The Navy announced yesterday that it has accepted the resignation of the superintendent of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, after an investigation found that he had acted improperly by grabbing the wrist of a Marine Corps sentry who had asked for his ID.
The Navy said in a statement that Vice Adm. Richard J. Naughton submitted his resignation Tuesday during a meeting with Adm. Vern Clark, the chief of naval operations and a Joint Chiefs of Staff member.
The Navy’s inspector general confirmed a complaint was made that Adm. Naughton, in the post for about one year, grabbed the sentry’s wrist. The report cited him for “general failure to promote good morale” at the 4,000-student brigade, which turns out Navy ensigns and Marine second lieutenants.
Adm. Naughton’s quick exit marked the second leadership shake-up at one of the nation’s premier military academies in recent months.
The Navy IG report also found that Adm. Naughton, a Navy “Top Gun” pilot, had several run-ins with academy faculty that were “overly confrontational or demeaning in nature.”
In March, Air Force Secretary James Roche replaced the superintendent of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. The action came after investigations found that the academy systematically had ignored complaints of sexual abuse from female cadets. The superintendent, Lt. Gen. John Dallager, was reassigned to Peterson Air Force Base and will retire in August.
The Baltimore Sun reported that Adm. Naughton was with friends and in civilian clothes when he became upset that the sentry asked for his ID last New Year’s Eve at a school gate.
Since the September 11 attacks, Marines, who guard the academy entrances along the Severn River and near downtown Annapolis, have been extra careful to check IDs of all civilians seeking access.
Officials told the Sun that Adm. Naughton became angered by the ID request and flashed it briefly. The young sentry, who was not identified by the Navy, asked to see it again, and the admiral grabbed his wrist. One official told the Sun that the sentry took out his canister of pepper spray.
The Marine Corps reassigned the enlisted man to Washington for the good of all parties, the Navy said, stressing that the transfer was not punishment.
A one-page Navy statement issued at the Pentagon said: “Vice Adm. Naughton’s decision comes after an investigation by the Navy’s inspector general into allegations that he improperly interfered with a Marine sentry at the Naval Academy by grabbing the sentry’s wrist. This incident occurred December 31, 2002, as Vice Adm. Naughton was returning from a private dinner in Annapolis.
“In addition to the sentry incident, the IG also investigated a number of alleged interactions between Vice Adm. Naughton and academy faculty and staff, which were purportedly overly confrontational or demeaning in nature. The IG substantiated both the allegation of improper contact with the sentry and a general failure to promote good morale.”
The Navy statement said Adm. William J. Fallon, the Navy vice chief, concurred with the IG on one finding, and “counseled [Adm. Naughton] on his lapse in judgment and conduct in the exchange with the Marine sentry.”
It said Adm. Fallon, however, disagreed with the IG’s decision that Adm. Naughton failed to adequately promote good morale.
After the counseling, Adm. Naughton requested a meeting with Adm. Clark, the chief of naval operations (CNO).
“Vice Adm. Naughton told the CNO that it was clear that his efforts at the Naval Academy had had a disruptive effect on some elements of the faculty, and that his continued service as the superintendent could adversely impact the academy’s primary mission to produce commissioned officers for the Navy and Marine Corps,” the Navy said.
Adm. Naughton then requested to step down and retire from active service at the Naval Academy, and Adm. Clark agreed, the statement said.
Vice Adm. Charles W. Moore Jr. will serve as acting superintendent until the White House nominates a successor for Senate confirmation.
Adm. Naughton graduated in 1968 from the Naval Academy. His career as a pilot eventually brought him command of the carrier USS Enterprise. He assumed command of the academy June 7, 2002. Superintendents normally serve three-year terms.
Adm. Naughton provided the following statement:
“The Naval Academy is a wonderful institution with superb Midshipmen, staff and faculty. Its mission is training the warriors of the 21st century. Over the past few months, too much attention has been focused by media and others on the superintendent,” he said.
“Because of this attention, I have asked the CNO to reassign me elsewhere and to bring in new leadership that can take the academy where it needs to go. It has been a privilege to be the superintendent this past year.”
An academy spokesman said, “The academy is shocked and saddened. Today’s announcement came as a surprise. Vice Adm. Naughton is well-respected, and we will be sad to see him leave. His departure creates a leadership void that will challenge the academy. We wish him and his family a heartfelt ‘Fair Winds and Following Seas.’”