In June 2014, President Obama declared his intent to execute “targeted and precise” military operations in Iraq, and later Syria, in order to aid the Iraqi military in the destruction of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).[1] While the scope of those operations has evolved over the past several months, the identity of the forces—US naval ships, joint aircraft, and ground-based advisors—has remained constant.

In order to achieve the kind of “targeted and precise” military operations the president desires, drones and guided munitions will not be enough. Effective command and control is the crucial difference between success and failure. The skill of the Navy’s E-2 Hawkeye aviator is integral to this success.

Speed and Information

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu declared, “speed is the essence of war.”[2] Indeed, from ancient times to modernity, conflicts have been marked by a sharp increase in the speed of fires, effects, and maneuvers. While speed of platforms has driven technological change in the past, speed of information and reaction will drive the future of warfare in this century.

Along these lines, ISIS has proven incredibly adept. Their ability to harness social media and an indigenous intelligence network in Iraq and Syria has swollen their ranks. According to the Daily Beast, “on Twitter and in Facebook pages ISIS was making appeals as well as threats, attracting recruits and soliciting funding online.”[3] After US air strikes in Iraq in August 2014, “ISIS responded with a hashtag campaign…threatening Americans with retribution for the airstrikes.”[4]

ISIS is no ordinary enemy, and yesterday’s military tactics do not guarantee victory over such violent, furtive extremists.

American success in current and future operations hinges on skilled information management and command and control (C2). Military planners and operators must consider how each piece of information gets from one place to another on the battlefield, and how this information affects or is affected by the enemy. Finally, while we may consider extremist groups like ISIS to be “asymmetric enemies,” we must not discount our own asymmetric military advantages and the platforms that employ them.

Asymmetry and Decentralization

Asymmetric warfare is typically defined as “war between belligerents whose relative military power differs significantly, or whose strategy or tactics differ significantly.”[5] History is rampant with examples of smaller, less well-equipped forces using unconventional tactics to defeat much larger, powerful militaries. It is often more difficult for strategists and military planners to take on an insurgency than a conventional force.

While German Field Marshall Helmuth von Moltke was famous for claiming, “no campaign plan survives first contact with the enemy,” military forces are judged on how adequately they respond to changes to their plan. As advances in the technology of platforms and weaponry have increased the pace of our tactics, extremist groups like ISIS have taken advantage of our inability to quicken the pace of our information management.

In fact, rather than taking steps to improve C2 responsiveness, military planners and commanders have adopted measures requiring almost every possible interaction in the battlespace to be communicated and approved directly by military commanders. This centralization of authority is antithetical to combatting a nimble foe such as ISIS.

Military commanders are justifiably concerned with the public relations implications of operations by a large American military force against smaller extremist groups often interspersed with the local population. However, the drive to try to prevent mistakes through over-centralization has bred a toxic “zero defect” mentality and led to a Soviet-style, centralized military bureaucracy that unnecessarily slows tactical military operations, thus allowing smaller extremist groups like ISIS to thrive inside of our “OODA Loop.”

We do not have to operate this way. In order to achieve the kind of information management required to defeat groups like ISIS, commanders must be willing to delegate command and control responsibilities to competent subordinate agents. Fortunately, the United States military has the ability to perform the kind of tactical C2 required to accomplish this task. Platforms such as the E-2 Hawkeye are practiced and proficient in this area, and have proven themselves in more than two decades of overland conflict.

Send in the Hawkeyes

E-2 aviators are experts at employing the real-time, integrated warfighting capabilities of the Carrier Air Wing. The E-2 Hawkeye is the only airborne platform in the naval arsenal—and indeed, one of only a few joint assets—with the ability to fuse information and direction from tactical aviation, intelligence, and higher headquarters into actionable, responsive communications to ships, aircraft, and ground-based units alike.

In order to execute effective “targeted and precise” airstrikes, military commanders must have an exceptionally high level of battlespace awareness. While tactical aircraft such as the F/A-18 and F-15 provide ordnance, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft such as the MQ-1B provide real-time video, and Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC) provide close control of aircraft and ISR assets, only the E-2 Hawkeye consistently trains to and competently integrates all of these assets to achieve commander’s intent.

The E-2 and its cadre of aircrew have evolved to become the airborne integrator of both naval and joint combined arms. With reliable internet-based chat capability and more than two decades of direct interface with joint stakeholders at the Combined Air and Space Operations Center (CAOC), the Hawkeye has been instrumental in achieving commander’s intent during recent operations such as IRAQI FREEDOM, ENDURING FREEDOM, and INHERENT RESOLVE. Much more than an Air Intercept Control (AIC) platform, the E-2 is invaluable as the principal C2 platform for the CVW, CSG, and combined force commander.

Context, Command, and Control

Crucially, E-2 aviators provide commanders with battlespace context. They collect inputs from TACAIR, ISR, and ground-based platforms to help paint a more accurate picture of operations. E-2 aviators constantly synthesize information from all sources to help answer the critical questions, “Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?”

Inside the aircraft, E-2 aviators communicate with tactical aircraft via Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) voice—both secure and non-secure—and Link-16 “J-voice;” they communicate with ISR assets via internet-based chat; they communicate with JTAC and other ground-based personnel via High Frequency (HF) and UHF voice, satellite communications (SATCOM), and internet-based chat; and finally, they communicate with the joint force commander and his watch-floor via SATCOM and internet-based chat.

E-2 sensors provide real-time Link-16 and blue force tracking data to commanders and watch floors. Aircrew utilize internet-based chat and SATCOM to provide constant updates to the aerial refueling (AR) picture, coordinate real-time changes to TACAIR and ISR tasking, and provide communications relay between tactical aircraft and the ground-based personnel they support.

For instance, an E-2 aviator can receive preliminary information, or “tipper,” of an enemy high-value individual (HVI) from an ISR platform via internet-based chat, pass targeting information to nearby tactical aircraft via secure UHF voice, and communicate both pieces of information to the appropriate CAOC watch-floor officers via internet-based chat and SATCOM in order to approve either a kinetic strike against the individual or the diversion of an ISR platform to the area to gather crucial intelligence.

As aircraft are diverted to the area, E-2 aircrew continue to maintain and communicate battlespace awareness, ensuring supporting aircraft remain clear of enemy surface-to-air threats, no fly areas, or other sensitive sites. They ensure the route of flight is deconflicted, supporting aircraft are all able to communicate clearly on a radio frequency, and any potential fratricide threats are minimized or eliminated.

The true value of the E-2 in operations against extremist groups is in their ability to quickly synthesize commander’s intent—such as neutralizing extremist HVIs—with tactical action. In recent operations, the E-2 Hawkeye is one of the only assets to communicate directly with all battlespace stakeholders on a daily basis. This can be an invaluable source of expertise and access for the combined force commander.

The Future Battlespace

For airborne C2 platforms like the Hawkeye, the truest measure of effectiveness is reach, not range. Aircrew are capable of effectively managing the battlespace from hundreds of miles away with radios, internet-based chat, and datalinks. With aircraft carriers routinely operating from hot spots in the Arabian Gulf, Northern Arabian Sea, and various Pacific locales, E-2 support is hardly limited by their basing aboard ship. Military planners must include E-2 operations as part of theater Special Instructions (SPINS) and operational plans.

In the fight against violent extremism, smart bombs are insufficient. In order to provide successful “targeted and precise” airstrikes, as well as future military operations against violent extremism, smart munitions must be combined with smart ISR and smart command and control to provide rapid, lethal effects without the bureaucratic delay of unnecessary centralization. By leveraging the capabilities of the E-2 Hawkeye with the expertise of its aircrew, military commanders and planners can take a definitive step in the application of American airpower in the fight against ISIS.

 

[1] “Remarks by the President on the Situation in Iraq.” WhiteHouse.gov. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/06/19/remarks-president-situation-iraq. 19 June 2014.

[2] Sun Tzu. The Art of War. Penguin Classics: New York, NY. 28 April 2009.

[3] Siegel, Jacob. “ISIS is Using Social Media to Reach YOU, Its New Audience.” The Daily Beast. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/08/31/isis-s-use-of-social-media-to-reach-you-its-new-audience.html. 31 August 2014.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Asymmetric warfare.” Princeton.edu. https://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Asymmetric_warfare.html. Accessed online 18 November 2014.


I had a very interesting experience earlier this year co-chairing, along with Gen Larry Welch, USAF (Ret), the SecDef-directed Independent Review of the Nuclear Enterprise.

I haven’t seen too many posts on USNI Blog regarding our nuclear deterrent force or nuclear weapons in general, for that matter, so I thought this issue might prove interesting for some of our readers.

Several major lessons learned for me from this experience:

  1. If you have nuclear weapons, you need to consistently devote a great deal of high-level attention to their maintenance and sustainment as well as the maintenance and sustainment of the platforms that would deliver those weapons should the President so direct.
  2. It was obvious to me that, since the dis-establishment of SAC, we haven’t been able to establish the right organizational construct within DoD that would consistently and effectively accomplish #1 above.
  3. We can debate the efficacy and utility of nuclear weapons all we want – whether or not we should deploy a monad, a diad or a triad of nuclear delivery systems, or whether conventional deterrence of some kind can ever replace our current posture of having our nuclear deterrent as the foundation of our national security policy, but, and it’s a big but, as long as we have nuclear weapons – like them or not – we’ve got to invest the required resources in their “care and feeding” and the care and feeding of the people who maintain the warheads, the missiles, and the delivery systems.

There is no middle ground here, no ability to allow some sort of an elegant and systematic degradation that can be monitored and managed with intervention before lasting damage or a catastrophic event occurs.

We either execute this mission totally right, every day, or we will get it totally wrong.

The approach General Welch and I took was to review all past reports on this issue, and the responses to those reports, and then meet with Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, and their commanders, at every level at the nuclear forces locations in the U.S. and at three Air Force locations in Europe.

Our methodology was to generate extensive opportunities to listen to those carrying out the deterrent mission and to hear from their commanders as well; they all clearly had a great deal they wanted us to hear.

We then applied the experience and judgment of the review team, a small group of subject matter experts – officer and senior enlisted, active and retired – to synthesize both what we found and what we heard in order to provide specific recommendations to address the issues we found and answer the Secretary’s specific question to us, “What do I need to do?”.

We delivered our report on 1 June. Since that time, we have seen extensive work at multiple levels across the Department of Defense with continuing direct involvement of the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense to address the issues we discussed in the report. We are also seeing very welcome and much needed results delivered to the Sailors, Airmen, and Marines in the operating units.

We believe the major issue now is sustaining the engagement that is absolutely required at the most senior levels within DoD to re-establish both the enduring and appropriate level of attention and investment that will ensure the nuclear forces can effectively and safely carry out the deterrent mission, which remains the foundation of our national security policy.

The bottom line in our report is that the forces are meeting the demands of the mission, but with such increasing difficulty that any margin of capability to meet those demands has been consumed and our Sailors, Airmen, and Marines are routinely required to pay an unsustainable price to accomplish the mission.

The troops’ resolute determination to get the job done – doing, in their words, whatever it takes – has masked the true cost of mission accomplishment from their senior leadership, who routinely receive reports showing the required number of boats are on deterrent patrol, the ICBMs are on alert, and the bombers are available and ready if needed.

We found three overarching core issues in the nuclear enterprise that led to a wide range of specific issues and specific recommendations:

  1. There has developed a leadership “Say-Do” Gap where the declared importance of the nuclear forces to national security is not matched by leadership attention and support from the Department and Service leadership and from multiple levels down to field commanders. This mis-match has resulted in a range of issues from a perception that the mission and those performing the mission are not truly valued to critical manning shortfalls, deteriorating facilities and deficient logistics support.
  2. Over time, an incessant Demand for Micro-Perfection led to the expectation that there must be zero mistakes in every operational and administrative action. Hence the focus shifted from efficiently and effectively accomplishing the mission to the routine imposition of draconian measures to ensure there could be no mistakes. Said another way, avoiding criticism took precedence over efficient and effective mission accomplishment. This approach led inexorably to a widespread substitution of process and procedure for personal responsibility and accountability.
  3. This drive for micro-perfection also led to a culture that valued Inspection over Mission – that is, the focus of commanders and supervisors shifted from the mission to avoiding criticism from extensive, frequent, and enormously detailed inspections. The consequences to the unit and the commander of any adverse outcome from a large, multi-agency inspection team has been seen as so severe that preparing for inspections eclipses mission focus, at the expense of the Sailors, Airmen, and Marines performing the mission. This attention to avoiding the risks from small mistakes in inspections that do not have safety or mission impacts has actually increased the much larger risk to the effective and safe accomplishment of the mission itself.

Emanating from these three core issues, the review team addressed issues in a dozen activity areas.

As I stated earlier, we are seeing attention to the full set of issues with guidance from the top and execution at multiple levels throughout the various chains-of-command.

It is very important to note that most of the issues identified in our report and in the report of the Internal Review have been identified in past reports – these issues are not new ones. And with each previous review, leadership at the appropriate level initiated actions to correct the deficiencies, but the attention has not been sustained as needed to bring about lasting change.

This time, the senior leaders of the Department and the Services are directly and deeply involved so there is reason to hope that, unlike in the past, there will be the lasting and positive change needed to not only accomplish the nuclear mission, but to do so effectively and safely.


Please join us on Sunday, 23 November 2014 at 5pm (US EST) for Episode 255: Commanding the Seas – the Surface Force with Bryan Clark from CSBA

How do we build the future surface fleet to ensure our forces maintain the ability to access to all regions of the world’s oceans that our vital to our national interests?

Our guest to discuss this and the broader issues related to our surface forces will be Bryan Clark, Senior Fellow at Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).

A basis for our conversation will be his recent study for CSBA, Commanding the Seas: A Plan to reinvigorate U.S. Navy Surface Warfare, where he articulates the operational concept of “offensive sea control” as the new central idea to guide evolution of the U.S. surface force. This idea would refocus large and small surface combatant configuration, payloads and employment on sustaining the surface force’s ability to take and hold areas of ocean by destroying threats to access such as aircraft, ships and submarines rather than simply defending against their missiles and torpedoes.

Prior to joining CSBA in 2013, Bryan Clark was Special Assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations and Director of his Commander’s Action Group.

He served in the Navy headquarters staff from 2004 to 2011, leading studies in the Assessment Division and participating in the 2006 and 2010 Quadrennial Defense Reviews. His areas of emphasis were modeling and simulation, strategic planning and institutional reform and governance. Prior to retiring from the Navy in 2007, he was an enlisted and officer submariner, serving in afloat and ashore including tours as Chief Engineer and Operations Officer at the Navy’s nuclear power training unit.

Mr. Clark holds a Master of Science in National Security Studies from the National War College and a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Philosophy from the University of Idaho.

Join us live on Sunday or pick the show up later by clicking here. You can also find this show after the live feed on iTunes here, along with its 254 predecessors.


The U.S. government loves metrics. Anyone who has ever worked for the government in any capacity is acutely aware of that. How many sorties were flown in one day? How many illegal immigrants were apprehended? How well did students do on exams? How many people signed up for health care? Metrics are found for things that aren’t easily measured – like the value of education – even if they are relatively meaningless.

So it appears with drugs. There is a wealth of metrics available regarding the “effectiveness” of drug policy, yet few appear to mean much. Air and maritime interdiction goals for drugs coming from Latin America, for example, appear almost randomly set, but then success is measured against those goals. The intent seems more to show that the United States is “doing something” than anything else.

Metrics are considered so important that the U.S. Coast Guard, largely responsible for the interdiction of drugs from Latin America, has its metrics audited by a private firm. According to this audit, the Independent Review of the U.S. Coast Guards Reporting of FY 2013 Drug Control Performance Summary Report,[1] the metrics for Coast Guard interdictions, as part of Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-S), are gathered from a six million square mile drug Transit Zone of the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The search area for the Malaysian airliner that went missing in June 2014 was considered massive at 23,000 square miles.[2] Therefore, the very size of the area of responsibility (AOR) where searches for non-commercial maritime and airborne assets are conducted makes it nearly impossible to accurately gather metrics.

Interdiction metrics are produced based on known product coming into the United States. However, given the AOR size, it is highly likely that known product figures underestimate the amount of product actually brought in. The inability to accurately know the amount of product trafficked is not lost on JIATF-S, as one of their top goals is to “achieve 100% domain awareness,” stating outright that they do not fully grasp the amount of illicit trafficking within the AOR. In other words, the area is just too large for complete coverage.

Adding to the errors at the interdiction level is often unequal “bale” and “kilo” sizes, making it challenging to fully and accurately weigh contraband (especially if it’s wet with fuel or seawater). So metrics indicating an increase or decrease of interdictions from one year to the next are based on, at best, estimation of underestimated figures.

For example, Operation MARTILLO, a 14-nation combined operation to deny use of Central America as a trafficking corridor, is an oft-cited success story of drug interdiction. Metrics are given in the 2014 National Drug Control Strategy.

[MARTILLO] resulted in the disruption of the trafficking of more than 132 metric tons of cocaine, 41 thousand pounds of marijuana, $3.5 million in bulk cash, 315 arrests, and the seizure of 107 vessels, vehicles, and aircraft. The pressures put upon trafficking organizations by Operation MARTILLO resulted in a 38 percent decrease in illicit air trafficking activity and decreases of 29 percent and 57 percent of the illicit maritime activities in the Western Caribbean and Eastern Pacific littoral routes, respectively.

These metrics, however, are drawn from known product figures, which may or may not be representative of actual product movement. Additionally, while known trafficking is considered reduced via air and littoral routes, this doesn’t mean the cartels have stopped operating. They simple change their routes and conveyance means. This “phenomenon” is not unknown to policymakers as they note traffickers will switch to unchallenged routes and become more creative in getting their product to market.[3]

The 2014 National Strategy goes on to say that during FY 2013:

184 metric tons of cocaine were seized or disrupted in the transit zone out of a total documented flow of 646 metric tons, as recorded in the Consolidated Counterdrug Database (CCDB). This represents a 28.5 percent removal rate, which, while below the annual target for 2013 (36 percent), is consistent with the historical average of 25 percent over the past decade and well above the removal rate in 2012 (23.8 percent).

But what do these figures really mean?

Traffickers regularly toss overboard or destroy product if they are being pursued by the Coast Guard or Navy, hence the reference to “disruption,” and consider it the cost of doing business. So it appears that based on the amount of product the United States knows reaches the United States or is estimated to be destroyed before seizure, which given the size of the AOR is underestimated, still goals are set to bring that number down. Equally unclear is how these goals are set.

Why was 36 percent set as the target removal rate for 2013 rather than 40 percent? Why not 25 percent? Are the effects of budget realities and consequently how much money the Coast Guard and Navy is able to spend to sail ships or fly aircraft searching for traffickers taken into consideration? Regardless, even the goals set based on underestimated figures could not be reached.

Hypothetically, should these removal rates be reached, would all the issues associated with illicit drug use in America and the problems that come from trafficking magically go away? Will drug use in the U.S. stop? Terror and poverty found in communities that narcoterrorists thrive simply disappear? Addiction will not cease overnight, terrorist activities will not go away as organizations look to replace their income.

The United Nations points out statistical issues that exacerbate U.S. and global interdiction figures in its World Drug Report 2012.

Comparing absolute numbers of total cocaine seizures and manufacture could be misleading. To understand the relationship between the amount of annual seizures reported by States (694 tons cocaine of unknown purity in 2010) and the estimated level of manufacture (788-1,060 tons of cocaine of 100 per cent purity), it would be necessary to take into account several factors, and the associated calculations would depend on a level of detail in seizure data that is often unavailable. Making purity adjustments for bulk seizures, which contain impurities, cutting agents and moisture, to make them directly comparable with the cocaine manufacture estimates, which refer to a theoretical purity of 100 per cent, is difficult, as in most cases the purity of seized cocaine is not known and varies significantly from one consignment to another. The total amount of seized cocaine reported by States is also likely to be an overestimation. Large-scale maritime seizures, which account for a large part of the total amount of cocaine seized, often require the collaboration of several institutions in a country or even in several countries. Therefore, double counting of reported seizures of cocaine cannot be excluded.

Drug interdiction numbers appear a prime example of using meaningless statistics to show anything desired.

The American public demands action on the War Against Illegal Drugs – though the consumer of the drugs – and the violence, corruption and multiple other secondary effects illegal drug trafficking brings with it. And so the Coast Guard, the U.S. military through Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and law enforcement must respond. But based on the metrics so carefully compiled and verified, their efforts seem to result in little more than Whack-A-Mole campaign that the traffickers incorporate into their business model.

U.S. SOUTHCOM Commander General John Kelly, speaking before Congress in March 2014, talked about how budget cuts will make the situation even worse.

Because of asset shortfalls, we’re unable to get after 74 percent of suspected maritime drug trafficking. I simply sit and watch it go by. And, because of service cuts, I don’t expect to get any immediate relief, in terms of assets to work with in this region of the world.

So whatever effectiveness has been achieved is likely to decrease with budget cuts.

Further as well, if somehow all the drugs from Latin America could be stopped, the drug problem in the United States would not go away. A new supplier from another geographic region would quickly step in. While consideration of how to effectively fight drug problems in and that affect the United States is beyond the scope of this article, it is clear – just from the metrics – the current approach is not working.

The U.S. government has spent over a $1 trillion on the drug war,[4] to little avail, with tens of billions budgeted every year. The metrics on exactly how much is spent are difficult to gather – like all other drug war related metrics – because funds are budgeted across so many different agencies. Beyond money, American military members and law enforcement officials have lost their lives in this war. Fighting transnational organized crime, drug cartels, is the prevalent problem addressed by the U.S. military in the Southern Command.[5] Yet it is a problem, as currently framed and addressed, impossible to solve. The primary yield from the money spent and lives lost, is metrics.

[1] OIG 14-35, February 2014.

[2] http://abcnews.go.com/International/search-area-malaysia-airlines-jet-cover-23000-square/story?id=24294957

[3] Office of the President of the United States, National Drug Control Strategy: 2009 Annual Report (Washington, DC: GPO, 2009), p.29.

[4] http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/05/13/ap-impact-years-trillion-war-drugs-failed-meet-goals/

[5] http://www.southcom.mil/newsroom/documents/southcom%202013%20posture%20statement%20final%20sasc.pdf


Please join us on Sunday, 16 November 2014 at 5pm (EST, US) for Midrats Episode 254: John A. Nagl: 13 Years into the War:

13 years into the long war, what have we learned, relearned, mastered, forgotten, and retained for future use? What have we learned about ourselves, the nature of our latest enemy, and the role of our nation? What have those who have served learned about their nation, their world, and themselves?

Iraq, Afghanistan, the Islamic State, and the ever changing global national security ecosystem, where are we now, and where are we going?

Our guest for the full hour to discuss this and more will be returning guest John Nagl, LTC US Army (Ret.) D.Phl, using his most recent book Knife Fights: A Memoir of Modern War in Theory and Practice as the starting point for our discussion.

Dr. Nagl is the Ninth Headmaster of The Haverford School. Prior to assuming responsibility for the School in July 2013, he was the inaugural Minerva Research Professor at the U.S. Naval Academy. He was previously the President of the Center for a New American Security. He graduated from the United States Military Academy Class in 1988 and served as an armor officer for 20 years. Dr. Nagl taught at West Point and Georgetown University, and served as a Military Assistant to two Deputy Secretaries of Defense. He earned his Master of the Military Arts and Sciences Degree from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and his doctorate from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.

Dr. Nagl is the author of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam and was on the team that produced the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual.

Join us live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here. You can also pick the show up later at out iTunes page here, where you can also find the archive of all our previous shows.


Today marks the 239th Birthday of the United States Marine Corps. In remembering the day when Captain Samuel Nicholas walked into a Philadelphia bar, looking for the “bravest men” of that city, Marines all over the world will hear the Birthday Message first circulated by Major General John Lejeune in 1921. Lejeune’s name is far more than just the name of another military base; he and his career are legend in the Marine Corps. He rose through the ranks, serving all over the world. When he reached Europe at the United States entry into The Great War, Black Jack Pershing recognized his leadership and gave the “Marines’ Marine” command of the whole of the 2nd Army Division. He became the 13th Commandant of the Corps after the war and to this day is known as the “the greatest of all Leathernecks.”

Yet it almost never happened. Today a discussion of military talent management has come to life, something that happens on a fairly regular cycle in American military history. Almost 125 years ago, the future of a young Midshipman Lejeune was at the whim of a bureaucracy that cared very little for his personal interests or where he and his peers thought his talents might lay.

The System

In 1890 Midshipman John Lejeune, known among his friends by his nickname “Gabe,” and his Naval Academy roommate Ed Beach returned to Annapolis after spending two years at sea. In those days Midshipmen completed the course of instruction at the Academy but then had to serve in the Fleet for two years before they were commissioned. At sea they learned the basics of life and leadership aboard ship and began earning their qualifications and standing the bridge watches that would serve as the foundations of their careers.

The two young men also returned to the banks of the Severn River unsure that they would even receive a commission. There were a finite number of officer billets in the Navy and Marine Corps. Because promotion was seniority based, not every Midshipman could receive a commission unless there were enough officers who retired. If enough officers left the service everyone would move up the seniority lists and spots would open up at the bottom for the new Ensigns and Second Lieutenants.

Lejeune had wanted to be a United States Marine since he entered prep school at LSU. He finished at Annapolis in the top of his class and assumed that his standing would give him the ability to select the service of his choice. Returning to Annapolis Lejeune discovered that he had made the cut to receive a commission. But he also learned that the Academic Board, which was responsible for making service assignment recommendations, had assigned him to become an engineer in the Navy. His grades in the engineering courses were the best in his class.

Begging the Bureau

Lejeune decided to go to Washington to make his case to the Bureau of Navigation. His roommate Ed Beach agreed to go along with him to provide moral support and later related the story in his memoir. They were able to get a meeting scheduled with Commodore F.M. Ramsey, who led the Bureau and knew of the two young men because his previous position was Superintendent at the Academy.

The two Midshipmen arrived in Washington and Lejeune overcame an attack of nerves and went to the meeting with Beach at his side. He explained to the head of the Bureau that he had always wanted to be a Marine, and that because of how hard he worked and his class standing his preferences should count for something. Ramsey was the final decision maker and would approve the recommendations of the Academic Board. He was the only man who could change Lejeune’s fate. He refused. The Navy needed good engineers and he agreed with the Academy’s recommendation. The only way he would even consider changing his mind was if the Commandant of the Marine Corps requested Lejeune by name.

There was a glimmer of hope, but Lejeune didn’t put much stock in it. He led Beach toward the Commandant’s office in order to try to see him. They actually found Commandant McCawley (improperly called Remy by Beach in his recounting of the story) at a quiet moment in the office and were able to see him. However, he refused Lejeune’s entreaty to make a “by name request” for him to commission as a Second Lieutenant. The Commandant told him that the Corps would take whomever they were assigned and make no special deals.

A Desperate Ploy

Gabe had one last idea. He dragged Beach back toward Ramsey’s office at the Bureau. They were able to maneuver themselves into another audience, but Ramsey again refused to change his mind. Likely frustrated, he repeated that if the Commandant personally asked for Lejeune, then he could become a Marine. In the last moment of the brief meeting Lejeune asked his former Superintendent why? Why wouldn’t he allow him to become a Marine?

“Because, Mr. Lejeune, I am well aware of your splendid and promising mentality. Frankly, you have altogether too much brains to be lost in the Marine Corps!”

With that, Lejeune rushed out the office and headed back for the Commandant’s spaces at a run. Beach struggled to keep up, wondering what the hell was going on. But Lejeune had a new confidence about him. The two Midshipmen burst back into the Commandant’s office and interrupted a meeting with a group of officers on the headquarters staff. Before they could be reprimanded and removed from the room Lejeune shouted out:

“Commodore Ramsey says that the reason he will not recommend me to be a second lieutenant is that I have altogether too much brains for the Marine Corps!”

Ed Beach wrote “Lejeune won, then and there. The Marine Corps went into action,” and the request for Gabe to become a Marine was cut and sent to the Bureau of Navigation. The history books show there was still more maneuvering to be done, including meetings with Senator Russell Gibson and the intervention of the Secretary of the Navy. John Lejeune was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant instead of an Ensign. The rest, as they say, is history.

Another Year, Facing the Future

For more than two centuries the Marine Corps, and the rest of our armed forces, have been facing the challenges of talent management and administrative efficiency right alongside the combat stories that we read about in most of our history books. The so-called “needs of the service,” bureaucratic infighting, and service rivalry have a long tradition in how our military service members are selected, promoted, and mentored. But the story of Gabe Lejeune’s quest to become a United States Marine reminds us that sometimes the service is wrong, and sometimes we have to figure out our own “innovative” ways to work the system.

So Happy Birthday Marines. And to all the men and women in uniform who want to follow in Gabe Lejeune’s footsteps, by working both inside and outside the lifelines, to take their career into their own hands: Hoorah. Keep up the good fight.


Please join us at 5pm EST on 9 Nov 14 for for Midrats Episode 253: “The Fleet we Have, Want, and Need – with Jerry Hendrix”

What is the proper fleet structure for the USN as we design our Navy that will serve its nation in mid-Century?

Join us for a broad ranging discussion on this topic and more with returning guest, Henry J. Hendrix, Jr, CAPT USN (Ret.), PhD.

Fresh off his recent retirement from active duty, Jerry is a Senior Fellow and the Director of the Defense Strategies and Assessments Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).

A Naval Flight Officer by training, his staff assignments include tours with the Chief of Naval Operation’s Executive Panel (N00K), the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (Force Development) and the OSD Office of Net Assessment.

His final position in uniform was the Director of Naval History.

Hendrix also served as the Navy Fellow to the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. He has a Bachelor Degree in Political Science from Purdue University, Masters Degrees from the Naval Postgraduate School (National Security Affairs) and Harvard University (History) and received his doctorate from King’s College, London (War Studies).

He has twice been named the Samuel Eliot Morison Scholar by the Navy Historical Center in Washington, DC, and was also the Center’s 2005 Rear Admiral John D. Hays Fellow. He also held the Marine Corps’ General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr. Fellowship. He authored the book Theodore Roosevelt’s Naval Diplomacy and received a number of awards, including the United States Naval Institute’s Author of the Year and the Navy League’s Alfred T. Mahan Award for Literary Achievement.

Listen in here (or use that link to pick the show up later) or visit us on iTunes.


This post was originally published on Defense Entrepreneurs Forum’s Whiteboard blog.

On Sunday, 26 October, the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum hosted an innovation competition sponsored by the United States Naval Institute. $5,000 in prizes were awarded after the eight contestants made their pitches. We will feature the one-pagers from the competition over the next few days.

Contestant: Graham Plaster, The Intelligence Community LLC

Problems

Individuals
o Rising unemployment among veterans
o Long wait times for government positions
o Salary cuts
o Shifting regional focus from Middle East to small wars, Africa, Asia, Russia, etc.
o An educational pipeline mismatched to the government job market
o Need for a wider on ramp and off ramp between public and private career options

Business
o Contracts are being steered to small businesses who lack the depth of expertise and the infrastructure to meet government requirements
o Companies are trying to scale up to meet government demands while slimming down on brick and mortar costs (through 1099 independent contractor hires)

Government
o Failing to meet quotas for hiring small businesses
o Eager to harness a fee-for-service model to manage costs and eliminate overhead
o Need cross pollination of public and private work experience for the future of publicprivate partnerships to keep pace with innovation

Solutions

o The tool will be similar to other freelance marketplaces currently available such as oDesk- Elance, Guru, Freelancer, Fiverr, and others. However, this marketplace will be tailored to the US national security sector which has many special legal and professional requirements.

o The marketplace will help both small and large businesses scale to manage indirect labor costs, meet contractual government requirements, and also, broadly, give the government the ability to tap a global market of talent for emergent needs. The government is always looking for a “bench” of talent without having to carry the huge overhead of unused experts.

o This also gives unemployed veterans including wounded warriors a way to serve as consultant from home, as part time support for important work.

Why Us

The Intelligence Community LLC (“TIC”) is a US veteran owned business that moderates a worldwide network of over 47,000 national security professionals growing at over 1200 new members every month. TIC is also a member of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Innovation Gateway and will be collaborating with companies to discover ways to assist DIA with crowdsourced analysis. There has already been strong interest from government agencies on leveraging this emerging community of expertise.


This post was originally published on Defense Entrepreneurs Forum’s Whiteboard blog.

On Sunday, 26 October, the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum hosted an innovation competition sponsored by the United States Naval Institute. $5,000 in prizes were awarded after the eight contestants made their pitches. We will feature the one-pagers from the competition over the next few days.

Contestant: Ben Bines, HBS Student, Former F/A-18 pilot

Thesis: Creating a catalyst for military members that drives them to engage in proper wealth management strategies early in their careers will result in increased career satisfaction and hence higher retention and recruiting rates.

Our military has a problem; members are not comfortable creating and executing personalized investment plans that can help them create long term wealth.

Often our members rely on too little information to make potentially life-altering decisions. If the government can find a way to unlock this wasted potential, the results could be significant for its members. The question we need to ask ourselves is why isn’t this happening without intervention?

We submit that the answer can be traced to three facts:

  1. The financial services industry is incentivized to be confusing, resulting in less sophisticated users not investing, over/underinvesting and/or investing without a holistic plan.
  2. The financial industry’s professional advice fee structures (typically 1% of assets being managed) are too costly for most peoples’ financial needs and are set up to cut out lower net worth families, thereby exacerbating point 1.
  3. The government has only attempted to engage this issue from the retirement account (TSP) perspective, not the holistic strategy perspective.

The idea that a person can create value through very long term investing in a broad market based portfolio that reflect an individual’s personal situation and risk tolerance is well known, however, this fact does not seem to equate to this strategy being well implemented. Why?

We believe the disconnect results from two factors.

  1. People tend to give up because of the perceived execution complexities.
  2. People take a segmented view on their portfolios and accept the simplicity of cookie cutter investment strategies (target date retirement funds) that result in under or over exposed positions. The misunderstood exposure results from these strategies’ attempts to control costs by relying on bucketing dissimilar individuals based solely on retirement time horizon.

The fact is the investment world is simply too complex for the average person to feel confident that the decisions they are making are based on a complete understanding of the financial tools they are employing. The financial costs of misallocating short, medium and long term funds based on miscalculated or misunderstood short, medium, and long term cash flow requirements results in forced selling and emotional investing, which destroy enormous amounts of wealth accumulation potential.

So how can we help create the cost effective catalyst that gets people over the execution hump and provides individualized portfolio strategies without asking our members to become trained financial professionals?

We believe the answer lies in merging education and execution services via virtual meeting technology with trusted, proven financial institutional partnerships. We will create a process which will allow us to walk individuals through the setup and initial execution stages of their investment plan using a fiduciary relationship standard that gets them going down the correct wealth management path. We’ll couple that with robust financial planning software that allows them to easily track goals, sets reminder, and provides easily understood instructions when it’s time to make adjustments. By getting our people confidently through the uncomfortable stages where many give up, we’ll add enormous potential value to our members’ and the military.


This post was originally published on Defense Entrepreneurs Forum’s Whiteboard blog.

On Sunday, 26 October, the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum hosted an innovation competition sponsored by the United States Naval Institute. $5,000 in prizes were awarded after the eight contestants made their pitches. We will feature the one-pagers from the competition over the next 8 days.

Contestant: James la Porta, Assistant Editor, Blue Force Tracker

The problem: “America doesn’t know its military and the United States military doesn’t know America”
-Adm. Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

The American people have a fundamental misunderstanding of the military, and an unrealistic perception of the threats facing our nation because the voices of veterans, and others with real-world “boots on the ground” experience are underrepresented in the media. The mission of Blue Force Tracker is to fix that.

The solution: In the military there is a tool called “blue force tracking,” which depicts with icons on a satellite image of the battlespace where every U.S. military unit is positioned. We want to give the American people something similar. Our intent is to help close the growing civilian-military divide by giving our audience an unbiased, unfiltered and realistic account of what the military does and the world in which it operates.

The mission of Blue Force Tracker is to report on and analyze issues related to U.S. national security, foreign affairs and veterans issues from a team of journalists with backgrounds in the military, intelligence services or diplomatic corps, as well as those who have unique first-hand knowledge of foreign regions where U.S. national interests are at stake. We aim to reach our audience with an innovative smartphone app and website, which matches the news consumption patterns of our target demographic—veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and active duty military personnel.

Most of this target demographic is part of the millennial generation, who prefer accessing their news through mobile devices and web-based platforms. Media consumption is moving increasingly toward mobile platforms, and we want to capitalize on this trend. But we also aim to counter the parallel trend of decayed journalism standards.

Just because readers access their news on mobile devices doesn’t mean that there isn’t still a need, and an audience, for quality journalism. So, while we have put a lot of work into designing an innovative, userfriendly portal through which our audience can access our product, we also realize that quality content is the No. 1 way to grow an invested and loyal audience. To do that we leverage the unique, real-world experiences of our writers to educate Americans about the threats facing our country and provide a realistic account of the challenges facing the military—both abroad and in the transition back to civilian life.

Additionally, as our armed forces transition out of more than a decade of sustained combat operations, we need to hear from veterans and their families about their needs. The transition to civilian life is often a difficult one, and we need to hear that story from the people who are living it. Finally, Blue Force Tracker is a push back against the decline in the standards of worldwide journalism. We believe in well-written, profound, original content that educates the reader and has a societal benefit. We believe that quality journalism is just as important to the survival of a democracy as the armies guarding its borders.

But all these lofty goals cannot be accomplished unless we place our stories, and the unique opinions and analysis of our writers into the palms of the people who matter. So our overall challenge is developing content that breaks the mold while constantly evolving and experimenting with ways to deliver that content in a way that best matches the lifestyles and habits of our audience.


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2014 Information Domination Essay Contest