Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Robert Donmoyer, PhD; Daniel M. Miller, PhD; Port R. Martin, EdD


crew, decommissioning, inactive status, Leadership studies, Military Sealift Command, sailors, ships, United States Navy


Since the late 1980s, hundreds of U.S. Navy ships have been decommissioned. Although ship decommissionings were postponed immediately after the September 11th attack, today the Navy is again engaged in “rightsizing” its force. Depending on the type of ship and its age, a ship faces different fates after the decommissioning process has been completed. Except on the rare occasion when a ship is turned into a museum, most decommissioned ships are disposed of in one of three ways. Some ships are sold to foreign navies to recoup some costs. Other ships are reassigned to the Military Sealift Command (MSC) to continue serving the fleet, albeit in a quasi-civilian capacity. The last option for a decommissioned ship is to be placed in an inactive status or “mothballs” and eventually sunk. The impact of the decommissioning process on the crew is a major concern. The day the decommissioning ship completes its last operational assignment, the “mission” of the ship changes significantly: The crew must prepare its ship for a kind of death. Those in authority who may have recently mastered the art of leading sailors into hostile environments now must motivate their sailors and themselves to excel in the absence of danger. Consequently, the leaders on the ship are faced with a difficult challenge: to maintain morale and to keep the crew on task even though the mission and tasks have changed dramatically. If a naval leader cannot successfully adapt his/her leadership style to the environment created by the decommissioning, the crew morale may be adversely affected and retention may plummet. The purpose of this research was to begin to explore leadership challenges in naval vessels that were scheduled for decommissioning. The study identified the perceptions of nine naval leaders from three decommissioning ships regarding the decommissioning process. These perceptions were organized into 13 major themes that provide valuable information and insight about naval leadership during the decommissioning process. This information should be useful to prospective naval leaders who encounter decommissioning situations during their tours of duty.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access