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Whistleblower probes cost admiral a promotion

By Craig Whitlock | The Washington Post | Published: March 17, 2016

WASHINGTON — The Navy has denied promotion to the admiral in charge of its elite SEAL teams, effectively ending his military career, after multiple investigations found that he had retaliated against whistleblowers.

Officials said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, under pressure from Congress, decided this week to reject Rear Adm. Brian Losey's pending promotion to become a two-star admiral.

The Washington Post reported in October that the Navy was poised to promote Losey despite findings from Pentagon investigators that he illegally demoted or punished three subordinates during a fruitless hunt for an anonymous whistleblower who had reported him for a minor travel-policy infraction.

Navy leaders began reconsidering Losey's status in December after Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., blocked the nomination of Janine Davidson to become the Navy's second-ranking civilian leader. Wyden said he didn't have any problem with Davidson but wanted to force the Navy to revisit Losey's case, adding that promoting him would send a message that retaliating against whistleblowers was acceptable.

Rear Adm. Dawn Cutler, the Navy's chief spokeswoman, confirmed that Losey's promotion had been nixed but lauded the SEAL's long career in the military.

"The failure to promote does not diminish the achievements of a lifetime of service," she said in a statement. "While the full scope of his service may never be known, his brilliant leadership of special operators in the world's most challenging operational environments . . . reflected his incredible talent, energy, and devotion to mission. There are few in this country whose contributions to national security have been more significant."

A combat veteran who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Panama, Bosnia and Somalia, Losey once commanded SEAL Team 6, the clandestine unit known for killing terrorist targets such as Osama bin Laden. Losey also once worked as a top military aide in the White House.

Wyden said he had been informed by the Navy that Losey will not be promoted. As a result, Wyden said, he would remove his hold on Davidson's nomination and support her confirmation to become the Navy's new undersecretary.

Despite the pressure from Congress, a promotion board consisting of Navy admirals recently recommended that Losey be promoted anyway, according to a Pentagon official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The recommendation was overruled by Mabus, however, and Losey was notified Tuesday that his promotion had been rejected, the official said.

Losey did not respond to a request for comment placed through the Navy. He has previously denied wrongdoing, telling Pentagon investigators that his staff members were poor performers and that he had acted within his authority as a commander to demote or fire them.

Losey is being replaced by Rear Adm. Timothy Szymanski, the assistant commander for operations at the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

On Thursday, Navy officials said Losey would submit an official request to retire.

Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey speaks at a change of command ceremony in 2013 at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Calif.
John Fischer/U.S. Navy Photo

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