Navy's Senior Enlisted Leader Steps Down Amid Reports of Toxic Leadership

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Steven S. Giordano speaks with Sailors from Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Jan. 10, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Alex Kouns)
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Steven S. Giordano speaks with Sailors from Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Jan. 10, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Alex Kouns)

The master chief petty officer of the Navy is stepping down from his post days after reports surfaced that he was being investigated by the service Inspector General's office over allegations that he bullied subordinates and created a hostile work environment.

Master Chief Steven Giordano published a lengthy message on the Navy's Facebook page Thursday afternoon announcing that he was leaving his post and planned to submit a retirement request.

The fate of Giordano, who came to the position nearly two years ago in September 2016, has been the subject of speculation since Navy Times broke news that he was under investigation. The story cited former subordinates who alleged he demanded to be treated like a three-star flag officer and made the sailors who worked for him miserable. The publication reported Wednesday that Giordano had taken leave under unclear circumstances.

One source said the MCPON had a "horrific and unpredictable temper" and "was like working for a pop star or Hollywood diva."

Giordano's message to sailors Thursday cited a wish to "avoid any distraction from the success of our sailors and our mission."

On his own official Facebook page, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson acknowledged that he had accepted Giordano's offer to step aside immediately.

"I appreciate his recognition that the situation had become untenable," Richardson wrote.

He said the Navy now needed to move forward in its mission to become more lethal.

"We'll continue to strengthen the bonds of trust and confidence within our Navy and with the American people," he wrote. "We'll continue to act with integrity, accountability, initiative and toughness. America expects no less."

It remains unclear who will replace Giordano as master chief petty officer of the Navy, whether investigations into his behavior will continue, or what the timeline is for his retirement.

The Navy directed all queries about Giordano's departure to Capt. Darryn James, a spokesman for Richardson. He did not immediately respond to phone or email queries.

In his own message, Giordano did not address any of the allegations or reports about his behavior directly, but spoke broadly about leadership, praising the accomplishments of sailors and citing successes over his tenure as MCPON.

Among these, he cited the new "Laying the Keel" program focused on enlisted leader development; improvements to fleet manning and logistics; and better childcare and spouse employment initiatives.

"The success of our Navy is not about one person or one individual, but rather the collective fighting spirit that has defined us over the last 242 years," he wrote. "It has been an honor to have been part of that team."

Giordano, 51, enlisted in the Navy in 1989. Trained as a cryptologic technician, he previously served as the top enlisted adviser for U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa.

For a military service's senior enlisted leader to depart early amid scandal is exceedingly rare, but not unprecedented. In 1997, then-Sergeant Major of the Army Gene McKinney was accused by a female former subordinate of making inappropriate advances. He was removed from his post the same year after serving just over two years in the position.

McKinney would ultimately be accused by five more female soldiers and be convicted of obstruction of justice at court-martial in 1998.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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