End Jo Ann Rooney’s Nomination For the Navy’s #2 Post

by admin on October 6, 2014

061112115739_Rooney_JoannLook, I’ve been a big cheerleader for SECNAV Ray Mabus getting a full bench of rough-and-tumble Navy Department Managers, and an advocate for increasing the proportion of females working in defense leadership roles, but enough is enough.

As Defense News’ Chris Cavas hints, it is high time for the long-stalled nominee for Navy Undersecretary, Jo Ann Rooney, to withdraw, and to let somebody else have a chance at the post.

And the White House should get off it’s fanny and expedite getting another nominee to Congress.

Time is a’wasting. Robert Work has demonstrated that the Navy’s “Number Two” post can be a developmental position, a “Springboard” where future defense leaders cut their bureaucratic teeth before moving on to future defense leadership opportunities.

And the White House staff, rather than frittering for a year, working to find and vet “boutique” female appointees for defense spots (which–compounding the problem–the White House Staff hasn’t done well), should grit their teeth and nominate folks (even relatively unconventional nominees who have future leadership potential) to get their open positions filled. They need to shift focus and nominate those who can do the Democratic Party good service over the long-term as defense leaders. The time for social engineering at the appointee level is over–President Obama has won his second term, so, honestly, he can put aside some of his campaign commitments (like he’s done with, say, Guantanamo).

With Jo Ann Rooney, it is time to end the flawed nomination and nominate somebody. Anybody. Heck, at this point, the Democratic equivalent of a Ham Sandwich could quickly get nominated–if only to put this sorry Jo Ann Rooney episode in the rear view mirror.

Look. Right now, the White House should be racing–racing–to fill open appointee slots at the Pentagon. Every single open post should have a name attached to it by now. Instead, the White House….is operating in slow motion. It takes a year to nominate somebody, then it accepts Congressional slow-rolling of the nominee, and then lets folks sorta…fester in nominee limbo. That’s not right for the nominee

It’s also not good for the Democratic Party.  And, frankly, the Nation.

The Democratic Defense community is starved of voices, and the Democratic Party–for it’s own long-term health–needs a wider set of views than are available from the two somewhat warring (Frienemy-esque?) camps of Democratic Defense Expertise–the Camp Obama Pragmatists and the Hillary Clinton enthusiasts of the Samantha Power “Responsibility To Protect” school or the understated Michele Flournoy “My Mission is the QDR” uh, movement.

The Democratic Party needs more adherents with solid Defense experience, and you sure as heck don’t build that body of experience by letting open political appointee slots go unfilled– because somebody at the White House–like Valerie Jarett–is pushing the President’s mandate to grow the ranks of female Defense appointees in an unhealthy, unsustainable fashion.

It’s time to put idealism aside and be pragmatic. With Defense still seen as a underlying Democratic Party weakness, the goal for Democrats should be in building a thriving, vibrant community of competent leaders. And that means filling ALL THE REMAINING PENTAGON APPOINTEE SLOTS ASAP. Regardless of sex, race or recorded Obama/Clinton affinity. It does the Party good to have Democrats appointed in positions where they can either wield their newly-established defense “cred” or positioned to burrow into the Pentagon bureaucracy so they can build a better power-base within the building. In the long-term, that’ll be how you change the nature of the place. That’s how you’ll see more females entering into the Defense Department ranks.

And, despite my hopes that we could tolerate a non-traditional Navy Undersecretary, the continued hopeless support of Jo Ann Rooney ain’t helping–she lacks the charisma to develop as a defense leader, and certainly lacks the grit needed to shepherd her hearing through to a favorable completion.

330px-SenatorGillibrandpicPut bluntly, this nomination should have been pulled the moment Jo Ann Rooney failed to appropriately respond to up-and-coming Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY) challenge (Even though some Democrats don’t want to give Senator Gillibrand a win or any extra oxygen–she’s a future Democratic party heavyweight regardless of what Senator Reid or Hillary Clinton may think). When Gillibrand jumped in, Rooney–after her anemic damage control effort–was done.

And if Jo Ann Rooney lacked the intestinal fortitude to withdraw to “spend more time with family”, then surely Ray Mabus or Jo Ann’s champion in the White House staff should step up and pop this non-functional trial balloon.

The Democratic Party needs a stronger voice in Defense policy. And, while it may be a painful process in admitting defeat and starting anew with a high-profile Pentagon nomination, the alternative of keeping the office empty, depriving some other Democrat a chance to build their defense “chops” is not an answer either.

Let’s give Ray Mabus a full bench. The Navy and Nation need it.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

J_kies November 13, 2014 at 9:23 am

Craig –
WH caved to your argument – You’re a thought leader. – Or at least you can tell yourself that.
RIP Jo Anne’s nomination.


ADM64 October 7, 2014 at 8:01 am

The assertion that we need more women in the military is unsupported by any actual evidence and contains contradictions no one wants to examine. Specifically, if women bring a “unique” perspective to service, different than that of men, then it arises because men and women are fundamentally different, innately. However, that point is the very one denied when it comes to making the case for a coed force (and leadership), namely, that there aren’t any fundamental differences (beyond the gross physical ones), and that there will be no friction or trouble as a result. You can’t have it both ways. Moreover, the repeated attempts to give us more women in leadership positions taints all candidates with the suggestion of affirmative action, and it isn’t like there is no evidence to support those suspicions: Karla Hultgren, Holly Graf and Etta Jones jump to mind. Michelle Howard is so small that even if she has the mind of Nelson, it is doubtful she could have ever fought a shipboard fire or rescued a wounded sailor had she been required to do so; and her resume is not exactly great compared to most of the men at the same level. So, color me skeptical of more than Ms. Rooney: whatever gives us the best Navy (and military) should be supported. Our track record over the last 20 years suggests this isn’t it.


NextNavy October 7, 2014 at 9:16 am

I don’t think you read the post, but….you know that company that makes all those awesome SSNs, SSBNs, DDGs, T-AKEs, MLPs, AFSBs, DDG-1000s for the Navy?

Run by a woman.

A woman with prior service in the CIA and Department of Defense, no less.

And the company does pretty darn well, too.

Women can lead just fine. And I’d posit that the occasional undeserved promotion of bad apples is a phenomenon that defies both gender or race.


ADM64 October 7, 2014 at 11:44 am

Actually, I did the read the post. My understanding was that you were critical of this particular appointee but more so from the perspective of how it impacts perceptions of women in the military and the Democratic Party’s standing with respect to defense issues. I have no problem with criticism of a less capable appointee; I have considerable objections to the claim that either other point is relevant.

With respect to whether, women can run companies, or do engineering, I have no doubts on that and indeed speak from experience with respect to both of these points. With respect to the current state of Navy shipbuilding as proof of this, less so. The DDG-51 design dates back to the 1980s, the DDG-1000 is highly controversial, the Ohio class SSBN is likewise, very old, and even the Virginia class SSN is not that current. In all cases, the development process is extremely drawn out and not terribly efficient. The new Ford class CVNs are currently plagued with design problems. A more cynical interpretation of anyone – male or female – with prior DOD or CIA experience ending up running a major defense contractor is that it represents crony capitalism at its worst, and exemplifies the very flawed relationship that exists between the defense contracting community and the Pentagon.

With respect to whether women can lead or not, I guess it depends on how one views leadership. Margaret Thatcher was a leader; Hillary Clinton strikes me as no Margaret Thatcher. Most feminists, though, regard Clinton as their girl and Thatcher as a man in drag. To my mind, there are a lot of people – again of both sexes – who think leadership consists of repeating managerial platitudes with confidence. The actual core part of the function, which means being more interested in the work than the perks, and behaving with integrity while convincing people to follow one in a particular direction, is largely lacking in a lot of so-called leaders.

I stand by my other points regarding women in the military. There is a Potemkin village aspect to the entire issue that would vanish if there was some actual candor about things like physical standards, fraternization, pregnancy, sexual assault, quotas and set-asides and the like. Indeed, I can think of no other issue since the body counts of the Vietnam war that have required so much dishonesty. Given that morale in the force is at rock bottom and survey after survey indicates profound distrust of the senior leadership – and considerable hostility to all the PC and diversity related aspects of current policy – it might be better to address these openly, recognizing that no policy is permanent, than simply continuing to do more of the same.


Subs October 7, 2014 at 8:49 pm

This is absolutely shocking. Admiral Howard is not a DC2. She motives me fine, and I’VE got her back, because I know she had mine. She made the command mission clear and obvious, unlike most of the absolutely forgettable greater-than-or-equal-to O-6s I’ve known since I laid aside my crow.

Your average WASP Flag just hasn’t been challenged in the way she has, they have just sort of played along with expectations as they rode the vacancy escalator upward. They can’t do much better on the PRT or DC olympics, if that is your weird standard for Flag performance. They are certainly not as good as she in communicating their expectations to other senior officers.

Ms. Rooney sounds like a complete waste of floor space, but keep off Howard. Find some Major Project Managers to pick on. There’s plenty to work with in procurement!

P.S. My morale is just fine.


James Ronan October 7, 2014 at 6:45 am

“… those who can do the Democratic Party good service over the long-term as defense leaders. ” How abouth those who can help the United States as defense leaders?


NextNavy October 7, 2014 at 9:03 am

James–If we lived in a perfect, beautiful world, I’d suggest that very thing. It’d be a wonderful place–Winston Churchill would have never left the Admiralty, and FDR probably would have stayed on forever as Assistant Secretary of the Navy.

But we don’t live in that wonderful place. We live in a world where there are political parties.

And we’re talking about political appointees.

So…urging the party in charge to hire the best within their party is really the best we can expect right now. Kudos if one party or another steps across the aisle to appoint somebody really good, but, really, we can’t expect party interests to not be served in filling their political appointee slots. It’s the way things are.


James Ronan October 7, 2014 at 10:26 am

Wow! Maybe for you but the thought of any appointee, patronage or career, serving a party instead of the nation is abhorrent to me.


NextNavy October 7, 2014 at 10:39 am

Oh, do, please, refrain from taking to your fainting couch.

FDR and Dwight D. Eisenhower joined political parties (Democrat and Republican, respectively) and served their nation quite well.

I personally want competent defense people in both parties. It does the Nation good. And if you don’t have a cadre of trained defense people readily available, you’ve gotta start somewhere. And for political parties, that somewhere is usually an appointed post.


Bookface October 7, 2014 at 7:14 pm

Your comparing the ideologues in this administration to FDR and Ike? Keep trolling.

XBradTC October 14, 2014 at 6:04 pm

NN has a point. Dems are seen as weak, or worse, on defense. Perhaps if they built a bench of competent, experienced people in the DoD at the appointed levels, they wouldn’t be seen as such.

And having that competence *would* be good for the nation. After all, the alternative is having incompetence in position.

J_kies October 9, 2014 at 9:28 am

While partisan politics do play – I note a significant fraction of the current political appointees in DoD have (R) as their affiliation. From Hagel on down the current administration has been remarkably blind as to the partisan thing and actually positioned very capable people at the lower levels. As a non-partisan individual; the current administration has been less partisan in appointments than the previous two and for the mid-level DoD and NNSA I view, the selections are pretty solid.

How non-partisan they might be at the NSC or NSS levels I have no clue but the overall confusion we see may be reflective of more political loyalty and less emphasis on capabilities.


NextNavy October 9, 2014 at 10:33 am

How does a Party build a strong pool of National Security Talent if they don’t have a good recruitment draw from standard sources, a big recruiting base or a strong developmental infrastructure?

My sense is that you bring ’em in where you can. And political appointments is one way to do that…


J_kies October 9, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Perhaps the right way to look at the ‘National Security Talent’ is to carry fewer overt political appointee positions or revert to a German-style civil service where higher ranking civil servants declare their political affiliations such that the winning party can choose to ‘bench them’ during their administration. (Essentially sit out the administration doing ‘shadow work’ at an NGO.) To reach higher technical positions; you need to be vetted and demonstrate talent. (similar to Officer boards but without the same up or out outcomes)

NextNavy October 7, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Huh? I simply say that both Ike and FDR joined political parties and participated in politics while still doing great by the country.


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