The Navy Department's second-highest civilian leader says a recent string of alleged misconduct in the naval special warfare ranks is not indicative of a wider cultural problem in the elite community.
Navy Undersecretary Thomas Modly told reporters Thursday that while service leaders are concerned about recent high-profile allegations of wrongdoing in the Navy SEAL community, there's nothing that "is indicative of a cultural problem."
"We're a huge enterprise and so, as a huge enterprise, we have problems just like every other huge enterprise," he said at a Defense Writers' Group event in Washington. "So when these types of problems arise, we have very, very good processes to go through a legal adjudication of them, and I think we do that very well."
Over the last six months, 10 SEALs were booted from the service after testing positive for drugs, two senior leaders were relieved following allegations of sexual misconduct, and reports broke that an operator is in the brig while under investigation after allegedly executing an Iraqi detainee.
"These obviously are high-profile because they do come from our most elite warfighting areas, but my sense is that we don't have a cultural problem there," Modly said. "Obviously, we're concerned about it -- it doesn't reflect well on the service. But these are fairly isolated incidents."
SEALs make up a small fraction of the Navy, with just 2,700 serving on active duty as of 2015, along with about 800 special-warfare combatant craft crewmen, who deliver them to and extract them from their missions, according to Defense Department data.
While Modly said he doesn't have any data to support the idea that SEALs aren't committing more misconduct than special operators in other services, his impression is that the Navy's elite aren't faring any worse than Army, Air Force or Marine Corps commandos.
"This also could be a result of 17 years of being at war in stressful conditions," he said, a sentiment several members of Congress shared last year during a special-operations policy forum.
"How many missions can you send them on?" Rep. Adam Smith, D- Washington, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, asked then. "How many times can they do this? I think that's what we don't know."
Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer issued an administrative message to all sailors and Marines this week reminding them to "never look the other way or abuse the power given to you, to act with integrity, and to endeavor to do the right thing always."
"I expect every Navy and Marine Corps team member to act with integrity and play the ethical midfield at all times," he wrote. "Remember, each and every one of us is accountable for our actions and decisions each and every day."