Contact: James Arnold or Mary Collins Atkinson (202) 224-2353
July 12, 2021 

Cotton Statement on Delivery of A Report on the Fighting Culture of the Navy’s Surface Fleet 

Washington, D.C. — Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) released the following statement regarding the delivery of A Report on the Fighting Culture of the United States Navy’s Surface Fleet. Cotton, along with Representatives Jim Banks (R-Indiana), Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), and Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin), directed this investigation into the Navy’s culture after several high-profile losses of sailors and warships. The full report may be found here.

“The findings of this report are very concerning. Our sailors are too often deprived of the training and leadership they need to fight and win at sea. A Navy that puts lethality, warfighting, and operational excellence at the heart of its culture is absolutely essential to our national security. America counts on the Navy to keep us safe and keep our seas open. I appreciate the hard work of the distinguished veterans who wrote this report. I intend to work with them, Navy leaders, and my colleagues in Congress to implement the report’s recommendations,” said Cotton.

“This report doesn’t mince words. At a time when the Navy’s readiness is more critical than ever before, this report depicts a Navy leadership that’s distracted from the number one threat to American national security: The Chinese Communist Party. As China’s Navy exceeds ours in size, the U.S. Navy must be ready to face any threat. I look forward to implementing the recommendations of the report and refocusing our Navy on threats from China,” said Banks.

“A strong Navy is critical to our national security interests around the world. The findings clearly indicate that our sailors are not receiving the training they need to perform the essential functions of the Navy: to find and sink enemy fleets and ensure freedom of navigation. We must immediately address the concerns detailed in the report. I look forward to working with Navy leadership and my colleagues in Congress to implement the changes necessary to ensure our Navy and our sailors are war-ready and capable of defending the United States,” said Crenshaw.

“As we've seen from a tragic string of accidents in recent years, it is clear that all is not well in our surface Navy. In order to beat China, we need a sense of urgency to provide and maintain the Navy that our nation needs. I look forward to working with my colleagues to implement the report's recommendations and help ensure America continues to rule the waves,” said Gallagher.


After several high-profile mishaps in the Navy’s surface fleet, Senator Tom Cotton and Congressmen Jim Banks, Dan Crenshaw, and Mike Gallagher requested a strictly non-partisan report on the fighting culture of the Navy’s surface fleet. This review began after the total loss of the USS Bonhomme Richard pier-side one year ago today. Other mishaps include the collision of the USS McCain in the South China Sea, the collision of the USS Fitzgerald off the coast of Japan, and the surrender of two small Navy craft to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy in the Arabian Gulf.

The report, briefed to Members of Congress on Friday, found that a staggering 94% of sailors interviewed believe that the surface Navy suffers from a crisis of leadership and culture. Sailors warned that the surface fleet has suffered a critical loss of focus from its primary purpose of fighting and winning wars. Administrative bloat, excessive requirements, chaotic training pipelines, overtasked ships, and erratic maintenance cycles have all contributed to a fleet that is distracted and unprepared for the realities of 21st century conflict.

The nonpartisan findings note that these problems have metastasized for three decades. No single president, Member of Congress, or high-ranking naval leader was found to be solely responsible for the surface Navy’s drift. Rather, slow and profound changes beginning with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War have eroded the Navy’s combat edge.

Details on the Report

Two retired flag officers, Lieutenant General Robert E. Schmidle, United States Marine Corps, and Rear Admiral Mark Montgomery, United States Navy, led an interview team consisting of Congressional staff, military veterans, and outside experts to produce this report. Approximately 90% of the interview team are veterans of one of the five branches of service. This team conducted interviews between September 2020 and March 2021, along with weekly meetings to discuss findings and validate that the interview process remained focused and nonpartisan.

The report’s methodology incorporated an iterative, long-form approach to interviews. The review team employed a high-touch, analytical approach that proceeded without reliance on an interview subject's chain of command. The objective was to encourage nuance and candor on the part of interviewees, as opposed to wider-reach, lower-touch survey methods that are common in military climate assessments. A total of 77 exhaustive and intensive interviews were conducted with sailors of all walks of naval life—active duty and reserve, officer and enlisted, retired and separated—producing over 100 hours of transcripts. All interviews were conducted in-person or by phone/telecon and recorded to ensure accuracy.

Subjects were identified by a blind referral process, with a preference for officers with surface warfare experience and significant time at sea. 78% of interviewees were active duty, both current and separated/retired, with approximately 20% serving as reservists. The sample selection was overwhelmingly officers between the grades of Lieutenant (O-3) and Captain (O-6). Of the 77 interviewed, 67 were male and 10 were female.

A full copy of A Report on the Fighting Culture of the United States Navy Surface Fleet may be found here.