I'm not sure if this should be posted here, on writing, or somewhere else. But I am curious as to the procedure the navy (maybe like the US navy or even the British Royal Navy) would take after a serious event (such as the destruction of a major public transportation hub in a terrorist attack). More specifically, let's say one ship had an officer who advised a tactic that might seem suspicious and the captain ended up agreeing with it at the time and ordered the move. Would a hearing be immediately after that event or days/weeks/months later? Also to muddy the water up a little more, the action was not with rationale and had no apparent intention to assist the attack.

Just to note, the navy is an analog for a future space navy.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There is not just the single hearing in actual legal procedure, that is a movie trope. A big part of court proceedings is discovery, collecting all the evidence and finding witnesses, etc. Don't count on meaningful decisions to be taken regarding the fate of this individual until months later - otherwise how could they mount a real defense? $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Jun 14, 2021 at 16:31
  • $\begingroup$ Which kind of attack do you mean precisely? Inside the navy's country, on another one? Some plane/ship targeted bombing, a devastating nuclear strike, an artillery test which went wrong...? The scale of the damage done, and the ability to find the culprit nation-wide can change how fast things are handled as diplomacy will quicken up a lot the process, at least publicly. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jun 14, 2021 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena it was in their nation, but it is an international terminal: It is an interstellar laser array station. No real comparison to anything on Earth. It was destroyed as they were expecting a special envoy and so there were several diplomats on the station and on nearby ships that were destroyed in the explosion. $\endgroup$
    – Markitect
    Jun 14, 2021 at 17:09
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @markitect for a modern example in the U.S. Navy, look at the 2017 collision of the USS John McCain with commercial sea traffic. The 72 page report documenting what follow-up was done is located as PDF here - secnav.navy.mil/foia/readingroom/HotTopics/… $\endgroup$ Jun 14, 2021 at 21:56
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I understand that you might not have what I'm about to ask for, but many authors will intentionally avoid giving us details to protect their I.P. not realizing that what they're really doing is shooting themselves in the foot by restricting the quality of our responses. Please tell us exactly what both the larger situation is and the specific event that would elicit a naval tribunal. While a legal proceeding is fairly predictable, the series of meetings and investigations are not. Without the details, I suspect no answer given here will be of much use. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jun 14, 2021 at 22:56

1 Answer 1


Skippers have wide latitude to operate however works best for them.

There are (oversimplifying) two constraints:

  • Regulations (which govern operating practices)
  • Orders (which determine the current Mission)

An investigation, occasionally culminating in a hearing or court-martial, is to determine if either regulations or orders were disobeyed...and whether or not any violation was serious enough for disciplinary action.

An investigation does NOT usually second-guess the skippers judgement that is within their normal discretion: Humans are expected to make mistakes under stress, and when they lack complete information. The test of good leadership is how their command recovers from that mistake to accomplish their assigned mission.

Skippers who demonstrate a pattern of poor risk management or lousy judgement tend to get relieved of their command by their supervisor, not prosecuted. Relieving and replacing a subordinate commander is usually within the discretion of that supervisor (Again, that's an oversimplification). A smart supervisor who loses trust in a subordinate skipper may opt for an investigation to expose and clearly delineate the various reasons for relieving the skipper, but that won't end in a hearing or court-martial.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .