This post originally appeared on the USNI Blog here.
In a shadowy, torch-lit supply storeroom, a circle of silhouetted figures doff their boat cloaks, revealing an assortment of naval officers all in different uniforms. On the Uniform Board, officers are identified and ranked by the uniform they wear. The senior board member wears Service Dress Khaki, with full Zumwalt-Navy beard, and a tobacco pipe for good measure. Even though he hasn’t been authorized for wear in years, none of the other board members have mustered the courage to tell him to step down. Nobody messes with Service Dress Khaki.
Service Dress Khaki: Now call to order this meeting of the Supreme High Council of Naval Sartorial Affairs! What Old Business do we have to bring forward?
Formal Dress: Sir, people are still confused by the Prototype Working Uniforms, especially since we just transitioned to the Type III. Oh, and NWU Type I still won’t go away.
NWU Type I: HEY, I’m still authorized!
<chorus of groans> Someone mumbles “Nobody likes you.”
Service Dress Khaki: Ugh, okay, I’ll have another ALNAV sent out about the Prototype Working Uniform and perhaps rename it the NWU Type IV. That should clear everything up. Flight Suit, please escort NWU Type I outside. And, for God’s sake, keep him away from the open flames.
Flight Suit gives NWU Type I an atomic wedgie and drags him out kicking and screaming.
Service Dress Khaki: Ok, what New Business is there?
NWU Type III: Sir, the rollout of our new SWO Bomber Jacket is going swimmingly. We published this picture on social media to rave reviews!
Service Dress Khaki: Excellent! The troops asked for bomber jackets, and we deliv-
Salty: <emerging from the shadows> Ahem . . . we did not ask for bomber jackets. We asked for bombers. Like a Sea Control Bomber.
Service Dress Khaki: Wha? Who is this? Who let him in here?!?
Service Dress Blues: Sir, this is a random midgrade officer with an inflated sense of self-importance and a mediocre sense of humor.
Salty: A couple of innovative young officers floated the idea of, instead of retiring the B-1, transferring it to the Navy for antisurface warfare. Certainly the idea has its flaws, but we have an increasingly urgent need to position maritime firepower in the Pacific beyond what our traditional framework can provide. The idea of a Sea Control Bomber should be studied, at a minimum. You gave us jackets.
Service Dress Khaki: Exactly, we gave SWOs these stunning new black leather bomber jackets!
Flight Suit: Uh, boss, we don’t actually call them bomber jac-
Service Dress Khaki: Go back on oxygen, Flight Suit!
Salty: Anyways . . . what we need are real solutions for improving our warfighting effectiveness under existing budgetary constraints.
Service Dress Khaki: Look, you’re talking about innovative solutions that require congressional approval and cooperation with the other services. That’s hard and we might get yelled at! And now we have an Army guy as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Defense. Can you imagine how hard it’s going to be to get funding for the Navy? We here provide the only feasible means to effect lasting, positive change in the Navy . . . uniforms!
PT Gear: Don’t forget about the Physical Readiness Council!
Service Dress Khaki: Fair point.
Summer Whites: Sir, don’t you have a friend in the Army?
Service Dress Khaki: Who, Pinks and Greens? He won’t return my calls ever since he was reauthorized for wear. Hey, maybe I could ride the throwback trend and get myself reauthorized! I can see it now: “Wear the uniform of a Navy that’s actually won a great power competition!”
Salty: My point is the SWO community already has a solid culture and tradition. Yes, we have our share of problems to fix, but can we please stop trying to improve our culture by appropriating popular elements of others that have no connection to the surface community? Let’s look honestly at the issues we’re facing, and address them head-on without fear. Besides, we already had a pretty cool jacket—the Mustang Jacket. If you want to be innovative, why don’t you authorize it for wear ashore?
<Sitting in the corner wearing a Mustang Jacket, Coveralls looks up from his coffee, grunts, and nods.>
Service Dress Khaki: Well now you’re just talking crazy. You’re getting the bomber jackets. End of story.
Salty: Ugh, well fine. At least this means we’ll get to wear khakis again.
NWU Type III: Hey, I resent that!
<The meeting devolves into shouting and shoving. In the confusion, Prototype Working Uniform gets too close to a torch and immediately bursts into flames. Pandemonium ensues. Service Dress Khaki buries his head in his hands.>
Service Dress Khaki: Meeting adjourned, I guess.