WASHINGTON -- Faced with a shrinking budget and dogged by a sex abuse scandal, the Navy yesterday announced a plan to streamline its bureaucracy and to end infighting among its various branches.
The reorganization plan has been in the works for a long time.
By announcing it with great fanfare yesterday, the Navy appeared to be trying to demonstrate that it was moving forward and adjusting to the end of the Cold War.
Under the reorganization, the Navy will merge the separate offices of submarine warfare, surface warfare and air warfare. The new office will be headed by Vice Adm. William A. Owens, the former commander of the 6th Fleet who previously served as the military assistant to Defense Secretary Dick Cheney.
Sean C. O'Keefe, the new acting Navy secretary, said the move was intended to end rivalries within the service. "We believe there can be no jealously among the fingers of a strong fist," he said yesterday, "and this Navy reorganization will begin the process of bringing our warfare fighters together into a tighter, stronger fist."
The changes are also part of a broader plan to shrink the Navy's headquarters staff as the size of the fleet is cut.
The Navy aims to reduce the number of admirals from the current 250 to 216 by 1995 and the number of three-star admirals from 31 to 24.
The total number of headquarters staff is to be reduced to 1,225, from 1,622, said Adm. Frank B. Kelso II, the chief of naval operations.
All this comes after a tough two years for the Navy.
The future of naval aviation was thrown into question with Mr. Cheney's decision in January 1991 to cancel the Navy's A-12 attack plane because of excessive cost.
During the Persian Gulf war, the Navy was overshadowed by the Air Force. After the war, some Navy officials contended that the service had hurt itself by failing to maintain sufficiently high-ranking representation at the U.S. Central Command headquarters.
Since the war, the Air Force stole a march on the other services by announcing a plan to consolidate its major commands.
Then, the Navy was shaken by the sex abuse scandal that grew out of a convention of the Tailhook Association, a group of retired and active-duty naval aviators, at which 26 women were sexually assaulted last year in Las Vegas.
Last month, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense voted to eliminate 10,000 positions from the Navy administrative staff, which was intended in part as a protest against the service's handling of the Tailhook investigation.
At the news conference announcing the reorganization plan, Admiral Kelso said he did not plan to resign as a result of the Tailhook scandal.
"It's my job to provide the leadership to put us back on track," he said.
Mr. O'Keefe confirmed that the Navy was withdrawing the nomination of Vice Adm. Jerry O. Tuttle and Rear Adm. Joseph W. Prueher to top posts because of the reorganization.
Mr. O'Keefe suggested that concern over the sexual abuse scandal had been a small factor in that decision. But last week, other Navy officers said concern that Congress could delay the promotions because of their involvement in unrelated sexual harassment incidents had been an important factor in the decision.
The most recent action taken by Navy against sexual abuse was announced Monday by the Pacific Command, which relieved the commander of the Safeguard, a Navy salvage ship based in Hawaii, of duties pending an investigation into accusations of fraternization and sexual harassment aboard the ship.
The action came after female crew members complained to an equal-opportunity specialist, said Richard Brady, a spokesman at Pearl Harbor.