Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Former USS Cole CO Promotion Controversy

The Sacramento Bee has an in-depth article on the former CO of USS Cole, CDR Kirk Lippold, and the Senate's failure to approve his promotion to O-6 following the terrorist bombing of his ship in Yemen in October 2000. The article says that, despite the attack on him command, CDR Lippold was still approved for promotion in 2002, but when the list reached the Senate (after being approved by the Executive branch, including President Bush), his name was removed from the list approved by the Senate. (Here's an example of the approval process timeline.) The article says that Senator Warner of Virginia has been identified as the Senator who put the hold on the nomination.

That's all well and good -- the Senate has the responsibility to give their advice and consent on all officer promotions, and while I don't like the concept of Senators being able to put a private hold on nominations (I'd prefer they have to do it publicly) it's something that's always been done. Here's my problem with the article; check out this sentence:

"But now some are questioning whether the White House and Congress, in denying Lippold's Pentagon-approved promotion to the rank of captain, have nailed the right man."

The article goes on to say how other higher-ups have been promoted since the attack on the Cole. So how is the White House denying Lippold's promotion? President Bush signed off on it, or it wouldn't have been sent to the Senate. Is the writer suggesting that President Bush find some way to bypass the requirement to have the Senate approve officer promotions? I know that journalists like to blame the Administration for every bad thing that happens in the world, but this goes a little overboard. The article does try to put the blame on President Bush thusly:

"For 5 1/2 years, the Washington military and political establishment has not known quite what to do with Kirk Lippold.
"Early on, things looked bleak. For starters, he was confronting a Navy tradition of punishing any ship commander who hazards his vessel.
"Promotion is based upon a successful command tour," retired Adm. Harold Gehman, who investigated the role of Lippold's chain of command in the Cole attack, said in an interview. "They don't need any other reason than that not to promote you."
"Beyond that, an internal Navy report raised questions about Lippold's adherence to security procedures and the ship's training regimen.
"But Lippold's chain of command, up to the Joint Chiefs chairman and the secretary of defense, overruled the Navy report, finding that he could not have prevented the suicide bombing.
"The Pentagon shipped Lippold's recommendation for promotion to the White House in 2002. The president added his concurrence and sent it to the Senate for ratification. Publicly, no one wants to talk about what happened next.
"Sen. Warner, the Armed Services Committee chairman, has a special interest in the Cole attack: He was secretary of the Navy from 1972 to 1974, and the ship's home port at Norfolk Naval Station is in Virginia, the state he represents.
"Warner, though, denies that he blocked Lippold's promotion. "They can go ahead and bring that nomination up, and I've indicated to them I will fairly treat it," Warner said in an interview at the Capitol.
"But sources say Warner excised Lippold's name from the list of Navy promotions that the committee approved for Senate confirmation. All told, Warner has discussed Lippold's status during at least four personal meetings with senior Pentagon officials, according to the military sources, who refused to be identified out of fear of retribution from Warner or his aides.
"He threatened to open full hearings on the Cole attack and even summon relatives of the 17 dead sailors.
"Two years later, the Pentagon tried to resurrect Lippold's promotion. The Joint Chiefs of Staff met and reaffirmed the recommendation, in a remarkable person-by-person vote. The No. 2 man at the Pentagon, Paul Wolfowitz, made a personal pitch to Bush to intervene on Lippold's behalf. No action was taken. The Pentagon is unlikely to try again."

So, I suppose one could accuse President Bush of not picking a fight he probably wouldn't win with a friendly Senator on behalf of a controversial CDR. I'm sure that had he done that, we'd have seen articles about how Bush was trying to make the Senate irrelevant.

7 Comments:

Anonymous EW3 said...

Warner may have done W a favor.
Imagine the press getting a hold of it. Headline - Bush Promotes Skipper of Disaster Ship.
etc etc etc......

4/23/2006 7:48 PM

 
Anonymous Byron Audler said...

ew3, I have a better headline for you: "Bush denies promotion to CDR, to avoid pissing off an influential senator; CDR never found of wrongdoing in the attack on his ship, and has been denied promotion for 5 years; Bush accused of failure of leadership"

4/24/2006 5:03 AM

 
Blogger Subsunk said...

Bubblehead,

You and I know life is not fair. CDR Lippold may have deserved better. You are correct to point out how the President can do nothing to effect this promotion. Since Congress excised his name, they have that right, and the Office of the President has no further appeal in that process.

But I find it disheartening whenever secrecy is used to prevent someone from suffering the consequences of standing on principle, whether it be by Sen Warner, Pres Bush, the Pentagon, or the Navy. Our Men deserve to be told why they aren't being promoted, especially when special circumstances are the cause. I wish they all could grow a bigger set of balls and just tell the man (CDR Lippold) what happened. If Sen Warner doesn't want him promoted, then he, as a former SecNav, and Naval Officer, should have the guts to call Lippold personally and explain why he is preventing his promotion outside of the promotion board recommendations.

I know that won't happen. I know that isn't the normal way to do things. I also know that it isn't right.

Subsunk

4/24/2006 6:40 PM

 
Anonymous HMCM said...

CDR Lippold accepted responsibility. He should resign and bring closure to this disgraceful episode in naval history.

5/13/2006 10:13 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If every unit commander in the military was held accountable for events for which they were given incomplete intelligence, and were unable to prevent an attack, we would have no one left to command. Where are the held up promotions for ground commanders who lose people in roadside bombing attacks when they know the roads are subject to threat??? A Commander has a duty to follow orders and conduct directed operations even in the face of potential danger. Yes, a Commander must be held accountable, but CDR Lippold was one of the first in many casualties in the War on Terror. The man and his crew did what they could to protect that ship and everything they could do to save it - and ultimately they did.

7/02/2008 5:21 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There were numerous reasons to not promote Mr. Lippold besides his actions following the bombing of the USS Cole. He simply lacked the quality of leadership defined by the US Navy. Frankly I am surprised he was allowed to advance as far as he did. The man micromanaged down to the enlisted level, put lives in danger during numerous training evolutions, and turned one of the highest performing crews to mediocrity in a matter of months.

He received much more than he ever deserved.

12/28/2009 9:09 AM

 
Anonymous puertas metalicas said...

To my mind one and all must go through this.

1/22/2012 3:28 AM

 

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