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Esper: After Gallagher, Navy Should Focus on Ethics and Conduct

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By The Maritime Executive 2019-11-26 14:00:37

On Monday, one day after he ordered Navy leadership to end plans for a conduct-related disciplinary hearing, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper ordered the Navy to focus on ethics and conduct.

"I want the SEALs and the Navy to move beyond this now and get fully focused on their warfighting mission, and I also want them focused on resetting their professional standards, ethics and conduct," Secretary Esper said at a press conference on Monday. "These two issues are related and I know the service has plans to address this head-on."

On Sunday, Secretary Esper ended Naval Special Warfare Command's plan to conduct a review of whether a prominent Navy SEAL should remain associated with the elite special operations unit upon his retirement. The sailor in question, Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher, was recently convicted of posing for a photo with the corpse of an enemy prisoner of war; he was acquitted of 14 other charges, including the premeditated murder of the same prisoner, obstruction of justice and wrongful drug use. 

In October, the Navy's top officer, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday, personally made the decision to reduce CPO Gallagher's rank to petty officer first class. Following an extensive public advocacy campaign on Gallagher's behalf, President Donald Trump countermanded the order and restored Gallagher to CPO and the pay grade of E-7. Special Operations Command head Rear Adm. Collin Green's further plan to review Gallagher's status as a SEAL drew renewed criticism from Trump, who was reportedly surprised and displeased. 

On Sunday, following an order from the president, Secretary Esper ended the Navy's disciplinary process to review Gallagher's status. He also dismissed Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer, who had publicly supported the review, for allegedly negotiating a side deal with the White House to guarantee that Gallagher would remain a SEAL after the hearing. (According to the president, Spencer had also drawn scrutiny for an unrelated issue - the protracted delays in bringing the new carrier USS Gerald R. Ford up to full functionality.)

On Monday evening, Navy spokesman Cmdr. Clay Doss announced that Gallagher will retire from active duty. No further disciplinary action is planned and he will retain his status as a CPO and a Navy SEAL.