Rear Adm. Jeffrey Harley has been reassigned from President of the Naval War College to an undisclosed position in Washington. He is under investigation by the Inspector General for a litany of issues, including over-budgeting, abusing his hiring authority and other inappropriate behavior, including keeping a margarita machine in his office.
According to the Navy Times, several current and former employees of the college “raised serious concerns for over a year about Rear Adm. Jeffrey Harley’s conduct.” The Naval War College, per its website, “educates and develops leaders at specific stages in their careers from all services, U.S. government agencies and departments, and international navies.”
Here’s what you need to know.
1. The College Faced Annual Shortfalls of $5 Million Under His Leadership
Among the various angles being investigated, the group of employees stressed that the financial irresponsibility should be the primary focus. The Associated Press states that it obtained several documents that show the college spent about $725,000 annually on raises while facing an annual shortfall of $5 million or more.
Per the Navy Times:
Two of them told the AP that they and others were interviewed by investigators in September, but nothing happened. The group contacted the inspector general again in January with additional allegations of Harley flouting Navy rules and norms.
“The drinking continues. Morale is at an all-time low,” the employees wrote in a January email. “Your biggest concern should be, however, the financial situation at the college.”
They said they heard nothing again from investigators until last month, after the AP asked the Navy about Harley’s conduct.
Harley announced his departure from the college in an email to students, stating that he is “stepping down.”
“Team—this will be my last email to you,” Harley wrote according to ABC News. “Due to the distractions caused by the unfounded AP article last week, I am stepping down as President of YOUR college effective immediately.”
While Harley has previously blamed the fiscal strain on the Navy not funding new missions the college was ordered to conduct, the Navy Times reports that his payroll fell into trouble because he tried to close pay gaps without proper funding.
All five current and former employees blamed that in part on substantial raises — as much as $10,000 to $15,000 per year — that Harley appeared to grant unilaterally to some faculty, rather than consulting the college’s other senior leaders, as is customary.
Harley has told staff and faculty in emails this spring that the college was remedying pay gaps between men and women, balancing pay between departments and creating a system to avoid future disparities.
2. He Also Raised Eyebrows Over “Free Hugs” & “Twister Games”
The Associated Press also reported that Harley also sent emails to hundreds of students, faculty and staff that “raised eyebrows, including offers of “free hugs” and games of Twister in his office.”
Harley states that these emails were a part of his lighthearted leadership style, and that none of the material in his emails were “derogatory, unethical, immoral or illegal.”
The employees also allege other behavior unbecoming of an admiral, such as drinking while on duty and rambling emails that brought into question “how Harley was spending his time and school resources.”
“He has invited members of the staff to his office for afternoon drinks, setting his employees up to either comply because he’s the boss or uncomfortably decline his offer because they do not want to drink during the workday,” the staffers said in their complaint.
According to NAVAL STATION (NAVSTA) NEWPORT INSTRUCTION 5350.5A, officers are supposed to instill a professional work environment that deglamorizes alcohol.
“All hands in position of authority, from petty officers to most senior officers, will deglamorize the use of alcohol. This includes setting a strong personal example of responsible behavior, both on and off-duty, and fostering a climate that motivates subordinates to conduct themselves as professional Navy members.”
3. Inspector General Investigations Normally Take Several Months to a Year
While the Inspector General website does not offer an official timeline for most investigations, ABC News states that investigations across the Department of Defense normally take several months to over a year.
“We are the conscience of the Navy,” the website writes. “We make a difference, adding value at all levels through proactive assistance, advice, and advocacy. Our guiding principle is to support the Department of the Navy in maintaining the highest level of integrity and public confidence.”
Vice Admiral Richard Snyder is the current Navy Inspector General. As far as the Navy’s media statements go, Lt. Cmdr. Jacqueline Pau said to USA Today Monday that, “Navy leaders felt the change is best for the college because it maintains the integrity of the investigation and ensures that Harley is afforded due process.”
She is the spokeswoman for Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations. Two other Navy spokespeople in Lt. Christina Sears and Cmd. Gary Ross gave similar comments stating that they will not comment on ongoing investigations.
Harley himself told Navy Times that while he could not discuss any investigation, “I think you’d be surprised to know that on any given day about 85 officers are under investigation.”
4. Prior to Taking the Naval War College Job in 2016, Harley Served as Commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 7
Harley has served honorably in several different posts and theaters. He was the Commander of Amphibious Force Seventh Fleet, Expeditionary Strike Group Seven and Task Force 76 from 2012-16. This meant he was responsible for the expeditionary and amphibious operations throughout U.S. SEVENTH Fleet area of operations, ranging from humanitarian and disaster relief missions to full combat operations.
He served as a junior officer on the USS Samuel Eliot Morison (FFG 13), chief engineer in USS David R. Ray (DD 971), operations officer in USS Cowpens (CG 63), executive officer in USS Benfold (DDG 65), commanding officer in USS Milius (DDG 69), and Commander, Destroyer Squadron Nine. During these operational tours, he completed five deployments to the Western Pacific/Indian Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, and Arabian Gulf. While commanding Milius, the ship participated in combat operations supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Ashore, Harley served as fleet scheduler for the commander in chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, executive assistant to the director for Operational Plans and Joint Force Development (J-7) on the Joint Staff, Asia-Pacific branch head in Deep Blue (N3/N5), and as director for Strategic Actions (N00Z) for the Chief of Naval Operations. He also served as the twentieth director, White House Situation Room and was the Vice Director, Strategy, Plans and Policy (J5) at U.S. Central Command.
5. Harley is a Highly-Decorated Officer
His personal awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.
His educational background includes attending the University of Minnesota, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. He also received Master of Arts degrees from the Naval War College and The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.