In unconventional times, Adm. Gary Roughead might be perfectly suited for leadership. In some ways, he has always been an unconventional warrior.
Roughead graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in1973 and has served as skipper on two warships, commandant of the Academy, commander of the Pacific and Atlantic fleets and now Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). In the often rigid military world, he has not been afraid to stand apart.
As commandant of the Academy, he pushed to admit more minorities in the hope of diversifying the rolls of Navy officers. As CNO he instituted changes that will allow women to serve on submarines beginning this fall. And in hearings before Congress, he was the only service leader who urged repeal of the military’s don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy.
With the greatest threats to world peace now coming from rogue states, terrorists and extremists, Roughead envisions a U.S. fleet both powerful and nimble, equally adept at warfare or humanitarian aid, patrolling the world’s trade routes.
During a Honolulu visit to deliver a speech to the Chamber of Commerce last week, Roughead spoke with the Star-Advertiser’s editorial board about his plans to upgrade the Navy as well as its future in Hawaii as American military priorities are shifted to the western Pacific. Excerpts from the meeting are below and on Page F4.
» On the value of anti-ballistic missile research and testing at Barking Sands on Kauai:
"We’re now living in a world where military capabilities and naval capabilities proliferate beyond countries. I often cite the near sinking of an Israeli warship by Hezbollah, which isn’t even a country, when they shot a very sophisticated anti-surface missile from Lebanon. … And that’s one of the drivers, quite frankly, behind what we’re doing in the area of integrated air and missile defense which Barking Sands figures so heavily into. Because if you look at a map of the world from, say, 1972 to now, and you look at how ballistic missiles have proliferated and how advanced anti-ship cruise missiles have proliferated, it is much more extensive.
"So the work we do here in Hawaii with the Aegis weapons system is not focused solely on things in the Pacific. In fact, one of the things that’s going to be coming to Barking Sands is called Aegis Ashore Capability. … A little over a year ago, the president introduced what he called the phased adaptive approach to ballistic missile defense in Europe. We’re initially providing that ballistic defense with our Aegis ships. Again, the capability that exists in the Navy is because of what we’re able to do at Barking Sands. … We’re now taking and designing the shipboard system to be able to go ashore and that, too, will be a Navy mission ashore. That system is going to be developed here but is really for the defense of Europe.
"I’ve maintained this since I was the Pacific Feet commander: Barking Sands is a national treasure. The work we do there is not replicated anywhere else in the world and is extraordinarily important. The intellectual capital at Barking Sands is unique. But what it allows us to do because of where it’s situated, it allows us to do extensive testing over ocean areas that don’t see a lot of traffic and activity. You can work in the lab and you can theorize, but until you test it, you just don’t know. And what we have been able to do with Aegis and the Navy and the successes we’ve had at Barking Sands … it really is something that has enabled the Navy and the nation to develop a capability no one else has."
» On Capt. Owen Honors, who was relieved as commander of the USS Enterprise for producing a shipboard video containing anti-gay remarks and skits:
"The action that was taken against Capt. Honors was absolutely appropriate. Why? Because of the nature of what was being presented to the crew, the standards that were being projected by someone in a significant leadership position. That is not who we are. As you know those films were from years ago. They came to the Navy leadership’s attention — and by that I’m talking about myself and the fleet commander, Adm. (John C.) Harvey, in Norfolk — when we were told over the New Year’s weekend that they were going to release a video. We had not seen them. We had not heard about them. They were not out in the public domain. They were not being shown around.
"The Virginian-Pilot told us, ‘We’re going to break a story.’ We had not seen the videos. When we saw them, quite frankly, I was shocked with what I saw. There was no question that it was inappropriate. That’s not the type of environment that we want on our ships, nor is it is the type of environment that exists on our ships. And even though it was some time ago and Capt. Honors had moved from that position into the one that he currently was in, that’s not who we are.
"Admiral Harvey is going back in time to get a sense of what the awareness of these (videos) were and we’re working our way through that. I’ll be checking with him, because he’s doing the investigation and he is the officer that’s empowered to do that and I’m awaiting his findings."
"We do not have what I would call a laundry list of the dos and dont’s (for commanding officers). I think we charge our commanding officers to set the appropriate tone, the types of conduct that does not offend. And that’s what we expect our commanding officers to do. In my mind, there is no (need for written rules). This was an aberration.
"It goes beyond the video. In my mind it goes to the essence of what we want our commanding officers to do, to be and the standards that they should have in place on their ships. And it gets to the character of the individual, the standards of the individual and how they view and how they want the relationships to be on their ship."