U.S. Navy SEALs train with Special Boat Team (SBT) 12 on the proper techniques of how to board gas and oil platforms during the SEALs gas and oil platform training cycle. SEALs conduct these evolutions to hone their various maritime operations skills. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam Henderson
A veteran in Congress is calling on the secretary of defense to examine the current Navy SEAL combat training program, saying it's less effective than a previous method and not conducive to SEAL operations.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California, former Marine officer and member of the House Armed Services Committee, sent an April 5 letter to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter requesting that Carter provide "clarity" on Naval Special Warfare's 2011 move to replace its Close Quarters Defense institutionalized training system with Mixed Martial Arts.
"I have concerns with the process for considering and awarding the contracts that have led to the removal of CQD from SEAL training," Hunter wrote. "NSW operators and leadership have consistently determined CQD to be the most operationally effective training to prepare SEALs for combat, evidenced by more than 11,000 positive critiques and numerous complimentary reports."
Hunter is raising the issue as the Senate prepares to consider the nomination of Rear Adm. Timothy Szymanski to be commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, which oversees all Navy SEAL teams.
Szymanski, currently the assistant commander of Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, would replace current NSW commander Rear Adm. Brian Losey, who was denied a second star last month amid complaints that he had engaged in whistleblower retaliation.
An official with Hunter's office indicated the congressman had concerns about Szymanski's fitness for the new post.
"There have been reports that Szymanski is a central player in the selection of MMA over CQD," Joe Kasper, Hunter's chief of staff, told Military.com. "And it's important before any promotion proceeds that there's clarity on that role and assurances that it was all above board."
The letter also notes that CQD costs just $345 per SEAL compared to $2,900 for MMA training. It also refers to a 2015 Defense Department Inspector General review of NSW contracts that found about 25 percent of contracts inspected were not awarded in accordance with Federal Acquisition Regulations. While the MMA contract in question was not considered, Hunter suggested it too could contain problems.
"It is my firm belief that contracting decisions involving the transition from CQD to MMA must be thoroughly reviewed to include any personal interests and relationships that could have created conflicts of interest in the selection process," Hunter wrote. "A review should also include all instances of open competition between CQD and alternative systems, with specific focus on NSW solicitations in 2003 and 2009. I also ask that you provide me with the full results of these competitions and any reports and documentation that were generated as a result."
Kasper said Hunter planned to talk with members of the Senate about holding Szymanski's nomination until the matter raised in his letter could be resolved.