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I, ahem, have some experience with selection boards and at least the one I was on about two decades ago was - besides the usual eye rolling “diversity” boilerplate paragraph or two read in monotone, or we just had to read it - I’m not sure - it was fair to everyone. Many of the members of the Front Porch I am sure have similar experiences. We all have/had a lot of confidence in the system. Imperfect, but less imperfect than any other options.
If we’re not careful, that confidence can be lost. We may have already passed that point.
That same year I spent my last quality time in Millington, I also had first hand knowledge of a USN flag officer who, for the second year in a row, shopped a “select list” to members of upcoming command boards (big no no in a few ways) which included people he wanted to be considered for selection. His list consisted of just those people up for selection of his same ethnic group. This was well known, but nothing was done even after a meeting of senior Captains discussing what to do about it. Everyone decided to look the other way, there was no top cover. The Navy actually gave that officer a couple of more stars in the following years.
So, pure it is not. I have other stories along the same lines, but that isn’t the topic today. It is a human institution, I accept that.
In spite of this, rightfully, we still have a lot of faith in selection boards, and should. Imperfect as any human institution can be, boards are on balance - fair. However, like the above example, there are stains on this largely honorable system. Yes, those who wanted to put a thumb on the scale, especially the diversity commissariat, were always trying to wedge themselves in, but from the outside it appeared that their success was limited. Yes, we have the boilerplate verbiage on the Precept etc … but it wasn’t, at least in my time, red in tooth and claw.
You could, reasonably, give people who were selected the benefit of the doubt that they were the best of a highly qualified pool. We all knew that “in the crunch” some equally qualified officers would get selected, others would not - almost on a coin flip. Especially for some designators, the selection rates could be brutal, for other designators, almost easy … but as we like to say, “pick your rate pick your fate.” The needs of the Navy rightfully will win. They key is “needs” needed to be personally objective, not subjective based on something so caustic to the soul of an institution that sees itself as a meritocracy; immutable characteristics.
That brings us to the Convening Order and Precept for FY-24 Active Duty and Reserve Flag Officer Selection Board. You can read them yourself at the links abo, but let’s dive in to some of the glorious items, shall we?
We’ll start with the Precept.
First of all, read the highlighted portions, specifically those referencing “official record.”
OK, you can only say nice things, first person, unless there are negative things that are part of the official record of the officer. Just your own experience, not second hand, about the personal qualifications or official record of the person in question.
Well, the official record will tell you about the “diversity of experience” - which is always a great thing for someone to have, and if you’ve published something, have a PhD, or are a well known and effective public speaker, it will show some “innovative talent” … but what in the official record covers “backgrounds, perspectives…depth and breadth of vision”? There are no metrics for those things.
Regular DivThu know what those words are substitutes for. Words mean things, both mealy words and firm words.
There are no metrics available to the board for “diversity of thought process and problem solving” where you can compare one person to another in the crunch. By the time you are eligible to be a Flag Officer you have a quarter century or more in uniform. You have at least one masters degree and a few have PhDs. You are all upper middle class by now, but live a lifestyle in line with lower upper class. You are an elite class of citizens in our republic, and geographically have probably lived in 10 different locations. None of that matters, but again, two decades of DivThu has covered what these words mean in this context. If you’re new and don’t understand how the nomenklatura abuses the King’s english, then read up.
Under the “Fully Qualified” section of the Convening Order, this is an interesting comment;
These people have already had at least two commands at sea and most likely one major command ashore. They would not have made O3 without checking this box … well the first clause of the second sentence, but look again at the second clause.
What metric would be used to determine if they are “executing the Navy’s strategic diversity initiatives”? I’ll let you spend some time at the Navy’s Diversity Commissariat to figure that out. Where can that be found in the official record?
We should also try to get our head around “effectively retaining the right quality and quantity of performance-proven personnel.” In the context of this paragraph, what metric is used to evaluate this?
That is one hell of a word salad. Now, I understand the language part of this for a global navy - as a friend recently told me, “Knowing Farsi never goes out of style.” - but what metric for the rest, starting with “gender…awareness”? The entire sentence is undiagramable … but we know what they mean here, even those they won’t say it clearly.
Ah, yes. There it is. Note the word, “equitable?” Regulars know this, but as we are adding hundreds of new subscribers each month, let’s make sure everyone is on the same sheet of music.
First of all, via the Daily Wire, let’s take a look at what the NSA has to say. Yes, the NSA. That Daily Wire article about the DEI nightmare our intel community is living through is worth a DivThu itself, so please read it all, but for today’s post let’s just pull their definition of “equity” as manifested in the core of “Equitable.”
There it is. It has nothing to do with equality at all. It is all about giving special preference to some, and nothing or taking away from others.
In the zero sum game that is a selection board, that means life altering decisions based on immutable characteristics that assume things that may not be applicable to the person in question … as an individual. Selection boards are about individuals. Giving special benefits to individuals based on group affiliation generated from assumed or self-identified immutable characteristics? Is that really where we want to be?
If you are a visual learner, let’s go back to the Navy’s official DEI Commissariat for help. They are nice enough to provide a visual;
I not sure how much more presumptive, patronizing, and anti-intellectual you can get … but these are the otherwise unemployable people the Navy decided to give positions of power to influence policy and bully leaders.
If you wanted to know who those people not running up the stairs are, Navy DEI 101 training - yes they call it that - gives another variation of definition of “equity” that, if read one way, contradicts other definitions they provide. Not shocking, again, these are not the best people who toil in the bowels of the Navy’s branch of the diversity industry.
So … who are we not talking about here? A non-person of color, male, Christian, heterosexual, not disabled, city or suburban person who is of lower middle class or higher? You know, a …
So, if the evaluation of selection to Flag Officer must include “equity” … then … oh. Combine the diagram and definition and you can see - equality is not the goal.
Nothing good comes from this. No military nor nation in the history of our species has prospered with this view of the human condition. In a polyglot republic like ours where every year people are more a glorious mix than some AKC approved pure breed, this just pressures the powder keg. It isn’t just undermines good order and discipline, it leads to sectarian strife, violence, and societal division.
Does the Convening Order and Precept of the board direct those people in the board to provide special treatment to people based on immutable characteristics inside the Navy’s understanding of “equity?”
Yes, directly or indirectly it does.
The sad part is, even those selected who would have been in a completely objective board - if they come under any of the approved categories from the Navy’s DEI commissariat - they will be under the shadow of getting where they are via a biased process.
Fair to them? No. Fair for others to wonder? Yes.
Who is at fault? Not the people selected, not the people wondering. The bad actor here is the US Navy’s leadership allowing it to metastasize to this point.
This is the result of decades of boiling the frog under the leadership of both political parties and a cowed and politicized Admiralty.
To fix it requires outside leadership in Congress and the Executive Branch.