We’ve created all this connectivity, we’ve wired just about every aspect of our lives. The national discourse appears in thousands of blogs, news aggregators, social media profiles, and more. Google before you Tweet is the new think before you talk and foot notes have evolved into hyperlinks.
My life is largely consumed by being online, by blogging, linking, reading, summarizing, analyzing, and connecting online. My duties are wholly impossible without email and social media–and all of this is arbitrary and contrived. This venue for our discourse, the internet, is an invention that is not even a hundred years old. Its mass adoption has not even reached twenty years, a sizable portion of the World’s population is firewalled into their own mini-internets in places like China, and yet others do not even yet have electricity. This way we communicate is new, we created it and we don’t even understand what we’ve done. To try to start to understand what we’ve done is hard, very hard, it’s one of the most pervasive absurdities we live with, and it’s of our own divice.
But, we must understand it, as we are becoming as much apart of it as we are the designer. The way we use the internet affects how we think and view the world. The speed at which something is availed to all who can find it, the amount of data created (As much in two days, as was created in the whole of history up to 2003). The individual is a finite resource limited by time and the ability to properly digest the information availed to them.
The pressures inherent in a system like the society we’ve created for ourselves is significant, especially for those of us who are content producers (and we’re all content producers… Some of us just don’t make a living as such).
Jonah Lehrer’s book “Imagine” was on course to be one of the most important books of 2012. I personally had watched every YouTube video presentation of his, I had purchased the book for my father and for myself. I was on the cusp of recommending it far and wide to ears that could do well with such insights. Then, I read this,
When I asked about aspects of his interactions with Rosen, Lehrer provided a sketchy time frame and contradictory specifics—he first told me that he had personally exchanged emails with Rosen, then attributed this supposed email exchange to his literary agent—then further claimed that Dylan’s management had approved the chapter after being sent a copy of Imagine. He added that Dylan’s management didn’t want their cooperation sourced in the book. But when I contacted Dylan’s management, they told me that they were unfamiliar with Lehrer, had never read his book, there was no bobdylan.com headquarters, and, to the best of their recollection, no one there had screened outtakes from No Direction Home for Lehrer. Confronted with this, Lehrer admitted that he had invented it.
Having invented content as Lehrer did is not unique to 2012. Back in March This American Life had an episode titled Retraction where they devoted the episode to a follow on interview with Mike Daisey on why he “misled This American Life during the fact-checking process.” From the prolog,
Host Ira Glass tells listeners we can no longer stand behind the reporting in the recently aired episode “Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory.” He explains how Marketplace reporter Rob Schmitz tracked down Daisey’s interpreter in China — a woman named Cathy Lee — who disputes much of Daisey’s story. And Ira talks about how Mike Daisey lied to TAL during the fact-checking process, telling Ira and our producers that Cathy was not her real name and that she was unreachable. Ira also stresses that, without Cathy’s corroboration of the story, This American Life never should have run the story in the first place.
What Lehrer and Daisey have done is abhorrent, and there is no way to efficiently preempt the actions of these men, or others like them. It is not something new, as there have always been liars. Though there is much to be said of the ability to get the truth out, and to hold accountable such actions as the internet has allowed. The size of the information a single person contends with on a daily basis does as much to influence content producers to provide that killer metric, data point, anecdote to support their position, or elevate what they have to say above the background noise (think of how LCS, LPD 17, and the ZUMWALT were pitched).
For the average person, such instances count for mere annoyance. Just another huckster, a host for the modern day carnival side-show, parading themselves around and slinging faulty memes. However, when such work informs an opinion or world view that then informs policy makers, the issue counts for much more than mere annoyance. As happened with Greg Mortensen’s work having been cited in numerous reading lists, these instances count for much more than mere annoyance–they become a world view predicated upon lies.
It is a burden of our own creation in sifting through all the information available. At once we have created this amazing ability to tap into the ‘collective intelligence’ of those online towards improving the decision making process. The internet for all intents an purposes is not new (nor old), the shine and glint of it has worn off–it is not the next best thing, it is a ‘thing’ and so we must set about towards creating routine in its use.
We find ourselves with a mess. As Bruce Sterling has put it,
Then there is the colossally huge, searchable, public domain, which is now at your fingertips. There are methods to track where the eyeballs of the users are going. There are intellectual property problems in revenue, which interferes with scholarship as much as it aids it. There is a practice of ‘ragpicking’ with digital material – of loops, tracks, sampling. There are search engines, which are becoming major intellectual and public political actors. There is ‘collective intelligence’. Or, if you don’t want to dignify it with that term, you can just call it ‘internet meme ooze’. But it’s all over the place, just termite mounds of poorly organized and extremely potent knowledge, quantifiable, interchangeable data with newly networked relations. We cannot get rid of this stuff. It is our new burden, it is there as a fact on the ground, it is a fait accompli.
Many of us are just now coming to terms with how we can apply process to managing the ‘internet meme ooze’ in informing ourselves. Sterling also outlines the process in this ‘atemporal’ age,
‘Step one – write problem in a search engine, see if somebody else has solved it already. Step two – write problem in my blog; study the commentory cross-linked to other guys. Step three – write my problem in Twitter in a hundred and forty characters. See if I can get it that small. See if it gets retweeted. Step four – open source the problem; supply some instructables to get me as far as I’ve been able to get, see if the community takes it any further. Step five – start a Ning social network about my problem, name the network after my problem, see if anybody accumulates around my problem. Step six – make a video of my problem. Youtube my video, see if it spreads virally, see if any media convergence accumulates around my problem. Step seven – create a design fiction that pretends that my problem has already been solved. Create some gadget or application or product that has some relevance to my problem and see if anybody builds it. Step eight – exacerbate or intensify my problem with a work of interventionist tactical media. And step nine – find some kind of pretty illustrations from the Flickr ‘Looking into the Past’ photo pool.’
His description is a play off of how Richard Feynmann described intellectual labor,
Step one – write down the problem. Step two – think really hard. Step three – write down the solution.
Sterling has succinctly outlined how we’ve moved in our approach to informing our problem solving process. To date, we’ve cobbled together a sorts of additional steps, additional perspectives, additional subordinate processes to ensure nothing has been left out.
Increasingly we’ve had to add ‘glitter’ to attract attention to a problem, while adding the most peril–how do we attract attention without having to stretch the truth as many have done? All data generated, all content created, is a small fish in a large pond that is growing exponentially.
Like a painting that isn’t done yet, outline showing and colors overlapping, we are left to assume how the painting would be finished. The collaborative process we’ve thus far been able to create is not far removed from group finger-painting in Kindergarten.
Exacerbating our challenge is the that while we must contend with greater volumes of data we additionally have to deal with the rate at which that data and content is created. The time we have to cobble together a cohesive narrative shrinks with every year. Narratives that require context that can only be given with significant amounts of additional information.
In moving beyond this mess we find ourselves moving beyond a post-modern paradigm. Sterling calls this new paradigm ‘atemporality.’ For the simple reason that history is no longer so much written in ink on pages in books that do not change and cannot be edited once the ink dries. This narrative we collectively write by living life is being written, erased, and rewritten in real time as we post to social media outlets, write blogs, comment on news stories and the like.
As blogs correct the inaccuracies reported, or lies paraded as truth, the narrative shifts along with our world view. How we learn and view our world; how we treat information, knowledge and wisdom, is no longer challenged so much by a lack of perspective, as it is by the amount of perspectives. But, what Post-Modernists like Lyotard did not consider, is that the sum of cybernetics (the internet and computer technology) can contain the very meta-narrative they said could not exist–the zeitgeist.
Meta-narratives are more important than they’ve ever been. Increasingly it is the job of many of us to help understand that meta-narrative. The challenge inherent in this is in pulling apart knowledge and putting it back together–learning, unlearning, and relearning. The processes we’ve thus far adopted are not very efficient, however. As outlined by Sterling above, we’ve created numerous other steps that are not truly required to solve something. In terms of the meme on the right, we might not be truly illiterate, but we essentially are functionally illiterate, especially in terms of our organizations.
One does not have to look any further than to how we have decided to contain our information and convey it to others to see where we stop being literate–PowerPoint. As much as the cybernetics (the medium) is the zeitgeist (the message), we have chosen to contain our knowledge (the message) in PowerPoint (the medium). Additionally, one sees the same issue of adding ‘glitter’ into PowerPoint, and briefings in general to raise them above the background noise.
We may have come to the point to where we must allow things to be aesthetically bland, boring and uninteresting. It is all together too easy to apply a layer of glitter to a presentation to make it more appealing to an audience. In looking to brief others in the military it should be assumed that your captive audience already has an interest in the topic to be discussed, and that it is not necessary for us to concern ourselves with aesthetics since our content is informed, accurate and important. This is an advantage we enjoy inside our military, and it is folly of us not to take advantage of it.
Glitter is not left to aesthetics alone, additionally it can affect content as well. As Evgeny Morozov brilliantly writes in a recent article,
[O]ne can continue fooling the public with slick ahistorical jeremiads on geopolitics by serving them with the coarse but tasty sauce that is the Cyber-Whig theory of history. The recipe is simple. Find some peculiar global trend—the more arcane, the better. Draw a straight line connecting it to the world of apps, electric cars, and Bay Area venture capital. Mention robots, Japan, and cyberwar. Use shiny slides that contain incomprehensible but impressive maps and visualizations. Stir well. Serve on multiple platforms.
This points to the tendency of connecting dots which should not be connected. The zeitgeist can be seductive in that since so much information is contained with so many hyperlinks between them all, that everything is relevant to everything else, and that solutions must equally apply to all that is relevant; and is another aspect of Post-Modernism that falls short. But, just because you can see how all information, how all data is related, it does not mean that it matters.
Three steps. Write the problem down, think really hard, write down the solution. That’s all that is necessary, if you want to go full luddite, you could say that you really only need to do one thing–think.
For the military, it is time to look closely at how we communicate with each other. How many of us are like the type of person Morozov describes? How many of us make up for lack of content with aesthetics? When you’re preparing a brief, how do you communicate your message? It’s a well worn, and nearly trite, statement to say that since the money is leaving, we have to really start thinking–but, it’s also true.
Start reasoning, start communicating, and stop selling.
Every era has had something that service members came of age with. From the Dreadnaught era to the advent of submarines; the Sailors of the interwar period saw naval aviation come of age; Jets after the close of the second world war, guided missiles and nuclear propulsion.
For my generation, among the first of the 21st Century, we have seen the initial steps towards cyber capabilities and the mass adoption of unmanned systems. But, we’ve seen something more as well tangentially related to cyber: blogging and the online discourse writ large concerning the maritime services.
I am willing to say that at no other time has the discourse been as important for the maritime services as it is today. Certainly, it has never been more well appointed or contributed to. From those with an earnest interest in naval and maritime affairs, to deckplate Sailors and junior officers, to even the most senior admirals and generals. Their voices are present and count towards our understanding of ourselves, profession and the way forward for the Nation and Services.
For five years Information Dissemination has played a vital role in this discourse and enhanced discourse at USNI/USNI blog. To Raymond and the gang at Information Dissemination thanks for five years of great posts and for adding much appreciated voices to the dialog. Cheers!
I’ve got another post rattling around my brain for Memorial Day. But, I don’t want to clutter that post with some other sentiments I also wish to share over this Memorial Day weekend.
We honor the fallen over Memorial Day. The evocative photos that are typically shown are those of Arlington, or the Cemeteries here in Belgium. My Shipmates and I are spending the weekend doing what should be done to honor those who have gone before us and given that last full measure of devotion to their Nation. But, all too often, and far too easily, the next to last measure of devotion isn’t given the proper amount of remembrance–integrity.
My good friend Scott Shipman, shared a recording on facebook from C-SPAN of Col. John Boyd speaking before the House Armed Services Committee in 1991 on the effectiveness of our Armed Forces in that war. His timing is particularly poignant, as it made my sentiments here come to the forefront of my thinking on this Memorial Day Weekend.
You meet them often; those among us who are scrupulous in their integrity. They generally go about their duties without much fanfare; they do not necessarily draw attention to themselves and just accomplish the tasks their Nation has laid out before them. Many of them do not have awards for Valor, they do not have stories from our recent wars in which they accomplished something great. They are our unsung heros who do their duty and hold to a higher degree of integrity that most are capable of.
I’ve known a few such women and men in my career, both officer and enlisted. When I’ve seen them do something that was emblematic of having integrity, I’ve not pointed out to them what they’ve done–there’s no point in that, as they do comport themselves as such for recognition. But, I would watch it all unfold, and smile to myself, and feel proud to wear the cloth of the Nation as they do.
On this memorial day, think of them as well. They may not have given that last full measure, but they do their duty in a way that is just as important and worth honoring.
I began writing this during the 11th hour of Joint Warfighter, feeling like I had something of an information hangover. Coffee was having no effect. Concepts and ideas were jumbled into an atemporal mess in my mind–it has been a long couple of conferences.
After the last session a woman walked past me and remarked that the panel was uninformative. I’ve now heard this sentiment twice in the last two days. In terms of this, I can agree that perhaps the actual information given by panelists might not be new, novel, or insightful. But, at best such a reality is decided on a case-by-case basis, since those in the audience have each been privy to different types, amounts, and quality of data. What was not profound to you, could have very well been profound to someone else. In short, the fact that you might not have found anything new in the discussion is irrelevant. But, it does point my thinking towards a new paradigm for conferences is needed.
There is little information that will be given to you in person that could not have been read elsewhere. The volume of data and information availed online is huge–you want to know about the Navy, you can learn most everything online. You can be given nuance from blogs and context from history. However, it is in person is where you learn about what people are thinking, and what they haven’t decided on. You see the person and all those subconscious things that denote what they’re really thinking.
That is the power of panels, that is why it is worth traveling so very far and spending so much: Experience. My Boss says that nothing supplants meeting someone in person, and he’s right. You can share emotion via the Internet, but you cannot truly experience emotion with someone, not even the subtle emotion felt when one is posed with a difficult question–as is often done in panels.
The division between audience and panel needs to be broken down. I struggle to articulate how to do this short of some hippie-esq ‘let’s-circle-our-chairs-and-hold-hands’ nonsense. But, the answer must be in there somewhere between the connectivity enabled by the Internet and being there in person.
AirSea Battle is in trouble. I don’t really know what it is, and even with engaging with the panel today, I still don’t think there is anyone out there who has the whole story. But. What truly troubles me, is that from the question I asked today.
I asked how AirSea Battle Strategy (anyone know what the word ‘battle’ is doing in a strategy?) would affect the tactical level. From what I remember of the answer, almost nothing will change except that there will be more jointness (termed ‘interoperability’ if I remember correctly) and tactical units will be smaller and enabled to mass quickly if a concentration of forces are needed.
Additionally, the design for AirSea is such that it will be layered over the tactical and operational COCOM level. This is where I really get lost–and I need your help to make sense of.
Wasn’t one of the greatest critiques of COIN that it wasn’t a true strategy, but rather a collection of tactics jumbled together and called strategy? If we are overlaying this strategy on top our existing operational and tactical paradigms, aren’t we doing the same thing COIN is accused of? What I understand of strategy is that it is the larger goals and combination of ends, ways and means towards reaching those goals. In attempting to draft a strategy that does not perturb current tactical paradigms, are we creating a strategy that changes nothing?
I really hope we aren’t, but I will need to be convinced we aren’t.
Another thing is that the crowd drawn to such Conferences are more industry than strategist. The questions routinely posed to the panels concerned acquisition more than they did anything else. There’s nothing wrong with this, but I’m not a contractor and so I am more I am more interested in strategy and tactics. What’s more is that because of the majority of the questions it is now hard for me to separate the future tools for implementing AirSea from the strategy itself.
Is AirSea a collection of new capabilities rather than a strategy in its own right?
While I was told that AirSea was not to have any major impact on the tactical level, there is one area in which I do see it having a major impact. AirSea seems to support the notion of acquiring 5+ generation fighters, new comms gear, and making everything stealth. The fielding of such gear will necessarily drive the need for new tactics, and operational models. From what I understand of the F-22, the logistics and maintenance requirement are quite different from having 15s, 16s and 18s downrange. In addition, if the services are to specialize further in niche but vital capabilities, interoperability is going to demand another round of relocating units CONUS for training purposes. If the Army has an Electronic Warfare requirement for a mission the Navy will have to fill that role. But, odds are that EW Squadron is in Northern Virginia, but the Combat Brigade is located in North Carolina or Georgia. For these two units to train together to be fully interoperable, they will need to train together almost constantly. I struggle to see how this will be cost effective, in the age of austerity with sequestration looming.
There is way too much that has gone unsaid regarding AirSea. I appreciate OPSEC needs as much as the next guy. But, AirSea is starting to be discussed widely across strategy and military focused blogs. The Chief of Staff of the Air Force and the Chief of Naval Operations are appearing together to present this strategy to the American People, and the message is thus far garbled. As we’re in the opening stages of the messaging campaign, I can appreciate that there is tweaking that will be done to it towards answering the myriad of questions we all have regarding AirSea. But, it will be a struggle. My sense is that many bloggers, strategists, and journalists are suspect of AirSea. After nearly ten years of coin being vigorously debated, any new strategy will have an uphill battle.
I saw a lot of GOFO’s over the course of Joint Warfighter. Just about as many as are at SHAPE. But, what is important is that I got to listen to them, at some length. General Allen, COMISAF, VTC’d in for an hour (and it was roughly 2100L AFG). Despite weather delays GEN Dempsey was present for an hour. I don’t know how much experience everyone has will trying to get on a GOFO’s schedule. But, average availability is around 15 minutes. An hour is an insane amount of time.
GENs Cartwright, Allen, and Dempsey all spoke without the use of PowerPoint or notes. They were able to navigate through multiple topics, ensuring that key messages were hit and came across as relaxed. They were all polished and impressive. GEN Cartwright had the luxury of no longer being in uniform and so his candor was particularly poignant.
I asked a lot of questions, and the way I worded a lot of questions was not readily understood. I’m pretty sure I had to rephrase every question I asked. It sucks when you’ve got a minute or seven standing behind the mic, listening to the other questions being asked, answers that touch upon the one you’re about to ask, and you’re thinking of a myriad of permutations of how you could ask your question. It’s like roulette, you don’t know when the moderator is going to call on you, and where ever your mind is at when you’re asked is the question that comes out.
*Remember, identify your self and your affiliation.*
One question got me asked if I wanted to work on the Joint Staff, and the answer to that is still an emphatic yes (if you want to see how that went down, watch the video. I won’t elaborate further).
During one such evening, at the USNI Member Event, I turned a corner, and Mary stopped me and introduced me to John Nagl. Yes, that John Nagl. Amazing, right? I love the Naval Institute… For more than just this one instance.
In 2007 I attended my first conference. It was Joint Warfighter, and the day I attended ADM Stavridis gave the keynote at Lunch.
I became aware of the conference while I was underway, and emailed the Institute asking how I could pay for the lunches. I was told that the Institute saves a few tickets for Enlisted members, and that I needn’t worry about paying to attend the luncheon keynote. Because of this, I became aware of ADM Stavridis, and sought out everything I could find of his writing. Eventually I found him on facebook as well, and in 2010 this all came together in enabling me to come work for him at SHAPE. It is directly because of the Naval Institute that I am who I am today.
The last keynote of the Conference was from Google’s Chief Technology Advocate. He presented a number of fascinating things Google does as “hobbies”. Google is all about gathering real world information and organizing and availing that information through the internet. I consider this a noble and laudable goal. What’s more is that they are doing an exceptional job at all of it.
However, such a goal is fraught with challenges and disturbing implications. Arthur C. Clark has some very good words to this point
The Information Age offers much to mankind, and I would like to think that we will rise to the challenges it presents. But it is vital to remember that information — in the sense of raw data — is not knowledge, that knowledge is not wisdom, and that wisdom is not foresight. But information is the first essential step to all of these.
Google gets this, and they are actively engaged in finding the right answers to such dilemmas. They seek out expert advice from guys like GEN Colin Powell. They seek to understand the implications of the capabilities and technologies they develop–they seek to build wisdom as much as they compile information.
I think it is important for this conversation to take place, as well as for it to be transparent and done in public. If Google can develop technologies that have significant security implications, it does us no good to bury this fact, as it denies us the ability to develop the wisdom required to understand our new abilities. Further more, if Google can do it, then eventually anyone could do it, being quiet about it won’t prevent this from happening.
All Around It was an excellent conference, I was especially pleased to see so many of our Allies stationed at Allied Command Transformation in attendance. Seeing French, British, German, and Spanish uniforms in the crowd made me feel a little bit like I was back home at SHAPE. Going forward, I think it would be a good thing to try to engage with our Allies more in such conferences. With more focus on Asia being demanded, deepening engagement and ties with our European Allies in other ways is important. An easy, and smart way to do this is with conferences like Joint Warfighter. Plus, JCWC has a nice ring to it (Joint-Combined Warfighter Conference).
Of course I knew of GEN Cartwright before I heard his keynote yesterday. However, what I knew of him was news stories, blog posts, and a few videos of his previous speeches. However when the General spoke yesterday, I was surprised by the candor and subtle bluntness of his words.
In listening to the General speak, I was made to wonder why we cannot get such sentiments from active duty flags. Surely I appreciate the sensitive positions such men hold, and the fact that they occupy positions where their words reflect on those personnel and programs in their charge. But, there must be something we communication professionals are not doing for them that prevents remarks like this being often more regularly, or at all while in uniform.
It is not about ‘tough talk’ as much as it is the presence GEN Cartwright had on stage. It borders on being zen-like how he effortlessly moved from topic-to-topic with out the use of a prompter, notes or PowerPoint. Seeing such mastery of diverse and indepth is in every respect refreshing. It reassures me that those who make the decision to send me into harms way are that good.
GEN Cartwright’s full speech
Maybe it won’t be a great day for you–be careful what you wish for… In recognition of the success that Kony2012 had in rasing money for a niche geopolitical cause, students at MIT created a faux webpage “Kick Starter” pretending to raise money for things on the opposite side of use of force continuum – a mobile black site for intensive interrogations, among other things.
As the last blog I posted demonstrates, the ability for motivated individuals to become active in a conflict exists and is very real. What amounts to DIY intervention can have an impact upon the course of World events (similar to the warning given to us service members from the SECDEF). To me, what this says is that citizens no longer only vote for a foreign policy with their ballots, but they can also–directly–do so with their wallets, time and skill-sets.
The conditions are right, and the historical precedent is now set for the ‘memetic stew’ to bring forth a Non-Governmental Organization as a third option that takes elements from Kony2012, private security firms, and Kiva for those who wish to see some sort of change in the World.
What strikes me as ironic, is that the words typically espoused towards supporting World peace, are now the intellectual foundation under which we may see a new method for hard power applied in the World. This is not to say that the end goals of those who see the utility of hard power is all that different from those who see greater utility in soft power.
Rather, in the long term, I am interested to see if the potential I’ve outlined here coalesces to incorporate both hard and soft power elements. Such a coalescing would amount to a private sector analog to a nation’s foreign policy. Which would, arguably, be the tipping point for the replacement of the Westphalian era, where an organizational paradigm like a government is no longer required to bring together the ends, ways and means to execute foreign policy.
MIT has become my go-to publication for understanding how new models of conflicts are emerging. I highly recommend their latest article on events last year in Libya.
Motivated individuals were able to lend support and comfort to the rebels in Libya during the conflict. From giving instructions on first aid, to providing bandwidth and archiving services for the rebels messaging and other things, ‘civilians’ from Europe and elsewhere were able to support the rebels.
The phrase I find most interesting in the article is that the conflict was “fought with global brains, NATO brawn, and Libyan blood.” On this side of the pond, a lot of ink has been spilled for how the approach utilized by the Allies is a new model for conflict intervention. While I see that as certainly being a possibility, the conflict model for Libya writ large (encompassing much more than just NATO’s role in Libya) is much more likely to become the archetype for contemporary conflicts.
There are a lot of implications for civilians being able to personally intervene in conflicts:
- Are such motivated (could we term them super-empowered?) individuals still considered non-combatants in a conflict if they give support or aid to a side in a conflict?
- Does a civilian’s actions towards supporting a side in a conflict make them a legitimate military target by the opposing side?
- What is the threshold to where a nation is no longer neutral in a conflict because their citizens are directly supporting a side in a conflict?
Lastly, there is an increasing sense that the Westphalian notion of nation-states is being challenged by the ability for individuals to act globally. Generally, this has been characterized in economic terms. However, it now seems that nations are additionally losing their exclusivity on conflict intervention. New organizational paradigms seem to be emerging, where definition by citizenship is at best the penultimate criteria used by an individual for self identification.
Got my orders today, actually. I have a No Later Than date in June. Yeah, June. We’re in April.
It’s definitely a trend in my life for me to leave from places in unexpected ways. I left Afghanistan all of a sudden, and rather abruptly from my ship to go to Afghanistan–just crazy, crazy transitions. But, I’d be lying if I said I don’t find it all an adventure.
But, so yeah, Pensacola is next, and STA-21 probably isn’t going to happen for me this year. The due date for the package is July, and I’ll have been at A-school for only two months by then. So, meh, there will be other options out there. I figure most of the things I’m going to have to talk about in the near future will have to be [redacted] or maybe [redacted] cause you know CTRs do stuff like [redacted] for a living.
I’m a little bummed that the odds of putting a STA-21 package in are nil. Becoming a CTR was supposed to be [redacted]. But, has seemed to have become the primary plan. But, again, no biggie, I’m fine with that; it all happens for a reason. I only entertained this notion of becoming a CTR because it was something I was interested in becoming in the first place.
I just hope I find it fascinating.
One recurring thing I’ve been told over my last 15 or so months working at SHAPE is that I might be peaking in my career–very early in my career. And well, yeah, maybe I am. But, I don’t think so.
What now; what’s next?
VADM Richardson posted an interesting blog back on 17 January.
“This is pretty cool. I was recently briefed on the results of our first try at a new way for us to innovate. We held an “event” in San Diego that brought together 27 of our best and brightest Junior Officers, Sonarmen and Fire Control Technicians to participate in what will be the first of many workshops. Submarine Development Squadron TWELVE (DEVRON 12) allied with Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Applied Physics Laboratory and the Submarine Advanced Development Team at NAVSEA, making this a “first of its kind” for the Submarine Force and maybe the Navy.”
After my last blog, this seems a pretty good story to follow up with. It’s all together far too easy to have the perspective that ‘everything’s wrong.’ What’s more is that it is way too easy to only point to things that seem wrong — Only pointing to ‘what’s wrong’ does not lead to innovation.
ADM Harvey’s strategic messaging has lately had a heavy dose of how our history demonstrates that we can meet the challenges of today. This example from VADM Richardson is emblematic of that fact. I’ll let Admiral Richardson’s post speak for itself. But, I think the names of those involved in the TANG Workshop deserve to be mentioned here.
FT1 Don Moreno – USS Bremerton
LTJG John Dubiel – USS Bremerton
FT1 Rich Gunter – USS Charlotte
STS2 Charles Augustine – USS City of Corpus Christi
LTJG Jason Frederick – USS City of Corpus Christi
FT3 Jordan Larry – USS City of Corpus Christi
LT Dan Kohnen – USS Columbus
LTJG Dan Justice – USS Florida
FT1 John Keagle – USS Florida
STS1 Randy Kelly – USS Florida
STS2 Don Grubbe – USS Houston
LTJG Stephen Emerson – USS Houston
FT2 Thaddeus Siongco – USS Houston
LT David Camp – USS Key West
FT3 Glen Elam – USS Key West
STS1 Robert Sarvis – USS Key West
LT Tim Manke – USS New Hampshire
STS1 J.P. Whitney – USS Norfolk
FT1 Brent Caraway – USS San Francisco
LT Eric Dridge – USS San Francisco
STS1 Rich Hering – USS San Francisco
STS2 Chris Remiesiewicz – USS Virginia
FT1 Brandolf Schlieper – USS Virginia
LT Arlo Swallow – USS West Virginia
FT1 Ben Lang – USS West Virginia
STS1 Gabe Brazell – USS West Virginia
STS2 Jake Malone – SLC Det. San Diego
The IDEO Coaching Team:
Maybe, I don’t want to be an officer. More so, maybe I shouldn’t be one. You guys seem to make it hard on yourselves to ask questions – to read, think and write. Enlisted types, when we do a version of ‘read, think and write’ we either are innocuous or irrelevant because of our rank, or are surprising (and thus welcomed) because of no one expecting us to think ‘big thoughts.’ But, whatever the case, us thinking aloud isn’t something that can cause officers to react. I’d dare say that it is almost safer for us enlisted types to think out loud because of our status in the military hierarchy.
In thinking back across the modicum of experience I have, I can only find one example of where someone (an officer) reacted negatively to me asking questions. It was a CAPT who was riding the SAN ANTONIO for one reason, or another. We were on the smoke deck, and I was attempting to talk to him about my Mobile Sea Base idea I had for the SAN (anyone read the news lately? I totally called this back in 2007). I don’t think the CAPT was as much bothered by my asking questions, as he just wanted from freakin’ peace and quiet while he smoked his cigar on the smoke deck. Whatever his motivations, it’s the only time I can recall ever being concerned about asking questions.
As many of you know, the Naval Institute invited me to the West ’12 Conference this year. One of the panels I attended was titled “Junior Warfighters: What Issues Keep Them Awake at Night?” the panel was comprised of O-3s and an O-4. I asked them questions, and the discussion turned to writing and publishing their thoughts. The answers I received were far outside of my perspective, and did not settle well with me. I couldn’t understand why they were telling me of their concerns for repercussions from their writing. They aren’t the first officers I’ve heard voice such a concern – quite the opposite actually. I have heard others say as such so often, that I’ve started to wonder if it was actually an excuse for not writing.
I watched the video made from the panel this morning, I asked if they had tried to get published, if they thought that publishing under a pen name would improve the discourse or be helpful in any way. But, again, the answers I was given were too far outside my perspective. I was told that it is important for a person to stand behind their words and thus not use a pen name. In addition to their concern for repercussions from publishing, the two perspectives caused a certain dissonance for me, I couldn’t get my mind around it. But, in talking about it on facebook, I think I’ve begun to understand.
No one reads, thinks and writes in a vacuum. I’ve often wondered (as have many others) why it is that the young seem to be the greatest source of innovation in the World. But, in coming to understand the answers I received at West I’ve also come to understand that a significant part of why the young innovate so much is that we do read, think and write in a vacuum in a greater sense than those older than us. We generally have fewer responsibilities – maybe a spouse, possibly no children, limited (if any) command authority. It seems to me to be one of the sublimely ironic absurdities of life that we give authority to those who have the experience to support keen discretion and wise decision making. But that to inherently have such qualities, one must have first lived a life, learned the resulting lessons and there-by limited their ability to fully engage in innovative discourse.
What this realization has lead me to is to wonder what this means for me. I’m a single guy, no kids, and no command authority; yet when I write these blogs, and talk publicly, I have a tacit sense of what I can and cannot say – I have tact. But, should I have less tact, in a sense? I don’t mean that I think that I should be bluntly provocative or that I should be writing the intellectual version of tabloids in my writing. But, that I should be even more bold to say some things, and even say things I know that others wish to say, but can’t due to other responsibilities their life choices have resulted in. Just as it tends to be the most junior personnel who have to scrub down a ship after a CBRN attack, shouldn’t it be the junior person who writes the words that cause senior personnel pause? After all, I am ultimately only responsible to myself. I do not have to worry about my words grossly affecting anyone else I could be responsible for. If the guy with kids to take care of can’t do it; the officer who would be judged more critically than I would can’t do it, or anyone with significant responsibilities can’t do it. But, somebody HAS to do it. Who better than someone like me?
I didn’t invoke John Boyd during the panel, though his ghost was probably cursing up a storm if it were present. But, Boyd’s example is replete with what it takes to fully engage in the discourse. Robert Croam’s biography doesn’t ignore the type of father or husband Boyd was – Boyd sacrificed a lot to be who he was. I cannot expect anyone (not even myself) to make the hard decisions he made.
Which only leaves me with the thought that we need a new dichotomy across the age axis in our Navy. We have the enlisted-officer dichotomy in the Navy that serves us extremely well. We should also formalize the age dichotomy so that our junior personnel can take advantage of their lack of responsibilities and station, so that they can think, read and write the things we need to stay innovative and ahead of any competitor.