RADM Brent W. Scott Navy Chief of Chaplains
I recently read an opinion article that suggested it would be reasonable to consider what amounts to reducing the religious liberty of service members and their families. The author offered that diminishing the Chaplain Corps would help the Navy meet its $40 billion requirement. The truth is, however, that it would only provide less than one-half of one percent in governmental saving and it would ultimately cost taxpayers more. Stated differently, chaplains reduce the frequency and severity of a wide range of costly destructive behaviors.
The Navy Chaplain Corps is an extremely efficient organization. The Navy’s 840 chaplains care for more than 564,000 active component service members in the Navy, the Coast Guard, and the Marine Corps. On average, every chaplain cares for more than 670 service members, not counting their family members and the civilians who are also authorized to use their services. The idea that Professional Naval Chaplaincy is a fertile ground for finding cost savings is completely spurious.
Some of the most valuable and far-reaching contributions of the Chaplain Corps go largely unknown to the average citizen. Chaplains contribute to the National Defense at the international level, the Service level, and the personal level. The Navy Chaplain Corps, representing fundamental national values, contributes directly to the National Defense and America’s relationships with other countries. For instance, Navy chaplains engage with foreign civil and religious leaders in partner nations to build friendship and represent the power of free people through piety, devotion and practical support without violence or prejudice.
Chaplains provide value and irreplaceable service to the Department of the Navy, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security, supporting our most fundamental form of diversity within the Navy, diversity of thought and perspective. Without Navy chaplains at home and abroad to facilitate the free exercise of their religion, many devout citizens from every faith would take their virtues, strengths, knowledge, and abilities to other services or simply refrain from military service altogether.
Without the confidential communication that Navy chaplains offer the people they serve, fewer service members in distress would seek and receive the medical, social, or mental health assistance they need to stay fit to fight. Multiple studies, like the 2013 study done by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, show that chaplains are the most trusted helping professionals for Navy personnel seeking assistance. Chaplains help Marines, Sailors and the Coast Guard to stay ready, lethal, and fit to fight by ensuring that everyone at home or at sea gets the care they need from the right professional at the right time.