[republished from 11/11/12]
When I see someone walking around with a poppy on their lapel at this time of year, I always feel very nostalgic and pleased that someone has donned a symbol synonymous with service and sacrifice. It may be worthwhile to remind ourselves of the precise connection between the poppy and the day in which we take time to recognize and thank all of the Veterans who have sacrificed for our freedom.
Growing up the son of a Canadian Armed Forces officer, I was always pleased when my Dad would break out his collection of poppies every year and pin one on the lapel of my blue blazer in the days prior to November 11th. Both his father and my mother’s father fought in the First World War. Both saw horrific combat and both were highly decorated for their service.
My Dad and his brother fought in the Second World War. My Dad arrived in Normandy after the invasion in July 1944 and in his words, crawled across Northern Europe through France, Belgium, the Netherlands and into Germany before the end of the war in 1945. He did not talk much of the war, but when he did, he always told me how violent and horrible an experience it was. Fiercely proud of his unit, The Lord Stratcona’s Horse Regiment, he donned the poppy every year on the anniversary of “Rememberance Day.” He captivated my attention with the story, as told by his father, of the end of World War One on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of November 1918. Both belligerents fired every artillery shell possible across the lines to kill as many men as possible before the clock struck 1100. Many men died in those last minutes of the war. How senseless… how tragic… and how prophetic of a peace that would not last, requiring my dad to don the uniform and go overseas to finish the job that his father could not.
Every year at this time, my dad also loved to recite the poem, “In Flanders Fields” by the Canadian surgeon, LCOL John McRae from Guelph, Ontario. He was very proud of the fact that a Canadian had written this timeless testament to the brave young soldiers who lost their lives in the Second Battle of Ypres, near Flanders, in Belgium. McRae was a Major when he wrote the poem after an unsuccessful attempt to save the life of a young Canadian wounded in battle. He jotted down his emotions while looking across a brilliant field of poppies that peacefully swayed back and forth in the breeze and in stark contrast to the carnage that existed nearby in the trenches. The poem was published in London in 1915 and became world renowned almost overnight.
My dad had it memorized and I always listened intently when he repeated it to me.
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break fait
h with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields
Sadly, McRae never made it back home as he died in the field of pneumonia and other complications while taking care of the troops.
Almost one hundred years have passed since Major McRae wrote the poem. He is but one of millions of selfless men and women under arms who have served and sacrificed for their country.
As we spend time with family and loved ones on 11 November, we remember the sacrifice of the countless young men and women who have served or are now standing the watch. Many have paid dearly for their service in Iraq and Afghanistan with life altering injuries. Others, sadly, have paid the ultimate sacrifice. It is essential that we take time out to remember them and thank them.
If you are so inclined, don a poppy… I will.
Completely unrelated to the world of the Navy Budget in the Pentagon, where I have been working for the last year, I was asked by the Director, Navy Staff to be the Flag Officer Escort for a memorial ceremony and interment at the United States Naval Academy on Friday, May 10th. The deceased was LT Richard Lee Laws, a naval aviator, shot down in Vietnam in 1966. I heartily accepted this mission as I know of no greater honor…
LT Laws’ journey from the corridors of Bancroft Hall, as a proud member of the USNA Class of 1962, to the aircraft carrier USS HANCOCK (CVA-19), operating in the Gulf of Tonkin during the war—to the jungles of Vietnam where his remains lay virtually undisturbed for 45 years—to his repatriation and interment at the U.S. Naval Academy columbarium is a story that deserves to be told.
After graduation and flight training, Richard Laws became an F-8 Crusader pilot and he joined VF-24, the “Fighting Red Checkertails” onboard USS HANCOCK. He deployed twice with HANCOCK and was a “double Centurion” with more than 200 combat missions over Vietnam. During that second deployment, while on a strafing mission, his aircraft was struck by ground fire. He radioed that he had been hit and twenty seconds later his flight leader observed his aircraft strike a mountainside and explode. There was apparently no time to eject. He was presumed to have died on impact…
In recent speeches to the Atlantic Council, the United States Coast Guard Academy, and the AFCEA and USNI WEST Conference, both the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have emphasized a new paradigm to determine how best to employ Department of Defense resources. It relies heavily on assessing risks to vital national security interests, and then applying adequate resources to protect them. Those interests (derived from the National Security Strategy) are: the survival of the nation; the security of the global economic system; prevention of catastrophic attacks on our nation; secure, confident, and reliable allies and partners; protection of American citizens abroad; and protection and, where possible extension of universal values. When considering this new paradigm in the light of the current budget uncertainties, it is helpful to remember that even before the United States was a nation, the Navy proved its worth to such a degree that it was consistently spared the proverbial budget axe: “If congressmen needed a better argument, they only had to look to the prosperous Mediterranean trade made possible by the U.S. Navy…” noted Jefferson’s War author Joseph Wheelan. Thus, I would like to quickly outline what the modern United States Navy does every day – what it is capable of doing every day – to defend these vital national security interests.
No non-state actors currently possess the capability to threaten the survival of our Nation, and it seems that the nations that do possess the capability have today neither the desire nor incentive to do so. Nevertheless, the Navy provides a ready force, both forward stationed and rotationally deployed, to promote stability, prevent crises, and combat terrorism. As Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert has made abundantly clear, we must be where it matters and ready when it matters.
Last Friday night I was walking down the 4th corridor to my office in N81. It had been a long week. I was a little tired and looking forward to a cold beer when I got home… Then I heard a booming voice call out: “SHIPMATE… ARE YOU COMING TO MY CEREMONY NEXT FRIDAY???”
I turned around to see who it was and recognized a very familiar figure. I immediately regained the spring in my step as I returned to the end of the passageway to greet him. Kind of reminded me of a scene right out of Cold Case as LT j.g. Foggo pumped the hand of Quartermaster Second Class Ricky West and responded: “YOU BET I AM SHIPMATE!”
For a moment, I was back onboard my first boat, USS SEA DEVIL (SSN-664), standing watch as Officer of the Deck with my favorite Quartermaster, Rick West. We sailed that boat all over the Mediterranean and under the Polar Ice Cap on her subsequent Northern Run, climaxing in a dramatic surfacing evolution at the geographic North Pole! Now how cool is that? QM2 Rick West lived on the Conn of that ship. He was the best forceful backup in the Fleet to young LT j.g.s like me. West and the Navigator, LCDR John M. Bird were a great team and there was no obstacle they couldn’t overcome!
Our Commanding Officer, CDR Rich Mies, liked to go fast… after all, we used to call them “fast” attacks for a reason. He constantly challenged the Navigation Team on the Maneuvering Watch to keep them on their toes. Driving in and out of the Cooper River in Charleston, South Carolina, was a challenging Maneuvering Watch with a series of unforgiving hairpin turns—right full rudder… left full rudder—but the saving grace was lots of visual ranges ahead or astern. CDR Mies taught his Junior Officers to Conn the ship independently from the bridge. He wanted us to be more capable mariners so oftentimes, in good weather (no fog or reduced visibility) he would lower both periscopes and we would drive by the range. Just another exciting day on the Captain’s Bridge and my favorite place to be as Surfaced OOD.
Below decks, it was a different story for the Navigation Team. Without visual bearings, the team had to rely on dead reckoning off of the Ships Inertial Navigation System and electronic fixes from Omega and Loran-Charlie (neither very accurate in restricted waters). We had no Global Positioning System, electronic charts or non-penetrating periscopes (cameras) to assist the Navigation Party. This put considerable stress on the Navigator and his team. LCDR John Bird and QM2 Rick West were unflappable. On the bridge, we knew they had to be pulling their hair out in the control room but you would never know it from their voices. West on the 27MC: “Bridge, Quartermaster of the Watch, I have a good electronic fix, hold you on track, 200 yards to the turn, recommend SLOWING to all ahead two-thirds.”
As I looked up from my perch in the cockpit of the bridge for any direction, the typical response from the Captain was, “Steady as she goes Officer of the Deck!” As a young JO, I wondered why he made life so difficult for the Navigation Team but as I matured into the job and my role in the wardroom, I came to realize that the Captain was training all of us for that unexpected eventuality when Murphy’s Law overtakes even the best of ships and bad things happen. USS SEA DEVIL was no different than any other boat—Murphy appeared often—it was a dangerous business, but we were well trained and the Navigation Team overcame adversity with relative ease.
When we transitioned to our Northern Deployment, QM2 Rick West was a key member of the team. Operating USS SEA DEVIL under ice with her state of the art navigation system, i.e. SINS, Loran, Omega, Mk19 and Mk27 gyros was challenging to say the least. We were at least two generations ahead of USS NAUTILUS in our navigation suite, but let’s face it, the Mk27 gyro was originally used on Army battle tanks and had a tendency to tumble as did the Mk19. Loran and Omega were useless north of 66 degrees of latitude which put SINS in the forefront of our way to and from the North Pole. When we transitioned from the Marginal Ice Zone to solid Pack Ice overhead, the Quartermaster of the Watch was even more critical to safety of ship. During this time period, Rick West was almost always “on watch” even when he wasn’t—if you know what I mean—because he cared so much about the ship and the welfare of the crew. Forceful backup was critical and you wanted Rick West on the Navigation Plot. With the aid of our onboard Electronics Techs, West monitored and nursed the navigation suite through the entire deployment. Driving SEA DEVIL around ice keels and finding polynyas (open areas in the ice) to come up for air and a periodic fix was an incredible proving ground for the submerged OOD. Frankly, I loved it. Finding and surfacing the boat at the geographic North Pole for a day of “Polar Liberty” was something that the crew will never forget. West helped get us there… and back.
I could write many more paragraphs about sea stories from the mighty SEA DEVIL, but suffice it to say that it was a great boat and made even better with Sailors like Rick West. An exceptional watchstander, it was not sufficient for him to sit back and just be the QMOW. He sought out additional collateral duties and qualified in more senior watchstations. Proud of his uniform and his appearance, he set the example for other sailors in the crew’s mess. He was a man of principle then, as he is as MCPON now. He was the epitome of the mantra: Ship, Shipmate, Self… and in that order! Always the gentleman, his conduct at work or on the beach was beyond reproach. His word was his bond and his work was precise. When Rick West made a report, you didn’t have to worry about its authenticity or accuracy. During times of high stress, even with no sleep and no endpoint in sight, his positive attitude never wavered. I was therefore not at all surprised when he was selected to be the 12th Master Chief Petty Officer of the United States Navy.
Master Chief West schooled many more officers than me in the art of navigation and the role of the United States Navy Sailor. On USS SEA DEVIL alone this list included Admiral Rich Mies, USN (ret), Royal Navy Exchange Officer Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope (current First Sea Lord of the United Kingdom), VADM John M. Bird, USN (ret), VADM Bill French, USN as well as countless others who rose to leadership positions Master Chief Petty Officers or Chiefs of the Boat. The mark that he left on us and our boat was indelible.
Today, MCPON Rick West will retire and shift the mantle of enlisted leadership to Master Chief Petty Officer (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens. To the MCPON, I say simply thank you for your service and the sacrifice of your family. It is now time to take that last fix, lay down a DR and set a course for new horizons. No matter where the prevailing winds take you, we know you will find success and that you can take great pride in the impact you have made upon generations of Sailors in the United States Navy. So one more time for MCPON West… HOOYAH Navy!
Mindless habitual behavior is the enemy of innovation… Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Innovation is back! There is an undeniable renewal of interest and forward momentum in innovative thought in the United States Navy today. Why is this? What is driving the renewed attention to innovation?
Several factors influence innovation in both a positive and a negative way. Stephen Rosen discusses many of these factors in his book, “Winning the Next War: Innovation in the Modern Military.” Rosen talks about “technology push,” which occurs when new and disruptive technologies are discovered and sometimes reluctantly incorporated into our warfighting platforms. Though not immediately embraced, over time these technologies can – and often do – revolutionize how we fight. The triumph of steam over sail in the United States Navy is a good example, but one that was hard fought to incorporate or inculcate into the minds of naval officers of that era. Likewise, Rosen’s “demand pull” (or mission pull) stimulates innovation when there is a critical warfighting need and no platform or technology currently available to meet that need. Brave men fought the first and second Battle of the Atlantic in diesel submarines that were cold, cramped, noisy and vulnerable. The need to remain submerged and undetected for long periods of time created a mission pull for nuclear propulsion which contributed to our modern day fleet of highly capable nuclear powered submarines.
While we would have eventually figured out how to put an atomic pile inside a submarine, I think it is fair to say it would not have happened as fast without the contribution of a “maverick” like Admiral Hyman G. Rickover. He drove this process relentlessly and against much opposition, eventually putting to sea the modern SSN. Rickover was unconventional in his methods but he got results. Nowadays, mavericks must learn to work within an even more complex rule set and hierarchy which can stifle innovation. Today’s acquisition process is rather burdensome and although we make the best weapon systems in the world, we must be more responsive in pacing or better yet, exceeding adversary threat capabilities. This of course puts incredible pressure on traditional timelines in research, development and acquisition. Our ongoing efforts to introduce agility and speed into this process must continue if we are to remain a dominant power.
Beyond traditional red-tape, another factor driving – or inhibiting – innovation is money. With competing priorities in the President’s budget, some savings have been realized through reductions in defense spending. Budget reductions and periods of fiscal austerity invariably serve to stimulate critical thought and innovative ways of warfighting. Admiral Jim Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), often quotes a well-known figure in the Royal Navy, Admiral Sir Jackie Fisher who said at the beginning of the twentieth century, “Now that the money has run out we must start to think!” SACEUR’s reference is poignant, as Fisher is primarily celebrated as an innovator, strategist and developer of the Royal Navy of the First World War era. When appointed First Sea Lord in 1904, he recapitalized older vessels still in active service but no longer useful and set about constructing modern replacements. Fisher is rightly credited with creating a battle fleet well prepared to fight Germany at sea during World War I.
By any account, our Navy budget is not insignificant, but we must continue to adapt to potential changes. Following Fisher’s suggestion to “think” may provide the catalyst to innovating our way past many of the challenges we face today. This may seem too obvious, for how else does one find an answer, except to think. But how frequently do any of us commit to the type of thinking required to fully understand issues and then devise possible solutions? Rear Admiral Terry Kraft, Commander of the Naval Warfare Development Center (NWDC) recently published The Innovators Guide which dedicates a full four pages to creative thought and generation of ideas. Thinking may not be as simple as it sounds, but we must commit to it in order to find the right solutions.
Recognizing these constraints, the CNO has challenged us to facilitate innovation across the Navy, and several organizations have taken great strides towards this end. The NWDC is a key stakeholder, and its mission is to “link tomorrow’s ideas to today’s warfighter through the rapid generation and development of innovative solutions to operational challenges.” This is done by operating at the speed of the Fleet and maintaining a focus on non-material solutions for the future. In this way, the NWDC serves as a “think tank” for how we fight tomorrow’s battles.
So why NWDC? I would offer that there are many lessons we must learn from history, and one of my favorites is examined by Barry Posen in The Sources of Military Doctrine, in his study of the German doctrine. He notes that Germany “won the battle of France and lost the Battle of Britain. She won the battle for which she had prepared and lost the one for which she had not. Her military doctrine had long envisioned major land campaigns on the European continent. Operations beyond its shores had been given little thought.” The doctrine worked well, until the context of the battle changed to exceed its design. In operating at the “speed of the Fleet”, the NWDC is positioned to look forward and adapt to the changing battlefield and its dynamic conditions.
I recently read RADM Kraft’s NWDC post entitled “Naval Innovation Reboot”, which provides thought-provoking messages about the rapid pace of communications facilitated by social networks where ideas are transformed into reality at a very high rate. He argues that the Navy has yet to capitalize on the benefits of these advancements, and suggests that we better empower our Sailors – already more than comfortable with this technology – to use it to our advantage. To more directly engage these junior leaders, last summer, the NWDC hosted a “Junior Leader Innovation Symposium.” The symposium was designed to educate these leaders on the importance of innovation, empower them to contribute new ideas, facilitate connected discussion and start to harvest their ideas. In keeping with their broad-based approach, NWDC also brings together leadership from industry, military and academia to ensure an awareness and openness to innovative solutions and ideas. In other words, Kraft knows that the water’s edge for innovation is NOT at the water’s edge.
One of the most recent efforts from NWDC examines the establishment of a Rapid Innovation Cell. In broad terms, the cell is envisioned as a mechanism to transform disruptive ideas into solutions and as an alternative path to fielding solutions.
The Office of Naval Research (ONR) is another highly-valuable player in this endeavor. As the Department of the Navy’s Science and Technology (S&T) provider, ONR leads the cutting edge of S&T solutions to address Navy and Marine Corps needs. This effort is developed within and among three directorates, one of which is committed to innovation. ONR’s Directorate of Innovation “cultivates innovative science and technology approaches that support the Department of the Navy and facilitate rapid and agile responses to our changing national security environment.”
Armed with state-of-the-art test facilities and a team of world-class scientists and engineers from a variety of fields, they are well-equipped to advance innovative solutions for the most challenging issues. ONR supports a number of programs aimed to streamline the fielding of technology to the Fleet and Forces. When urgent needs are identified through the Urgent Operational Needs Statement (UONS), Joint UONS (JUONS) and Joint Emergent Operational Needs (JEONs) programs, ONR experts are called upon to ensure available technologies are leveraged in solutions for the fleet. As a complementary process ONR also manages CNO’s Speed to Fleet program, which aims to provide quick-reaction mature and new technologies to deliver working prototypes to warfighters in high-risk or high-threat areas within 12-24 months.
Also within ONR’s quick-reaction S&T portfolio, the Tech Solutions program is a transformational business process created by the Chief of Naval Research to provide Sailors and Marines with a web-based tool for bringing warfighter needs to the Naval Research Enterprise for rapid response and delivery. The program accepts recommendations and suggestions, via an on-line submission form, from Navy and Marine Corps personnel working at the ground level on ways to improve mission effectiveness through the application of technology. It is solely focused on delivering needed technology to the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, within 12-18 months, and moving the sea services toward more effective and efficient use of personnel. The program has a proven track record too, resulting in technology to the fleet including a Catapult Capacity Selector Valve Calculator (CSV) – a hand-held Flight Deck Ops Assistant which eliminates a laborious process of referencing paper manuals to determine catapult settings.
With NWDC and ONR working as partners, the Navy has an infrastructure which is well-postured to support innovation. Just a thought before I move on… One of our S&T scientists recently e-mailed me a link to the U.S. Coast Guard Innovation Program. It’s a five-page document which formally establishes the Coast Guard Innovation Program. There may be a risk of institutionalizing innovation, but we might also benefit from having a written plan which supports innovative thought. The Coast Guard has an Innovation Council not unlike the current effort undertaken by NWDC. It also recognizes innovation in the ranks with an annual award and incentive program and sponsors an annual USCG Innovation Expo in partnership with industry. Perhaps we should follow suit?
Innovation has been described as having several forms. These range from technological to strategic, and I’ll give a more detailed outline of my thoughts on some of these later, but we suggest we must also contemplate the nature of innovation we aim to achieve.
In a recent Proceedings article entitled Payloads over Platforms, the CNO calls for the “decoupling of payload development from platform development (to) take advantage of a set of emerging trends in precision weapons, stealth, ship and aircraft construction, economics, and warfare.” By tracing a timeline of successful payload shifts across the service of the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), his article illustrates some innovative success the Navy has enjoyed, but these successes were a result of coincidence, and perhaps a dose of good luck, rather than initial design. And, even if the blueprints were drawn up to facilitate payload changes, this approach to design is not pervasive enough to support the CNO’s goals. NWDC and ONR have both adopted or structured approaches to facilitate significant changes like this. If we can successfully tap the ideas of our junior leaders on the deck plates, I believe we are well-suited to develop solutions to propel us in the direction the CNO is pointing.
We face difficult challenges, and innovation provides us one path to solving many of them. I encourage all of our Sailors to discuss ideas and contribute thoughts to this blog or any others I have referenced. We need solutions, and we must be open in our search for them. Is the Navy, as an institution best optimized to innovate? How can we do better? I yield to the “wisdom of the crowd” on this matter, and I am confident that many of you have outstanding ideas that we haven’t yet heard. Get ‘em out there!
The President of the United States visited the Pentagon yesterday to attend and speak at the Memorial Service for the victims of 9/11. Security was tight, but after a solemn service and a rather uneventful day, I departed work for home via the 5th corridor entrance. As I passed the 9/11 Memorial Chapel, which sits precisely at the point of impact for American Airlines Flight 77, I paused to reflect on what this place must have looked like 11 years ago and was thankful for how it looked now and the fact that nothing untoward had transpired on this 9/11 anniversary in our great country.
When I woke up this morning, I was deeply saddened by the news of the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya yesterday. Although I didn’t know how it happened, I did know that the United States had lost a great American, an accomplished diplomat and a courageous man. In my last job at U.S. SIXTH Fleet Headquarters, I served as Operations Officer for the Libya Campaign. I will never forget some of the “movers and shakers” that made things happen during Operation Odyssey Dawn and Operation Unified Protector. Three names in particular always come to mind: LTC Brian Linville, U.S. Army, Assistant Defense Attaché in Libya; Brigadier General Abdel Salam al-Hasi, a key member of the Libyan Opposition Forces who repeatedly risked his life during the campaign, and Chris Stevens, who as Special Envoy to the Libyan Trans-National Council was one of the first Americans on the ground.
All three of these men are heroes, but I will only pay homage to one of them today–Ambassador Chris Stevens. Chris and his small team of diplomats and volunteers from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) entered Benghazi not long after U.S. and NATO airpower had pushed Regime Forces out of the city and further south to the cities of Brega and Ajdabiya. It was then still a very dangerous and uncertain environment.
One of our roles in Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn was to provide a means to get Chris and his team out if they ran into trouble. There were several possible courses of action (COA) and means at our disposal. Each one carried with it associated risks. It was our job at JTF HQ to minimize those risks. For my part, I believed we were overlooking one big factor in our planning: A personal interaction with the guy we were going to have to extract. So, I arranged a phone call with Chris. There was a lot I wanted to discuss, but I knew he had his hands full. I just wanted to tell him one thing: “Chris, if you need us, the Navy and Marine Corps have got your back!”
It was a great conversation, much longer than I had anticipated. Chris was a wellspring of knowledge about what was going on. He was direct, candid and incredibly informed. When I hung up, I told VADM Harry Harris, then the Sixth Fleet Commander–”Boss, Chris Stevens is one phenomenal guy. Now I know why State sent him!”
Since no American military boots were allowed on the ground in Libya during the operation and since we were just massing Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets, we were starved for real time eyes-on-the-ground information about what was happening in the Transnational Council, in Benghazi and in the rest of the country. Chris was a virtual encyclopedia. I was struck by his upbeat tone and tenor and his calm and cool demeanor. He was under a lot of pressure and challenging deadlines to show American support for the Libyan people, provide an avenue and method for delivery of humanitarian supplies and establish a sound relationship with the Trans National Council. The odds were against his mission, but Chris was full of enthusiasm and hope for the Libyan people’s right to self-determination.
As number two man at our Embassy in Tripoli before the campaign, he was plugged in. He knew the turf and the terrain. He understood the people, the demographics and the tribal politics. He knew the importance of humanitarian aid and that speed mattered — being the first responder to the needs of the Libyan people was going to pay big dividends during the campaign. He helped clear up a number of important questions for us about conditions on the ground and how we might better do our job and carry out our charter inherent in the United Nations Security Council Resolution. Chris gave me better situational awareness than any of the intelligence reports I received and in the final analysis, I was buoyed by his spirit, hope and enthusiasm.
He made me want to work just a little bit harder. He made me want to be better at my job.
Finally, I was struck by how he went out of his way to thank the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps for doing so much to plan for his safety and that of his team. Thankfully, we never had to execute those plans. Chris completed his mission and his mandate. The Libyan Campaign came to a close and the Libyan people earned the right to govern themselves. Free and fair elections took place a few months ago and moderates won the majority in government. Earlier this year, Chris was confirmed as U.S. Ambassador and returned to Libya. His selection was a “no brainer” to me, and I thought to myself, that guy is going to make a difference.
Now, he is dead… killed in the very city he helped set free. I regret that I never had the chance to meet him in person or shake his hand.
Ambassador Chris Stevens is the epitome of what Admiral Mike Mullen used to call “expeditionary government.” After 9/11, everything changed and although sending our military forces overseas was necessary, it was by no means sufficient. Along with those forces, on the front line and in the trenches, are members of so many other federal agencies–the ultimate force multiplier. Like Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and Marines, our State Department and other agencies are operating by our side on the tip of the spear and assuming similar risks. My hat is off to these men and women who sacrifice much for their country.
In the case of Ambassador Stevens, he made the ultimate sacrifice. I salute him. The next time I see someone from the Department of State, I will say, “Thank you for YOUR service!” I hope you will do the same.
James G. Foggo
Last Friday, I had the pleasure of attending a change of office ceremony for the Navy Chief of Information (CHINFO) in the “Sail Loft” of the Washington Navy Yard in Southeast Washington, D.C. It was a gala event, that paid tribute to the incredible work ethic, energy and achievements of RDML Denny Moynihan during his four and a half-years on the job. RDML Moynihan was relieved by RDML John Kirby, another super-charged officer who is highly regarded in the Navy and the Navy Public Affairs community for his support of Admiral Mike Mullen as Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff and most recently, as the military spokesman for Secretary Leon Panetta in OSD Public Affairs.
By nature of his position as CHINFO, which supports the Office of the Secretary of the Navy and the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, RDML Kirby will have a direct impact on the Navy and Navy programs and people every day. He has myriad responsibilities that he will want to prioritize, but in many cases, the 24 hour news cycle will modulate and modify his priorities as current events involving U.S. Naval Forces unfold around the globe. As CHINFO, he will be one of the most important architects of the Navy’s Strategic Communications strategy.
Accordingly, he may want to examine our current “brand.” In enterprise terms, Strategic Communicators employ the marketing strategy of “branding” to focus on the objectives achievable with the goods and services that the company can offer its clientele. For example, the American Marketing Association (AMA) definition of a “brand” is a “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.”
Sounds very business-like doesn’t it? But, let’s agree that the Navy has achieved some incredible efficiencies by adapting industry best practices to streamline support to the warfighter-Lean Six Sigma for example. So it follows that we might embrace “branding” as a method of unifying our strategic message to a target audience.
Since I joined the Service, we’ve adopted many different brands, even before the term and the enterprise approach became popular. Do you recall:
“It’s Not Just a Job… It’s an Adventure!”
“Let the Journey Begin!”
“Navy, Accelerate Your Life!”
And our current brand. “Navy. A Global Force for Good!”
Defining the target audience is part of the discovery process in adopting a brand. Those in the Human Resources aspect of what we do tell me that the target audience is the quality young men and women that we recruit annually to join our Service. We want the best and brightest from the pool of eligible young Americans. With an all-volunteer force, opportunities to learn new skills and be assured of job security, although necessary, are not enough – you need an appealing tagline! Human Resource specialists tell me that our current brand sells well with the Millennial Generation. Those joining our ranks today want job skills and a career, but they also want to make a difference-to be a part of a global team that has a raison d’etre- i.e. to make the world a better place. Recruiting, however, is normally tied to the economy and right now, our recruiting and retention statistics are pretty good. That could all change in a heartbeat with a major change in our economy, so it makes sense to keep a regular drumbeat on the theme of recruiting. Our brand is intended to attract and retain the very best, our challenge is to identify the Navy as a choice worth considering in the minds of those choosing and the minds of those providing advice and counsel.
I wonder however, if new recruits are the only audience? Shouldn’t our brand also appeal to the American taxpayers and their direct representatives on Capitol Hill? To the teachers, counselors, parents and coaches—those figures America’s youth look to when trying to figure out their personal way ahead? The point is that the “brand” has to appeal to a broad audience, with different levels of experience and different perspectives. The challenge is to reach and appeal to this wide audience with a clear and concise message of who we are.
In the marketplace, brands appeal to consumers and stifle the competition. Consumers of our brand are the American people, who want a safe and secure environment with conflicts resolved far from our shores. Our competition in the market of national security could be a peer competitor, a downright enemy of the state, or worst case – apathy and the belief that national security is someone else’s job. So, how will our brand keep us moving forward and deter our adversaries? This is an important question, if in fact you subscribe to the theory that our brand has multiple target audiences. Could we or should we change our brand to send a different message or a message to a different audience. I don’t have a good answer to these questions, so I thought we might benefit from the wisdom of the crowd–hence the reason for this blogging effort?
The CNO has given us three simple tenets and only six words on which to base our day-to-day fulfillment of our duties: Warfighting First! Operate Forward! Be Ready! Does our brand convey these three tenets? Do we need more than one brand for more than one audience? Do we need a brand at all?
I always liked the poster of the Aircraft Carrier that you see in many Navy Facilities-”90,000 tons of diplomacy.” A picture is often worth a thousand words, but that picture combined with that caption conveys many things about our Navy and our great country. It champions our industrial base and the United States’ ability to construct and operate not one but eleven nuclear powered aircraft carriers. It illustrates our ability to operate from our sovereign territory—the flight deck of the carrier—anytime and anyplace where our national interests may be threatened or where a helping hand may be needed. It epitomizes our ability to take the fight to the enemy far away from our shores. Finally, it sends the message that when diplomacy or deterrence fails, standby! American resolve and wherewithal will be there, ready to act if called upon. Perhaps we should adopt a brand that does all that?