Archive for the 'Training & Education' Category
“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity.
Without it, no real success is possible.”
-President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Character is the most fundamental and indispensable quality of leadership. As junior officers, we serve as a critical link between the enlisted sailors and senior officers. Without the vital component of steadfast moral integrity, our ability to accomplish the mission would be severely degraded. Too often we have seen the results of epic failures in an individual’s character. These events erode the public trust in our military, but more importantly, it erodes the trust our enlisted men and women have in their officer corps. In order for the military to refocus it’s leadership balance we must all reevaluate the process in which we lead.
To accomplish this rebalancing, I propose a four-tiered pyramid entitled “The MP3 Model.” I have named these four tiers the Moral, Personal, Practical, and Professional levels. In this turbulent and challenging world, the Moral level must be the base of this leadership paradigm. Morals and ethics must be the guiding light for all leadership decisions. If we as leaders drift away from morality, the results can be catastrophic. A strong moral base is not something that you wake up with one day, it is the cumulative wisdom amassed over your lifetime that informs your decision-making process on a day-to-day basis. It should be a sensation that occurs practically subconsciously; however, there is a conscious component to morality. In his bestselling book, The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty, Dan Ariely showed in a variety of experiments that people in general performed to higher moral standards when simply reminded of these morals before taking the test. An example was having people sign a one-sentence statement at the top of the first page of the test that said, “I will not cheat on this test, and the work submitted is my own.” Just this small impetus dropped the amount of people who tried to cheat, (Ariely 2012). What does this mean to us as Naval leaders? It means that morality is largely a subconscious act, but that it is also a “perishable” skill. What I mean by that is it is easy to get caught up in the “daily grind” of work in the military, where you are just trying to accomplish the mission by any means necessary, and the lines between right and wrong become blurred. It is incumbent upon the junior officers of the Fleet to ensure we discuss these issues. There is absolutely no reason to require everyone to sign statements of morality as in the example; but having junior officers who stress the importance of moral righteousness and uphold the Navy’s values can and will make a difference in the future. Morality is the sine qua non of this paradigm and will ensure the integrity of our Navy.
Once a sound Moral base is established, it will be the foundation for the subsequent Personal, Practical, and Professional levels of leadership. The Personal level is centered on the very basics; it is the individual’s presence, appearance, and overall military bearing. Rightfully so, the Navy expects this as a basic prerequisite for any Naval officer. A Naval officer must know the proper uniform regulations and follow them, be physically fit, be professional in his/her conduct with others, be proactive, be able to communicate effectively, and maintain high standards in others; simply the basics.
Next is the Practical level. As the world becomes dramatically more technologically advanced the Navy is likewise becoming increasingly technically driven. This level of leadership is thus focused on the technical expertise related to your job, whether learning the ins and outs of your aircraft fuel system, having an in-depth knowledge of your submarine’s nuclear reactor, or becoming an expert on demolition. This technical expertise is critical to successfully accomplishing the mission. What it means at the most basic level is simply to “know your job.” Admiral Chester Nimitz spoke on several occasions about the “readiness to serve.” As the leader of a division in a technologically advanced military, this technical expertise is an integral part of being able to serve when called upon; when the order comes to launch a torpedo or fire a missile, there must be no doubt up and down the chain of command that this task can be completed. Following this logic, it is unequivocally the responsibility of any leader to seek a level of professional knowledge that surpasses the level needed to accomplish the mission. President John F. Kennedy proclaimed that, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” The active leader understands this legacy and is constantly striving to learn more.
At the top of the pyramid is the Professional level, or more informally, the “change the world” level. This level is focused on an individual’s ability to lead sailors and marines in order to accomplish the mission. At this level, you must be able to concisely communicate your vision and your goals to your subordinates, while also providing feedback to your superiors about what you need to accomplish the stated mission. You must be able to make decisions quickly with little information, to look out for the welfare of your people both professionally and personally, to communicate effectively, to know every facet of the mission and devote your resources to accomplishing it, and you must be able to apply everything from the preceding three levels of leadership. Now, any person of sound mind and unyielding work ethic should be able to maintain the first three levels of the leadership pyramid without a terrible amount of difficulty. But being able to effectively employ your leadership skills across a wide spectrum of personnel and events is an exceptionally distinctive talent. The two best questions any junior officer can ask himself/herself at this level is 1) What can I do to make my division or unit more efficient and 2) What can I do to make my sailors’/marines’ lives better?
The Moral, Personal, Practical, Professional pyramid represents the pathway to sound leadership. The natural question is, is it possible to be an effective leader without one of the other levels? The answer is absolutely, but beware of the results. There are plenty of brilliant professional leaders in the military that may not maintain their personal or practical sides of leadership and are still successful. However, when you ignore one of these levels, it is as if that level on the pyramid is hollowed out, creating a “house of cards” that is trying to support the upper echelons but will likely fail. To ensure the integrity of our system we must all strive to maintain the four levels of leadership.
The importance of morality in leadership is not a new phenomenon. The most recent edition of the Navy Divisions Officer’s Guide notes that, “According to general order 21 (as first issued) leadership is defined as, ‘the art of accomplishing the Navy’s mission through people.’ It is the sum of those qualities of intellect, human understanding, and moral character that enable a person to inspire and manage a group of other people successfully. Effective leadership, therefore, is based on personal example, good management practices, and moral responsibility,” (Stavridis and Girrier 2004, 4). Moral leadership is therefore not a new idea, but does require occasional reflection.
There must be a reason that the Navy has had several high-profile scandals within the past couple of years, many with a principal moral component. Perhaps these incidents can be attributed to individuals who were caught up in the daily routine and not thinking through their actions. Regardless of the reason, these incidences are unacceptable. A Google search of “navy scandal” reveals the following top results: Navy Expels 34 Sailors in Nuclear Cheating Scandal, Navy to Retool Blue Angels after Scandal, Navy’s Bribery and Prostitution Scandal is Worse than Imagined, Three Admirals Censured, and many more. These episodes erode the public trust, which is absolutely essential to our continued operation. The military is rightfully held to a much higher standard than our civilian counterparts in a lot of respects. One of these episodes is too many, and several is an epidemic. What is particularly troubling is that a lot of these issues of questionable morals take place up and down the chain of command, even at the Commanding Officer level and above. It is incidences like the ones delineated above that underline the importance of why we all must rebalance and refocus our leadership. A strong Moral base will enable all leaders to make the best decisions at the Personal, Practical, and Professional levels of leadership.
Ultimately, the MP3 Leadership Model provides a guideline of expectations for successful leadership. All leaders in the Navy should strive to maintain the highest standards of Moral, Personal, Practical, and Professional leadership. Most importantly, we all must maintain our moral foundation. Our Navy’s moral core will invigorate and strengthen our resolve and enable the United States to continue to lead around the world. When he was retired, Admiral Stockdale spoke about the importance of character in leaders. He noted, “Character is probably more important than knowledge…Of course, all things being equal, knowledge is to be honored…But what I’m saying is that whenever I’ve been in trouble spots—in crises (and I’ve been in a lot of trouble and in a lot of crises)—the sine qua non of a leader has lain not in his chess-like grasp of issues and the options they portend, not in his style of management, not in his skill at processing information, but in his having the character, the heart, to deal spontaneously, honorably, and candidly with people, perplexities, and principles,” (Cook 2012, 13). The Naval leaders of today must continue to uphold this legacy as we move forward in a challenging world.
Ariely, Dan. The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty. HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY: 2012.
Cook, Martin L. 2012. Reflections on the Stockdale Legacy. Naval War College, June 1, 2012.
Stavridis, James and Robert Girrier. Division Officer’s Guide, Eleventh Edition. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD: 2004.
U.S. Department of Defense. The Armed Forces Officer. National Defense University Press, Washington, D.C.: 2007.
Please join us for a special 2PM (EST) early edition of Midrats for Episode 310: Fleet Battle School
How do you design a game that has practical tactical application to the naval tactician? Even more ambitious, how do you make one accessible and understandable with the goal of making it a mobile wargame for eventual use by sailors and warfare commands.
For today’s show we will discuss one of the projects of the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC), the game “Fleet Battle School.”
Our guests to discuss this game, gaming in general, and its practical application will be three individuals involved in the project; LT Matthew Hipple, Paul Vebber and Chris Kona. Chris Kona is a warfare analyst at Naval Undersea Warfare Center. A former submarine officer in the U.S. Navy, he was project lead for the CRIC’s Fleet Battle School wargame project. Paul Vebber is a retired SWO CDR who is a life-long hobby wargamer. He was one of founders of Matrix Games, the premiere publisher of computer wargames, working with them until their merger with Slitherine games. He currently works for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Mission Area Director for Undersea Warfare as Asst. Director for Concept Development, Wargaming, and Experimentation.
By Bill Asdal
The citizens of our great country know little about the military, even less about what military members do, and scarcely are informed about the issues of the day. I did not serve in the military, but my kids do. All have served our country, whether in Teach for America or in the Navy. As I see it, most of my neighbors understand and appreciate service. Our volunteer fire companies are generally well manned. The Parent-Teacher Association and local service groups may have an ebb and flow, but they maintain a public presence, and my neighbors understand what they do. I don’t think that this awareness is so prevalent about contemporary military service. My neighbors’ understanding of training, deployment, geography, or mission might be generously described as “foggy”.
Being community minded (and an educator by trade), I propose a simple outreach program to alter the nation’s understanding of military service. To get us started, some math might help. There are 1.4 million in current service, and nearly 22 million veterans. We all have personal and community networks. These networks leverage from dozens to hundreds of contacts for each military person. If even a small percentage of those with military experience were to work their networks, the entire country could be exposed to this new information several times over. A local community will relish a short overview of veterans’ military perspectives. This overview might include a post-deployment discussion of what it means to be deployed, what you did, how important is it to get care packages, or what it means to trust your shipmates. I am not advocating lobbying or any persuasive posturing here, simply bridging the gap from those who have knowledge and experience to those who do not. The chasm is currently deep. It need not be. Like a mountaineer setting some pins for a safer traverse, are not we all better informed with enlightenment?
Against such a concept, I have asked our kids to share some of their thoughts with local audiences. Each time, they have graciously responded and prepared some thoughts for delivery and fielded questions. A local restaurant has donated their back room on a weeknight for the event, and I have made some postcards for hand delivery to the librarian, butcher, UPS deliveryman, teachers, neighbors, local government folks, and friends of all stripes. I buy a few trays for appetizers and leave the cash bar to the audience for drinks. The topics have been fascinating: “How the Navy prepares future leaders,” “Deployment 2013 – Who, What, Where, When and Why,” and “ The Rise of China’s Naval Power”. Every time, the question and answer periods have been wide-ranging and penetrating. Neighbors look at former school kids in a whole new light of respect, and the local business community gains confidence in our local citizens in service.
I have five daughters, four of whom have attended the Unites States Naval Academy. The fifth is a Duke grad who worked two years in Teach for America. LT Ashley O’Keefe is our eldest. Upon her return from her first deployment, she spoke to a gathering of more than 40 people about her experience on her destroyer. She made a map of the port stops, clarified her role on the ship, and talked about enlisted and officer roles. Her perspective was very helpful to the uninitiated and veterans in the audience alike. She also found it personally helpful to put her thoughts together in a logical sequence – to make sense of the major milestones and accomplishments that she had just achieved. LT Lindsey Asdal just returned from her second deployment, and will put together a similar program on her next trip home.
Sharing our insights to interested audiences can take many forms. Annie Asdal is a smart senior staffer for a regional real estate investment firm, and has spoken several times to a local hometown audience about return on investment, financial analysis, and investment models.
Finally, LTJG Kirsten Asdal recently reported to her first ship at Pearl Harbor. Before she reported, she completed a Masters’ in Contemporary China Studies, so she chose to mesmerize 50 or so attendees with a talk on “The Rise of China’s Naval Power”. She is well versed in the subject matter and her graphics and maps made sense to all in attendance. They were rapt with the implications of these global policies at work. Our youngest, MIDN 2/C Charlotte Asdal, is still a student at the US Naval Academy, yet she held the audience in crisp attention telling how the Navy trains future officers. She detailed leadership lessons, the mission of the Academy and how some of her many experiences shaped her ability to lead.
The French call these local discussion groups “salons” – they have existed for several hundred years. It would be my hope that a simple outline template could be circulated, perhaps by local public affairs offices, so that everyone in the military might utilize their existing community networks to chat about our military. The immediate benefits include keeping the community tight, a fun night in town with a strong speaker, and some national and international perspectives. Longer term benefits might include enhanced support for the military and a softening of the distance between military and civilian sectors. What topic would spark your community’s interest? I hope you can join us.
“Hey 1980s! The second decade of the 21st century is on the POTS line, and they are wondering if they could make some copies of your stuff in the vault.”
As history shows, most times you don’t pick a war – a war picks you.
Of course, in a way, all wars are wars of choice. When faced with aggression, a people can always decide to surrender without a fight – or only after a token resistance. War is a test of national wills on many levels – big wars often result when one side misreads the national will of another.
In the 21st Century, could there possibly be a situation where we would, once again, have to fight our way across the Atlantic to support another entanglement in a European war? As 2016 arrives, are the odds of this greater or lesser than they were 1, 5, or 10 years ago?
Julian E. Barnes and Gordon Lubold at WSJ have a little required reading for you. From their article, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, General Philip Breedlove, USAF put out this call that should have all navalists sit up and notice;
“For two decades we haven’t thought about the fact that we are going to have to fight our way across the Atlantic.”
Let’s pull that thread a bit. Don’t bother on how you get there, just start with waking up one day and getting the D&G that you need to ready a sustained opposed crossing of the Atlantic.
For those 45 and older, this should sound familiar.
NATO countries are discussing increasing the number of troops stationed in members bordering Russia and putting them under formal alliance command. The next talks on that idea are likely to come in early December, when foreign ministers gather and begin discussing proposals to be formalized at a Warsaw summit in July.
The Army currently has two brigades—of about 3,500 soldiers each—based in Europe. It has assigned one additional brigade in the U.S. to serve as a regionally aligned force that will rotate into and out of Europe. Gen. Milley said he would like to add more brigades to those rotating to Europe, and add attack helicopter units, engineering teams and artillery brigades.
Throughout the later years of the Cold War, the U.S. military conducted a massive exercise called Reforger, that practiced moving tens of thousands of troops from the U.S. to Europe quickly. While there is no need to revive the exercise on that same scale, a new kind of drill that echoed the old Reforger operation would be helpful, Gen. Milley said.
“Nobody wants to go back to the days of the Cold War,” Gen. Milley said. “We don’t need exercises as big as Reforger anymore. But the concept of Reforger, where you exercise contingency forces … that is exactly what we should be doing.”
Technology has changed, but geography has not. There are some constants from the 1st and 2nd Battles of the Atlantic in the first half of the 20th Century that still apply a century later. Some will repeat, some with rhyme. Some will surprisingly not be a repeat factor, some new factors will show up unexpectedly. There will also be new technologies that no one should talk about that will change the odds greatly in favor or one force or the other. There will also be new technologies that on one should talk about that one force or the other thinks will be “war winning” but once put in to operational use will be a complete dud.
Here are some things that have a high probability of being true in a 3rd Battle of the Atlantic if it happens in 2016 or 2026 or 2056.
– You do not have enough escorts. Those escorts you do have do not have enough ASW or AAW weapons.
– Those ASW and AAW weapons you are going to war with, in addition to not being adequate in number, there is a very good chance that one bit of that kit does not work and cannot kill anything. Hopefully you have a backup for the pointy end of the kill chain. If not, you are going to have a bad first year.
– Higher HQ is asking for too much information from deployed forces, and as a result, deployed forces are talking too much. As a result, the enemy has a better idea of your location than you think, and may have cracked your code.
– Your allied forces that on paper look good? Many of them aren’t what your N2/3 think. Some of them won’t even deploy. Some of those that do won’t engage the enemy to an effective degree.
– The threat from the air will be easier to counter than the threat under the water, though in the early stages, the threat from the air may be a larger concern than you planned.
– This is a game where “body counts” actually matter. If something is being sunk faster than it can be replaced, you need to change what you are doing.
– It will be seductive to think attacking bases will be a shortcut. It will help, but will not be a magic bullet.
– Finally, the war will go on much longer than you think. Though you may think that it is industrial capacity that is going to be your greatest challenge, it may actually be your ability to find competently trained personnel fast enough.
War, if it came, would be very much a come as you are event. We do not have a huge mothball fleet to reactivate. We do not have a huge Naval Reserve to recall. We do not have a diverse industrial capacity to quickly build up, nor, unlike the period right prior to WWII, do we have a few years headstart in new construction.
So, think about it. The geography is the same, technology and enemy different, but the mission is the same; a sustained, opposed crossing of the Atlantic.
The Navy’s knowledge of its own human terrain is like using a map of the world from the 14th Century. The Navy can do better.
Before we get too far into the weeds on one possible way to improve our talent management in the Navy, we are doing a survey to better understand the detailing process. Its for all officers and can be reached here.
And now back to your regularly scheduled programming.
Wouldn’t you want $2.7 trillion more without a lot of effort?
A recent study by McKinsey Global Institute was headlined with the following:
Labor markets around the world haven’t kept pace with rapid shifts in the global economy, and their inefficiencies have taken a heavy toll.
This study on connecting talent with opportunity in the digital age found that online platforms could boost global GDP by 2.7 trillion dollars. The Navy (and DoD) can benefit from similar thinking.
I’m tired of this touchy-feely stuff – the military is for warfighting
Over the last fifty years, our manpower strategy was built on the assumption that the correct operation of superior platforms would ensure victory in a 20th century, system-centric conflict. However, the proliferation of disruptive technologies and the growing budgets of assertive near-peer competitors challenge this industrial-era model in an age of fiscal austerity. Meanwhile, demographic shifts complicate the latest cyclic officer retention challenge, especially among highly trained individuals such as cyber operators, special warfare personnel and aviators. And ultimately, millennial sailors display generational personality traits with diverging views on work from prior generations, including a tendency to switch careers. The consequences of the “war for talent” could have far reaching implications in the military’s ability to win the wars of the future. Talent management IS about warfighting.
Yeah, but we’ve been down this road before
Talent management is not a new topic, but during the last twelve months the stars and suits have aligned to begin to provide much needed reform on the military’s personnel management systems. Our leaders all appear to feel the budgetary pressure to do more with less in an increasingly complex security environment. The Secretary of Defense ordered a sweeping review of civilian and military systems this summer. Secretary Mabus’ Task Force Innovation (TFI) is undertaking broad reforms focused on developing a data-intensive approach to personnel assignments and career management. Last year, the CNO tasked his Strategic Studies Group to focus on “Talent Management in the 21st Century” rather than developing operational concepts. The Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP), VADM Moran, sounded the initial horn and is championing a basket of reforms to bring the Navy’s personnel system into the 21st century.
So what should we do?
We currently understand the richness and capabilities of our people about as well as the early explorers understood the world beyond the horizon. To meet emerging security challenges in a fiscally austere environment, the Navy must map its human capital to better understand and best utilize the unique talents of its individual Sailors.
A talent management system must know enough about its users to put the right person in the right job at the right time. However, the Navy’s own systems don’t provided the necessary data needed to truly understand and maximize the capacity of its personnel. Nor can IT alone deliver the force needed to maintain our competitive advantage in the mid-21st century. Innovative HR policies that give commands and officers increased influence in the assignment process are needed, along with the necessary digital systems to enable them.
Coming soon to a detailer near you?
We, the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC), think a data-enabled, internal labor market approach to officer detailing might enhance unit effectiveness, improve human capital allocation, and engender greater trust within the service. We are working together with Navy Personnel Command on this project to examine the impact a market-based approach will have on detailing officers. The prototype will work with members of the Information Dominance Corps (IDC). The IDC provides a heterogeneous community with a robust requirement to field a wide bench of experts. The ability to match individual talents with billet requirements provides a large potential impact in this community, so it’s a great place to start.
Some considerations for a data-enabled, market-based approach
The efficacy of this market-based approach rests upon advances in cultivating, managing, and accessing large amounts of information. Current software technology allows us to quickly assimilate all the relevant personnel data about our Sailors into an easily configurable user interface. The resulting talent profiles would gather data from a variety of sources. These might include past education, language skills, demographics, and evaluations. Officers would then input additional information onto a LinkedInTM style profile to capture granular data that the Navy currently doesn’t have about its people.
Additionally, unit commanders could put forth detailed billet requirements onto a digital information exchange. As officers approach their rotation date and commanders approach the time to fill a billet, they would have the opportunity to communicate during a designated window of time. When the window closes, Sailors and commanders would then have to submit their preferences, and a detailer acting as a HR agent will facilitate the appropriate placement of each billet.
We don’t claim to have all the answers; this is an iterative learning process. We are spending time with detailers, COs, and members of the IDC to better understand their needs and requirements. We are also conducting this survey for officers. We hope our prototype system will add granularity to officer talents and billet requirements, increase transparency in the detailing process and offer the potential for a more accurate talent-to-billet pairing than industrial-era fill processes, and increase officer agency in the detailing process.
Ultimately, we are testing the hypothesis that injecting more agency, flexibility and transparency into the detailing process will improve it. We’ll measure results through interviews, fit/fill metrics, and job satisfaction surveys. Regardless of outcome, the lessons we learn will help the Navy continue to shape the force it needs to meet future threats.
Today, the Aviation Major Command Screen Board (AMCSB) convenes in Millington, Tennessee. It is the annual gathering to determine the future of Naval Aviation’s most promising leaders, and plays a large role in setting the strategic direction of our enterprise.
As we alluded to in our August 2015 Proceedings article “On Becoming CAG,” the fates of aspiring leaders were determined years prior to this week. FITREPs, joint jobs, and other career assignments funnel COs into competitive tracks for leadership positions, including Carrier Air Wing Commander, or CAG.
However, as the current AMCSB convenes, one troubling trend remains: Naval Aviation has gone five years since a non-VFA CAG was selected.
After publishing “On Becoming CAG,” the authors received intense positive and negative feedback about our arguments. Notably, at the annual Tailhook Reunion in Reno, Nevada this year, PERS-43 addressed the debate in an open forum (you can watch it here).
He pointed out that CAGs are responsible for the mentorship of squadron COs, with the ultimate goal of cultivating leaders who are able to replace him or her as CAG.
Reflecting on the past five years, it appears as though CAGs have failed their non-VFA Commanding Officers in this essential mentoring. All else being equal, if zero COs from outside the VFA community have been selected, we arrive at one of two conclusions:
1) VAQ, VAW, HSM, and HSC squadron COs have been inadequate leaders compared to their VFA contemporaries. If this is true, it points to a huge, unspoken problem in these communities that Naval Aviation has not addressed.
2) VAQ, VAW, HSM, and HSC squadron COs are not viewed as equally qualified leaders by CAG when FITREP time comes. If this is true, it points to a problematic culture within our ranks that Naval Aviation has not addressed.
As thousands of junior officers and Sailors will attest, we have seen many outstanding leaders from the VAQ, VAW, HSM, and HSC communities over the past five years. Conclusion #1 would seem to offend this reality.
As such, we are left with Conclusion #2, and the problem it exposes in the process of selecting carrier aviation leadership. The culture change needed in our collective Ready Room is the realization that aviation major command is about leadership; not tactical proficiency. We expect this proficiency of our junior officers and our junior officers expect leadership—both within the Air Wing and across the joint force—from their major commanders.
The ability to fly a strike mission from an F/A-18 or execute a flawless fly-by of the carrier are impressive skills, and it is true that only one community can really experience those fully. But CAG is a leader at the operational level of warfare, and the leadership required to execute at that level is not exclusive to the aviators of a single airframe. If our process for selecting CAGs is based on tactical proficiency as a proxy for promoting certain types of officers at the expense of an equally talented pool of others, that system–and the culture that underpins it–must change.
The authors believe that increasing the diversity of perspective at the CAG level will improve combat efficiency, leadership acumen within the air wing, and interoperability with the joint force. We invite you to join in the constructive debate of these issues.
Over the coming weeks, the authors will share some of the most common feedback received from “On Becoming CAG.” The most important takeaway is that people on each side of this issue care about Naval Aviation and seek to make it better.
Please join us at 5pm (Eastern) on 11 Oct 15 for Midrats Episode 301: Confessions of a Major Program Manager, w/ CAPT Mark Vandroff, USN:
One man’s chore is another man’s hobby. Another man’s dread, is the other’s fantasy. Such, in a fashion, is Program Management in the Navy.
To be a good one, step one is to be self-aware. From his latest article in USNI’s Proceedings, Confessions of a Major Program Manager, Captain Mark Vandroff, USN just lays it out; “Face it: Everyone hates MPMs. For the budget-conscious officials in the Pentagon, our products are never cheap enough. For technologists both inside and outside the Department of Defense who want military progress to be state of the art, our products are never fielded fast enough. For the fleet users and their advocates, products could always be more capable, usable, or maintainable. Industry gets upset when we treat the taxpayers’ money like it is worth saving rather than help Wall Street with its next earnings report. Our uniformed brothers and sisters, support scientists, contractors, and comptrollers all loathe us—and if
you aren’t in one of those groups, you probably quit reading already.”
Coming back to Midrats, we will have the author on for the full hour to discuss the dark art of the program manager, what it takes to be one, and why at the end of the day someone would – really – come to love it all.
Last week saw an interesting footnote for our Navy;
Simpson has turned into a ghost ship.
Its passageways are pitch black and steamy hot. It’s silent, the constant hum of machinery that’s the heartbeat of a warship eerily absent. Its windows are covered and ventilation sealed off. Its battle ribbons have been removed, its flag lowered.
But the ship still has a story to tell.
The U.S. Navy decommissioned the 30-year-old frigate Tuesday and with it shut the back cover on one of the most significant — yet little-heralded — stories in U.S. military history.
The Simpson was the last modern U.S. Navy warship to sink an enemy vessel in action. Of the 272 ships in the fleet now, only one ship can claim a similar honor: the USS Constitution, now a showpiece in Boston harbor, which sank British vessels in the War of 1812.
Not to take anything away from her, but SIMPSON’s exchange was a brief and lopsided affair – but well executed;
Chandler warned the Iranian ship via radio at least four times to stop approaching the U.S. group, according to published accounts of the battle.
“Finally it got to the point where he (Chandler) said, ‘If you don’t stop, I’m going to sink you,'” McTigue told CNN. The Iranian ship responded by firing a Harpoon missile.
McTigue said the Wainwright could not respond because of the formation the ships were in. Its missile batteries were obstructed.
Simpson, however, had a shot. Chandler ordered McTigue to take it.
“I turned to Mark and said “Shoot!” McTigue said. “Mark turned to Tom and said –”
“Shoot!” Tierney said.
Buterbaugh said the same to a sailor at his side, who pushed a button that sent a Standard missile screaming off the front of the Simpson at 1,900 mph and toward the Iranian ship.
“We were locked and loaded and ready to go,” Buterbaugh said. “We already had a war shot, a white bird on the rail, all of our fire control radars were pointing right at him. It was not going to take long for us to get the weapon away.”
McTigue said it all took less than three seconds.
The Iranian Harpoon missed, passing closest to the Wainwright, though McTigue said the U.S. ships couldn’t be sure which one was the intended target.
Simpson’s missile did not; about 15 seconds after launch, it slammed into the Joshan.
Three more missiles from the Simpson and late fire from the Wainwright hit the Joshan before it was destroyed.
It was the only ship-versus-ship missile duel in U.S. Navy history, with opposing missiles airborne at the same time, Tierney said.
Let’s pause for a bit and ponder where we are in our modern understanding of the reality of war at sea. Though we have good datapoints (mostly damage control) from COLE, SAMMY B, PRINCETON, TRIPOLI, scattered engagements in between Israel and her Arab neighbors, the Falkland Islands War and a few others – as an institution the US Navy is sailing without too many benchmarks about what her strong points and weak point are going to be when once again she finds herself at war at sea.
The known-unknowns are there, but we are not blind. First of all we should fully hoist onboard what we know from our ground combat brothers in the Army and USMC and their experience of the last decade and a half. They had to relearn a few things (such as cage/slat armor we learned in Vietnam) and accept other people’s lessons we ignored (South African counter-IED vehicle technology).
They had to redouble their efforts on fundamentals from small arms to making the best of every RW cargo flight – but they learned as they were forced to.
Some of these critical lessons were lost simply because the professional expertise retired and was not passed on (the Army RW CWO pilots in the Reserveds and NG helped mitigate this tremendously), and others were lost through the direct action of the accountants and those who convinced themselves that was was new.
We should accept that in our warships we have our counterparts to the forgotten essentials that are sitting there, waiting to show themselves when war breaks out … and to be obvious.
We also know some things that are always true when a peacetime ship has to go to war. They are items we should consider and look very closely at.
1. We do not have enough defensive weapons against attack from the air. More will have to be added. What we do have will be found to not have enough range for the job, or will have too small of a magazine. If you have too small or too tightly designed ships, you will run out of space, displacement, and righting-arm issues.
2. ASW weapons are exceptionally delicate and expensive things. They require a lot of maintenance and upgrades as technology advances. They tend not to be tested as much as they should be for scheduling and budgetary reasons. When they are tested, they are tested in optimum conditions. For the same reasons, you don’t have many of them to draw on in the magazine once the shooting starts. They may not work all that well. If you only have one kind of ASW weapon that can only be used in certain kinds of water and delivered in only a few ways – you may have a problem on your hands. Early WWII USN, Argentina, and more recently Sweden, along with a few other examples, are screaming this lesson.
3. You can quickly go through damage control parties. Are you overmanned, or are you manned to fight and survive after suffering casualities?
4. Automated systems fail. What is your offline backup?
5. People get tired. How many qualified people can competantly stand watch over extended periods of time? Weeks to months onstation?
6. He who punches first, often wins. Are you happy with the range, speed, quantity, and diversity of your offensive weapons? How do they measure up against what is coming over the horizon?
7. Especially in the modern context; ROE trumps paper capabilities every time.
Finally, two things that simmer in the background:
1. There will be an assumption that everyone has about what will or will not work that will not survive the first contact with the enemy. Do you have a Branch Plan to cover that?
2. You will not pick the battle you want, and a good chance not the battle your ship was designed for.
Do you have a peacetime fleet that will make do in war, or a wartime fleet that is trying to justify itself in peace? Which are you defending, and why?
Let the defense innovators among us take a moment for introspection and self-awareness. We are charged with institutionalizing and structuring ideas like “innovation” and “disruption” which are themselves often ad hoc and unpredictable; we gather in working groups, task forces, and cells to legitimize new ideas. So as we foster creativity and rapid implementation, let us ask: How long can the innovators really keep innovating before they fall into a rut?
Who among us really know when to walk away?
What are the ways that we find and develop the next generation of disruptive thinkers, and then step out of their way?
How can we prevent the game-changers from being assimilated into more traditional hierarchies and ways of thinking?
Do these tendencies towards complacency extrapolate to entire organizations, agencies, and corporate cultures?
Do innovative organizations have a shelf life?
If so, does that mean they should also have an expiration date?
Can we work within a structure and create something meaningful, with our full commitment and intention, while knowing from the very beginning that it cannot and should not last forever, at least if we really want to continue to innovate?
One of the many great joys of a billet at USNA is the ability to reconnect with former professors and professional mentors. As someone who graduated 5 years ago, I am fortunate enough to see many of them still on the Yard.
I want to share with you a conversation I had with someone whom I really didn’t know during my time here. If you attended USNA anytime from 1991 onwards you may have seen him around. He’s likely barked “Strike!” at you during Plebe Summer’s introduction to martial arts or has evaluated your ability to perform a wrist lock during a PE course. He may have even coached some of you in gymnastics.
If you didn’t go to USNA, you’ll still find his story fascinating and revealing about two nations’ abilities to heal following history’s most destructive, fearsome war.
Sho Fukushima was born in Hiroshima, Japan in September 10, 1946, a little over a year after the bomb was dropped on the city. His family ended up in Hiroshima after the war during which his father was an officer in the Imperial Japanese Army in Pusan, Korea. With the war’s end, the Japanese were expelled from Korea, and his parents hopped on a freighter bound for Japan. Sho’s parents had heard “a new type of bomb had wiped out everything” in Hiroshima and it was rumored that nothing could grow there for the next 70 years.
“I asked them why did they really come back to Hiroshima, where there was nothing. It was because our relatives were there.”
He, his four siblings, mother and father lived in a “wooden structure, with a metal roof.” There were no real buildings yet.
His kindergarten teacher passed away from a bomb-related illness. His 1st grade teacher, who had facial scars from glass shards from the blast, died from leukemia. He lost an aunt, uncle and 5-6 cousins to the bomb. On that day his grandmother was 20-30 miles outside the city and saw a “bright, white flash” followed by the mushroom cloud. A search of the city the next day by the surviving family members revealed those in downtown had simply “evaporated.”
Hunger was a central feature of childhood. “We just didn’t have enough food to eat,” Sho explained, “so all four kids had to learn to share.” The staple dish was rice mixed with wheat or sweet potatoes, and was considered an adulteration–“not white rice.”
Growing up in Hiroshima, he remembers playing with one of his “best friends,” the “shadow man” of the city’s bank. “Mom had a couple of bottles,” artifacts crystallized by the blast. “She told me if I could break that thing she would give me a 100 yen. Even with hammers and throwing it against the rocks, I couldn’t break that thing. It became a family joke.”
During our talk I tried to imagine growing up with such stark, ever-present reminders of war and death. I asked Sho if all of this seemed normal. “It was totally normal. I didn’t know any other life,” he responded. There were parts of Sho’s childhood that seemed normal. “The ocean was my playground. I had a little fishing pole and starting fishing. I loved to fish. Besides that, I remember playing with my brothers and sisters. My older sister was an avid reader so at least once a month we would get a new book.” Yet, Sho was quick to point out that fishing also served to supplement their food.
Meanwhile, his father, despaired with losing the war and escaping death. A graduate of a professional military academy, all of his classmates had died in the South Pacific while he served in the national guard in Korea. “How would you feel about cheating death?” Sho asked me. “He was the strongest military guy before the war, but after he lost the war and he lost his classmates…he lost a kind of spirit,” as he struggled with the thought of suicide.
Sho’s gymnastics talents led the University of Washington to recruit him. Hearing about the promises of America from his grandfather, who had lived in Seattle and San Francisco, Sho jumped at the opportunity.
The son of a IJA officer, Sho found himself staying in the home of a Pearl Harbor survivor, Jack, who offered to sponsor him. “My father asked him to take care of me, and my American father promised he would. He did everything like a father was supposed to. The families stayed in touch, hosting one another in Japan and the US.
I was most struck by Sho telling his father of his job offer at the Naval Academy. Sho had maintained a green card, but with the job offer his father suggested something more. “Such an honor,” his father told him, “that you can get a job like this at the Academy. You have to show them your commitment.” His father meant applying for American citizenship. “That’s him–Japanese military guy,” Sho explained.
In October, Sho will retire after nearly 25 years at the Academy. As a child, his mom would take him once a year to see US Army doctors, who would give him a cookie and check him for radiation related illnesses. He plans to search for his medical records at the University of Maryland, which archived many records of Japanese patients affected by the bombs.
“I always dreamed of being a bridge between the US and Japan,” Sho mused towards the end of our talk. I think he has done just that.