The Navy and Marine Corps have become so tangled in bureaucracy and red tape that many of their best warriors spend more time filling out reports and writing memos than training to fight, according to Navy Secretary John F. Lehman Jr. and a blue-ribbon panel he commissioned.
The panel, describing a "deep and disturbing situation," found that Navy and Marine pilots spend more than two-thirds of their time on paperwork unrelated to their missions. Their superior officers' constant demand for reports and information reflects the "emasculation" of junior officers by a military leadership that "micromanages" every decision, the panel of retired and active-duty officers concluded.
Lehman said in a message to the Navy that he and the top uniformed leaders of both services, Adm. James D. Watkins and Gen. P.X. Kelley, were "shocked by these findings, and we are convinced that a similar situation exists throughout the fleet."
In the same message last fall, Lehman ordered a drastic reduction in paperwork. But Lehman, a reserve A6 bombardier as well as the Navy Department's civilian chief, said in an interview last week that during a recent tour of duty he did not find much improvement.
"To my dismay, our efforts have not had any observable effect," he said. "There's so many layers in the chain of command that the effect has not yet been felt down at the squadron level. They're still wasting two-thirds of their time."
Lehman has abolished many of the 495 daily, weekly and monthly reporting requirements that built up over the years, including "Distorted or Hypercritical Information by News Media" and "Visits to Personnel in Foreign Penal Institutions."
"Each one of these reports has a little barony of bureaucrats that feed on the data generated by them," Lehman said.
"The tyranny of the clerks," he added, leaves young officers who should be learning leadership skills with "less and less discretion to judge how best their men should spend their time."
Many reports, the panel found, were requested to respond to congressional demands for information. In the Navy, 75 reports had been ordered by Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger's office, 280 by Watkins' office and 140 by Lehman's.
"Everybody was pointing the finger at me," Lehman said. But, he said, "I never saw one of these. They were all done in my name, but it was all GS-9s with my signature machine."
Lehman and Watkins abolished most reports required in their names, but had less luck with reports required by Weinberger's office, Lehman said. After Lehman suspended those reports, saying that none appeared to be "improving the readiness of our Navy units," Weinberger issued a directive reinstating them all.
"He said it was a good idea that we were doing this, but in the meantime keep sending them," Lehman said. "So we gained no relief . . . although in theory they're under review."
Meanwhile, Lehman this month reassambled the panel, headed by retired Adm. Thomas J. Kilcline, and sent it back into the field to investigate why his actions have brought little relief.