In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert Neller took ownership in fixing the underlying cultural issues he says led to the “Marines United” scandal.
“I’m not going to sit here and duck around this thing, I’m not. I’m responsible, I’m the commandant, I own this and we are going to have to you know, you’ve heard it before, but we’re going to have to change how we see ourselves and how we treat each other,” Neller said.
General Neller received particularly heated criticism from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who questioned the sincerity of Neller’s claim to lead substantive change in the Marine Corps.
“So, I — I have to say when you say to us “it’s got to be different,” that rings hollow. I don’t know what you mean when you say that. Why does it have to be different? Because you all of a sudden feel that it has to be different? Who has been held accountable?” asked Senator Gillibrand.
“Have you actually investigated and found guilty anybody? If we can’t crack Facebook, how are you, we supposed to be able to confront Russian aggression and cyber hacking throughout our military? It is a serious problem when we have members of our military denigrating female Marines who will give their life to this country in the way they have with no response.” She said.
The admission by General Neller that there is an inherent cultural problem in the Marines, and asking “What is it going to take for you to accept these Marines as Marines?” to males in the service speaks to the severity in which the leadership of the Marine Corps is taking the issue.
Given the long history of sexual harassment and sexual assault scandals in the military as a whole, as well as recent statistics showing that women in the military are more likely to be raped by their fellow service members than be killed in combat, many are naturally skeptical that Neller can suddenly right this wrong and steer the Marines towards fixing the problem.
However, as Jack Murphy pointed out recently when General Joseph Votel took responsibility for the January 2017 Yemen raid where Navy SEAL Ryan Owens was killed in action, taking ownership over adversity and failure is a critical aspect of leadership. General Neller’s career will now live or die on the basis of the Marines United scandal, and he should be at least commended for following through on the foundations of leadership that are taught to leaders across the U.S. military.
But, in this author’s opinion, actually solving the cultural problems within the military that has long plagued integrating men and women in the service will take a monumental and probably generational effort that will need to go well beyond shutting down Facebook groups.