain the premier fighting force in the 21st century. I do not believe that assigning women to combat ships has eroded confidence in the Navy's leadership. There are undoubtedly some personnel who are still not onboard with the policy of assigning women to warships. There are similar feelings expressed when women were assigned to ships for the first time some twenty years ago. We learned a lot of lessons during that time and have applied those lessons learned to the way we are conducting the integration process of combatants. The first women were assigned to the USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER in March 1994. Since then, 32 combatants have been fully integrated and another have women officers assigned. We now have 7,294 women assigned to ships: 2,012 enlisted and 326 officers on combatants; and 4,765 enlisted and 190 officers on support ships. We have been tracking this carefully and the feedback Navy received from Commanding Officers and senior enlisted personnel from these ships has been positive. We have had our concerns but effective leadership is making this transition successful. So, I would say that the feeling by most Navy personnel is that we are a team that accomplishes the mission and most Sailors, men and women, are proud to be a part of the most capable Navy in the world. We will aggressively continue integrating women into combat assignments and continue to accomplish Navy's mission.

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