The Navy is a master plan designed by geniuses for execution by idiots.
Thomas Keefer makes this observation to Willie Keith while the two are sitting in the wardroom decoding messages. The quotation sums up Keefer's view of the Navy, and explains why he is so offended by the Navy. Keefer is a generous, smart person, employed in a task that a monkey could perform. When Keefer is later promoted to a position of command, however, he performs terribly, which suggests that even smart men are not automatically fit for command. This quotation shows Keefer's scorn for the Navy, a scorn that he instills in all those around him. Willie, who is still in a formative stage onboard the Caine, internalizes these words of Keefer's. Keefer presents a problem because he offhandedly poisons the very thing that keeps the Navy running during wartime: fresh meat.