The Navy's policies on fraternization are contained in OPNAV Instruction 5370.2B, Navy Fraternization Policy.
Policy. Personal relationships between officer and enlisted members that are unduly familiar and that do not respect differences in rank and grade are prohibited, and violate long-standing custom and tradition of the naval service. Similar relationships that are unduly familiar between officers or between enlisted members of different rank or grade may also be prejudicial to good order and discipline or of a nature to bring discredit on the naval service and are prohibited. Commands are expected to take administrative and disciplinary action as necessary to correct such inappropriate behavior. The policies listed here are lawful general orders. Violation of these policies subject the involved members to disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
Background/Discussion. Navy has historically relied upon custom and tradition to define the bounds of acceptable personal relationships among its members. Proper social interaction among officer and enlisted members has always been encouraged as it enhances unit morale and esprit de corps. At the same time, unduly familiar personal relationships between officers and enlisted members have traditionally been contrary to naval custom because they undermine the respect for authority, which is essential to Navy's ability to accomplish its military mission. Over 200 years of seagoing experience have demonstrated that seniors must maintain thoroughly professional relationships with juniors at all times. This custom recognizes the need to prevent use of a senior grade or position in such a way that it results in (or gives the appearance of) favoritism, preferential treatment, personal gain, or involves actions that otherwise may reasonably be expected to undermine good order, discipline, authority, or high unit morale. In like manner, custom requires that junior personnel recognize and respect the authority inherent in a senior's grade, rank, or position. This recognition of authority is evidenced by observance and enforcement of the military courtesies and customs that have traditionally defined proper senior-subordinate relationships.
"Fraternization" is the term traditionally used to identify personal relationships that contravene the customary bounds of acceptable senior-subordinate relationships. Although it has most commonly been applied to officer-enlisted relationships, fraternization also includes improper relationships and social interaction between officer members as well as between enlisted members.
Historically, and as used here, fraternization is a gender-neutral concept. Its focus is on the detriment to good order and discipline resulting from the erosion of respect for authority inherent in an unduly familiar senior-subordinate relationship, not the sex of the members involved. In this sense, fraternization is a uniquely military concept, although abuse of a senior's position for personal gain and actual or perceived preferential treatment are leadership and management problems that also arise in civilian organizations. In the context of military life, the potential erosion of respect for the authority and leadership position of a senior in grade or rank can have an enormously negative effect on good order and discipline and seriously undermine a unit's effectiveness. Therefore, prohibition of fraternization serves a valid, mission essential purpose.
a. Personal relationships between officer and enlisted members that are unduly familiar and that do not respect differences in grade or rank are prohibited. Such relationships are prejudicial to good order and discipline and violate long-standing traditions of the Naval service.
b. Personal relationships between chief petty officers (E-7 to E-9) and junior personnel (E-l to E-6), who are assigned to the same command, that are unduly familiar and that do not respect differences in grade or rank are prohibited. Likewise, personal relationships that are unduly familiar between staff/instructor and student personnel within Navy training commands, and between recruiters and recruits/applicants that do not respect differences in grade, rank, or the staff/student relationship are prohibited. Such relationships are prejudicial to good order and discipline, and violate long-standing traditions of the Naval service.