Rear Admiral Bradley A. Fiske (Retired) to Senator Frederick Hale of Maine, Chairman of the Subcommittee of the Committee on Naval Affairs.
NEW YORK CITY, May 11, 1920.
MY DEAR SENATOR HALE: In reply to your letter of May 9, 1920, my only suggestions are:
1. That the provision establishing the Office of Chief of Naval Operations that was recommended unanimously by the House Naval Committee in January and February 1915, be enacted into law.1 If this be done the Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations can then map out the details needed to carry it into effect, and modify them from time to time as needed. If the attempt be made by Navy officers and Congressmen not familiar with the duties of the Chief of Naval Operations to arrange details in advance, I fear that important mistakes may be made. If such mistakes are prescribed by law, great injury may be done.
2. That the selection of an officer to fill the Office of Chief of Naval Operations be made in accordance with the recommendation of a board of flag officers, as is now done in making regular promotions. Of this board the retiring Chief of Naval Operations it would seem should be the chairman. Clearly it is as wrong to vest the appointment of a Chief of Naval Operation in an official not professionally qualified to select the best man as it would be to so vest the selection of officers for ordinary promotion.2
Rear Admiral, United States Navy, Retired.
Source Note: TCy, Naval Investigation: 2:3410-1.
Footnote 1: Although Fiske had successfully persuaded Congress to establish the position of CNO, the provision that ultimately passed through the Senate on 3 March 1915 differed from the one that he and his fellow officers had helped draft for the House Naval Committee on 16 January 1915. Instead of being an officer “not below the grade of Rear Admiral...who, under the Secretary of the Navy, shall be responsible for the readiness of the Navy for war and be charged with its general direction,” the CNO would instead be an officer, “not below the grade of Captain for a period of four years, who shall, under the direction of the Secretary of the Navy, be charged with the operations of the fleet, and with the preparation and readiness of plans for its use in war.” Morison, Naval Administration, II-8, 10.
Footnote 2: This seems to be an implicit criticism directed at Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels for passing over Fiske and every other flag officer in order to select then-Capt. William S. Benson for the position of CNO. Although Benson would prove to be well-suited to the position, he had achieved little of note prior to his selection and was likely chosen because he was not associated with Fiske or any of the other officers who had frequently clashed with Daniels. Still, Crisis at Sea, 8-9.