Here’s what the Chief of Naval Operations has to say about online harassment


Here's what the Chief of Naval Operations has to say about online harassment
(Photo: U.S. Navy, Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nathan Laird/Released)

The following message was sent by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson to all commanders fleetwide.


Team, we have a problem and we need to solve it. Really solve it – not put a band-aid on it, not whitewash over it, not look the other way.

The discovery of on-line sites that degrade the female members of our team has shined a light on the fact that this problem persists.  But we get reminders of it every day, when we disrespect women by crude jokes, wisecracks, sexual harassment, and in its worst manifestation, sexual assault – a serious violent crime. Despite a steady effort to get after this, we’re not making progress.

This demeaning activity offends so many of us because fundamentally, this is not how we treat true teammates. This is not how we treat fellow Sailors. We operate, and will fight, in our teams. We will depend on each other to protect and save our lives, to win.

In teams, there are no bystanders. We are all in, every one of us. We have high expectations of each other, hold each other accountable, and we treat each other with respect. We build our teammates up to make them stronger. We definitely don’t allow anybody to disrespect another teammate – we close ranks and protect.

I’ve heard hundreds of times that “these actions are being taken by only a small minority.” Prove that. If that’s true, then the vast majority of men and women need to stand up and smother this behavior. To become intolerant. To act to put a stop to this. And if you’re one of that minority that just won’t get it, then it’s time for you to leave the Navy.

As a commander, your entire team counts on you leading a winning team, that INCLUDES a culture of dignity and respect, consistent with our core values and attributes. Without this trust, we will fail.

I expect COs and each level of leadership to challenge your command leaders at the small team level. Division Officers and Chiefs talking to their divisions, branches talking to branches, Chief’s Mess to Chief’s Mess. Talk about what respect for our teammates looks like at work, at home, and online. Make it clear that individuals who can’t live up to our professional standards in competence and character are not welcome in our Navy. Make it clear that our standards call us to a higher commitment than the law – we are better than that. And finally, I expect you to make it crystal clear that to remain the world’s most powerful Navy we must be 100% focused on staying ahead of our competition, which starts with leadership and teamwork, built on trust and respect. This is a challenge to all Navy leaders – particularly junior leaders. Own this problem. Solve it.

There is no room in our Navy for toxic behavior. It makes us weaker, and cedes advantage to the enemy. Direct involvement of commanders and small unit leaders will help us stamp this out. We are a team. We are Sailors.  We are the United States Navy. I’m counting on you. Let’s get to it.