Despite McRaven Op-Ed, Senators Defend Opposing Losey's Promotion

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Sen. John McCain, one of the implied targets of retired Adm. William McRaven's stinging op-ed on "disrespect to the military" in Congress, had no immediate plans Wednesday to fire back at the legendary special operations leader who planned the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.

McCain, an Arizona Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has "a lot of respect for Adm. McRaven" but a response was not now in the works to McRaven's criticism of the arguments by McCain, Jack Reed and other senators who opposed a promotion for Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey, a spokesman for McCain said.

Instead, McCain's office forwarded a letter to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus from McCain and Reed outlining their reasons for opposing Losey's promotion.

McRaven's ire expressed in a Sunday op-ed for the Tampa Tribune was triggered by the denial of a promotion to two-star rank for Losey, the current head of Naval Special Warfare Command and the former leader of Seal Team 6.

Losey later announced that he would retire this summer.

Losey's promotion was partly derailed by a letter to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus from McCain and Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat and ranking Democrat on the armed services panel. There was no immediate reply to a request for comment from Reed's office.

Losey had already been approved for promotion by the committee when McCain and Reed sent the letter to Mabus in January. In the correspondence, the two senators said they were concerned by a Defense Department Inspector General's report that Losey had violated whistleblower protection laws by firing, demoting or punishing subordinates he suspected of informing on him over a minor travel policy dispute.

After reviewing the IG's findings, "we maintain deep reservations over RDML's Losey's suitability to serve satisfactorily in the grade to which he's been confirmed," McCain and Reed wrote.

"We are especially troubled that during a time when the Navy is reportedly working to create a service culture and promote command climates that are free of threats of unlawful reprisals, that you would consider promoting RDML Losey when you specifically found that he created exactly the type of negative command climate that is so harmful to our military," the letter said.

In conclusion, McCain and Reed urged Mabus to "exercise your authority as Navy Secretary and not promote him to the next higher grade." Mabus later complied.

In his op-ed, McRaven called the denial of Losey's promotion a "miscarriage of justice" that fit a pattern of disrespect shown by members of Congress to senior military leaders from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on down.

"During my past several years in uniform, I watched in disbelief how lawmakers treated the chairman, the service chiefs, the combatant commanders and other senior officers during Congressional testimony," said McRaven, now the chancellor of the University of Texas. "These officers were men of incredible integrity, and yet some lawmakers showed no respect for their decades of service."

Without mentioning McCain or Reed by name, McRaven wrote that "certain members of Congress" had decided to use the Losey case "to pursue their own political agenda. They held hostage other Navy nominations until Losey's promotion recommendation was rescinded. The ransom for their Congressional support was Brian Losey's career and, more importantly, his stellar reputation."

The whistleblower allegations against Losey arose while he was commander of Special Operations Commmand Africa, based in Stuttgart, Germany. McRaven suggested that the hard-charging Losey ran afoul of a small core of subordinates "who had been living in Europe for years enjoying the comfortable lifestyle in Stuttgart."

One of those subordinates was retired Army Special Forces Col. Fredrick Jones, who was Losey's civilian chief of staff. In an e-mail statement to The Washington Post, Jones called McRaven "the finest senior officer" he ever worked for and noted that McRaven had personally presented to him the Defense Superior Service Medal.

The presentation was "something I don't believe he would have done had he thought I was incompetent or unprofessional or was there 'fighting to maintain my comfortable life'" in Stuttgart, he said.

Jones called the whistleblowers "outstanding performers" and suggested that McRaven had been misled by Losey. He told The Washintgon Post that Losey was "masterful at managing upward," meaning that he was adept at manipulating superiors.

In a Senate floor speech earlier this month, Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican and one of a group of senators who initially raised questions about Losey's treatment of whistleblowers, praised the actions of McCain and Reed and said that Losey "can only blame himself for what happened.

"No matter how you cut it, though, the destruction of a distinguished military career -- especially one devoted to hazardous duty in Special Operations -- is unfortunate and sad. Yet that's accountability's harsh reality. He allegedly broke the law and must now pay the price," Grassley said.

The incident that led to the whistleblowing and the denial of the promotion began in July 2011 at the Norfolk Navy base travel office, Grassley said. "There was a minor dispute over who should pay for his daughter's airline ticket to Germany. As a Coast Guard Academy cadet, she was not entitled to travel as a dependent at taxpayers' expense," he said.

"Although Adm. Losey, his wife, and staff allegedly 'pestered' the travel office to pay for the ticket, Adm. Losey eventually purchased it with his own money. Nonetheless, the incident triggered a Hotline complaint on July 13, 2011. Adm. Losey was informed of the complaint two months later. It was all downhill from there," Grassley said.

"After learning of the anonymous Hotline tip, Adm. Losey was reportedly 'livid.' He saw it as an act of disloyalty and 'a conspiracy to undermine his command.' He reportedly developed a list of suspects and began a punitive hunt for moles," the senator said.

"In his drive to root out the moles, he created a 'toxic' environment in his command. His seemingly reckless behavior and blatant disregard for the law and well-being of his subordinates led to his downfall," Grassley said.

Losey also has his defenders in Congress. In a statement, Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican and member of the House Armed Services Committee, said, "I think Losey is a stand-up guy, who was raked over the coals.

"We are intimately aware of whistleblowers in the military -- in this case, it went too far in the other direction," Hunter said. "I think Chuck Grassley was wrong about Losey and the fact that some disgruntled contractors can derail the career of such a strategic thinker and great tactician is wrong."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at

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