The Chief of Naval Operations told students and staff Friday at the Naval Postgraduate School that the Navy has to deal with problems such as sexual assaults and suicides but that the school was a "crown jewel" of higher education.
Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert's speech mainly focused on the state of the Navy. Afterward he spoke with reporters specifically about NPS and its change of leadership in the wake of a critical report.
Greenert said he had no opinion on the Naval Inspector General report which led to the resignation of NPS President Dan Oliver and removal of Leonard Ferrari as provost in November.
"I have not formed an opinion on the whole matter," he said, "and I have not labored or gone through all of the documents associated with it."
Greenert said he did not know of any follow-up investigations to the inspector's report or any involving whistle-blowers.
Greenert said there were "some parts" of the original investigation still wrapping up but did not elaborate on what they were.
He said the Navy was still deciding if the next NPS president would be a civilian or from the military.
When asked if the mission of NPS had changed, he said he would leave that up to the next NPS president — Rear Adm. Jan Tighe is the interim president.
In his speech, Greenert said the Navy's fleet would continue to shift westward — 60 percent of the fleet will be on the West Coast by the end of the decade — and the branch was updating its inventory with new high-speed ships, mobile landing platforms and unmanned combat systems.
He said the Navy would increasingly rely on "cyber warriors" and NPS was a good place to train them.
As far as challenges, he said sexual assaults have impacted the Navy's readiness.
"We have got to focus on it," he said, "and the fleet is going to take ownership ... We have got to get after this."
When a student suggested pornography may be to blame for sexual assaults and suicides, Greenert said he thought there was some link between it and sexual assaults.
"There is a connection," Greenert said. ". . . condoning of that kind of attitude, sexual jokes, posters and all that kind of stuff."
He said the "command climate" needed to be one of respect and dignity across the board.
He said there was no "rhyme or reason that we can absolutely determine" why Navy suicides are now 17 per 100,000.
"It's not young, it's not old — it is all over the place," he said.
Another student said beefing up the Navy Chaplain Corps could help with some of the issues. Greenert said the Navy was "stepping up" its recruitment of chaplains.
Some other issues Greenert addressed were the increase in time service members put in during operations, called "optempo" in Navy jargon, and a $4.5 billion budget shortfall which he said must be addressed by lawmakers.
He said the Navy would work with other militaries, such as the Canadian Navy and NATO, and would continue to build up partnerships with Australia, Singapore and Djibouti.
The Guantanamo Bay base is a "big part" of the Navy's operation because of its ability to dock there during natural disasters, he said.
Greenert said NPS excelled at cyber skills, financial management and in other areas.
"That and the research that you do here is very important," he said. "It's part of today, part of tomorrow, and, as far as I can see, in the future."
Greenert said he was unsure why it had taken the Navy two months to get The Herald some public records it requested, but he "believed due diligence will be done" with them.
"I support transparency," he said. "It's not only a requirement but it's a good way to do business."
Phillip Molnar can be reached at 646-4487 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @PhillipMolnar.