Navy Defends Decision to Withdraw Arthur Promotion
Jul. 14, 1994
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Navy says its decision to withdraw the promotion of a senior admiral criticized for his handling of a sexual harassment case has nothing to do with ''political correctness.''
That charge is ''simply wrong,'' Adm. Jeremy Boorda, the chief of naval operations, said in a letter Wednesday to Sen. John Warner, R-Va.
Boorda said Adm. Stanley Arthur was an excellent choice to head the military's Pacific command. But possible opposition in the Senate to his nomination threatened to leave open a key command charged with, among other things, overseeing military operations in Korea.
The withdrawal of Arthur's promotion drew complaints that the Navy was punishing a qualified officer out of over-sensitivity to the sexual harassment issue. Boorda rejected that view.
''A review of the correspondence clearly indicates the protracted discussion that would have taken place,'' Boorda's said in his letter, ''and that would have delayed his nomination and cause a prolonged gap in the filling of the ... position.''
The Navy released a sheaf of documents in addition to the Boorda letter Wednesday detailing Arthur's handling of the sexual harassment case.
Lt. Rebecca Hansen failed helicopter pilot training school in Pensacola, Fla., after accusing a flight instructor at another base with sexual harassment. The instructor was found guilty, disciplined and later left the Navy.
Sen. David Durenberger, R-Minn., questioned whether Arthur made the right decision in affirming Hansen's failing grade or whether, as Hansen charged, she was flunked in retaliation for her allegation.
The Navy's documents included exchanges between the Navy, Hansen and Durenberger on the case. Hansen is a constituent of Durenberger's.
''The system had done its best to give (Hansen) the benefit of the doubt wherever possible,'' but ''she had demonstrated very marginal ability to fly and I had little confidence she could successfully operate an aircraft in an operational environment,'' Arthur said in an April 11 memorandum to his civilian superior.
Neither Hansen nor Durenberger accepted this assessment. Durenberger threatened to place a hold on Arthur's confirmation until he was satisfied with the Navy's responses.
Hansen met with Navy Secretary John Dalton on June 20, four days before the Navy withdrew Arthur's name from consideration, and presented 10 demands.
They included a request for a written apology from Dalton, the expulsion of all negative evaluations in her record, time off to attend law school and time and money for civilian flight training.
Assistant Navy Secretary Frederick Pang concluded that ''many of her demands were contrary to existing laws and regulations and that others were unreasonable.''
Warner, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and himself a former Navy secretary, said he wants a committee inquiry to see whether Arthur was treated fairly. He also said, however, that the committee should quickly confirm Adm. Richard Macke, President Clinton's subsequent choice for Pacific commander.