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WASHINGTON — The number of Navy officers removed from command has risen dramatically, but a series of personal failings was to blame, rather than a problem with the promotions system, investigators said Wednesday.

The Navy’s lead investigator noted that personal misconduct cases — things such as sexual improprieties and alcohol abuse — have accounted for the sharp rise.

From 1999 to 2002, only eight commanding officers were “detached for cause” due to personal behavior. Over the following 18 months, until June 2004, 19 officers were punished for those failings.

Overall, 38 commanding officers, about 1.5 percent of the Navy’s non-flag commanders, were detached from January 2003 to June 2004. Only 37 had been removed from command in the previous four years.

The Navy study, released Wednesday, dismisses major operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as factors in the increase, noting the service always holds its senior members “to the highest of personal and professional standards.”

Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John B. Nathman echoed those statements, saying he was pleased the investigation found no systemic problems in the chain of command.

“A commanding officer’s duties are to complete a mission successfully and to provide the conditions of success,” he said. “The behavior of a commanding officer must be proper. It implies you have to lead by example.”

Nathman said many of the personal behavior failings have occurred just before or immediately following deployment, which he thinks might show officers “letting their guard down” before and after missions.

Navy investigators noted that since June, only two officers have been removed from command, which they see as a sign the 18-month increase was just an anomaly.

But the report does recommend instituting a refresher course on behavior and responsibilities for all commanding officers, developing a self-assessment tool for commanders to monitor their actions, and creating a peer evaluation tool to provide another performance perspective to the commanders.

In addition to unprofessional conduct, officers can have their command stripped for failing to complete a mission, demonstrating poor leadership skills, or having a catastrophic event, such as a ship or plane crash, happen on their watch.

Of the personal misconduct cases reviewed by investigators, eight in the last four years were related to alcohol abuse, including several drunken driving arrests. In the last two years, 13 involved sexual misconduct, including five related to sexual harassment or assault, and two related to computer pornography.

The lead investigator said he found no connection between the detachments and where the commanding officers served, their command history or their level of training.

Nathman said several of the report recommendations have already been put in place, and he expects to see the rest enacted in the near future.

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