Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SG/IW) Steven Giordano resigned Thursday as the Navy’s 14th senior enlisted leader, leaving the top job vacant for the first time since it was created more than 50 years ago.
His resignation comes amid an ongoing investigation by the Navy’s inspector general into allegations he fostered a toxic work environment in his Navy office.
The complaint was filed by a member of his own staff, according to sailors familiar with the investigation.
Giordano’s announcement was posted on the Navy’s Facebook page, but gave no official date for the retirement.
Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson acknowledged Giordano’s resignation on his Facebook page.
“I have accepted Master Chief Giordano's offer to step aside as the MCPON effective immediately. I appreciate his recognition that the situation had become untenable,” Richardson’s message said.
“Now we need to move forward — together — as a Navy striving with all our energy to become a more lethal fighting force...America expects no less.”
Giordano’s own message had a different tone.
“My love for our Navy and our sailors is absolute,” Giordano wrote in the Facebook message.
“For that reason, I seek to avoid any distraction from the success of our sailors and our mission.
“I have informed the Chief of Naval Operations that I intend to step aside and submit my retirement request, in order to allow the CNO, our CPO Mess, and our sailors to continue to move forward with the initiatives we have begun.”
Giordano made no specific mention of the allegations against him in the message and it’s unclear what the status of the investigation is. Also unclear is whether Giordano could face any disciplinary measures from the Navy if the investigation finds any wrongdoing.
Navy officials have made no announcements about the investigation or the status of the MCPON’s office, which has not been empty, ever, since it was created in 1967.
The office of Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson did not immediately respond to questions from Navy Times about the status of the investigation or whether Richardson will appoint an interim MCPON while a successor is found.
Giordano’s retirement from office comes just one year, nine months and 19 days since he took over from MCPON (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens, making him the shortest serving MCPON in history, with a total of just 658 days in “the seat,” as MCPONs refer to the job.
His total is 198 days fewer than MCPON (SW/FMF) Joe Campa, who served for just over two years and four months.
Campa also retired from office in 2008, stating he’d accomplished what he set out to do. Campa’s unexpected decision to retire caught many by surprise and it was later revealed he was also battling an undisclosed medical condition at the time.
Giordano’s term has been rocky, as the career cryptologist took office while surrounded by revelations of past fraternization and adultery while he was an E-6. But Giordano owned up to his misconduct and said he learned from it.
“I utilized this incident to shape who I became as a husband, father and sailor,” he told Navy Times in an email exchange shortly after taking office.
“At this point in my term as the 14th Master Chief Petty Officer of Navy, I have no agenda but to visit and listen to our sailors and their families stationed around the globe.”
And it was the fact he didn’t come into the job with any agenda that became a problem. Giordano set out on an aggressive travel schedule during his first months in office. He would later tell Navy Times that he was in a “listen and learn” mode and that those conversations would fuel the development of an agenda that would be released.
Such a comprehensive to-do list never materialized, though, resulting in constant urging from his staff that he needed to engage the enlisted force — particularly his nearly-30,000 strong Navy-wide chiefs mess on the issues of the day, which included a massive compromise of the E-9 selection board in April 2016, a rise in command master chief firings due to misconduct and the deadly ship collisions in 7th Fleet.
A year ago, in response to growing complaints from the fleet about MCPON’s silence on big Navy issues, Giordano granted Navy Times a rare interview in which he said that he was a different style of leader and tended to work behind the scenes, but had put together an agenda that would soon be revealed.
“People operate differently and use different mechanisms to communicate for different reasons — that’s the leaders we all grow into being,” Giordano told Navy times in a May 2017.
“If you know me at all, you know I’m the type of person that will not go into a position with any kind of intent, without knowing what’s going on out there in the environment that we operate in every day,” he said.
But as time went on, a clear agenda never emerged.
He did send a message to all the Navy’s chiefs saying they were off track, though his message never stated any root causes, and his solution was that all Navy chiefs needed to read the CPO creed for a rudder correction.
Recent weeks brought forth the allegations that his office was a toxic work environment, resulting in a nearly 100 percent turnover in staff during his brief tenure as MCPON.
Multiple former staff members from his office spoke to Navy Times on condition of anonymity, numerous senior sailors painting nearly identical pictures of life in Giordano’s Pentagon office.
“This is a man defined by a passive-aggressive leadership style, laced with a horrific and unpredictable temper,” said one former staff member.
“Behind closed doors, MCPON Giordano takes on an alter ego that is condescending and defaming to the senior leaders and junior staff alike on a regular basis, totally contradicting his own publicly preached values and beliefs of being a ‘quietly humble leader,’” the former staff member said.
While researching that story, Navy Times learned that a current staff member had filed an inspector general complaint against Giordano, triggering the current investigation.
Giordano took leave from his office shortly after Navy Times reported about that investigation.
Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.