Archive for the 'Training & Education' Category

140305-N-LE543-054Judging from the comments on social media and the notes I have received from active and retired shipmates, the buzz surrounding CDR Guy Snodgrass’ “Keep a Weather Eye on the Horizon” is real and I’m encouraged to see it. It’s no surprise why this paper has become a topic of discussion in wardrooms and ready rooms around the fleet, and passed electronically across warfare communities.

Our Navy has a proud tradition of professional discourse, and this excellent paper lies squarely in that mold. Good arguments are typically dual-edged – one side passion, the other logic. Guy’s passion is evident and it appears many of you share it. More than that, he understands complete loyalty means complete honesty, and I know – personally – that he wrote this paper only to help make our institution better. It already has. Top naval leaders are aware of several of the issues he touches on. Many are being studied, budgeted for, or in the early stages of implementation. Others give us pause.

I share many of the concerns and have similar questions to those detailed in Guy’s paper. A quick example – many of you have heard me on the road talk about how BUPERS (being self-critical) historically “swings behind the pitch”, unable to nimbly react to economic and early stage retention issues. It’s not neglect, good people here trying to do the best they can with limited tools, but the fact is it has cost us in both good people and money. We have to do better, and I must say that this discourse helps.

We’ve all been JO’s and yes we can also fall victim to forgetting what it was like, but this is also the power of discourse. The idea that there is a perception that operational command is not valued and there is an erosion of trust in senior leadership bothers me…I want to hear more, learn more from you.

Fostering an environment where folks feel empowered to share their thoughts on important issues is a core responsibility of leadership. Ideas, good and bad, have no rank. Yet the discourse can’t just stop there. We need thoughtful debate on how to solve problems, not just an articulate accounting of what’s wrong and who’s at fault. We need leaders willing to offer new and innovative solutions to problems that at times appear impossible or hopeless. Those kind of leaders inspire all of us to continue serving men and women in our charge.

Guy has set an example for one way to ensure thoughtful debate has a voice. Please push your ideas forward — write about them, talk about them with your Sailors, up and down the chain of command. This is the only way we will overcome the challenges ahead of us – together.

12936914675_575b0901d5_mJust think about it for a moment – we have to find a way to reach young men and women who are looking to serve their nation, preferably those who wish to do so by going to sea.

Perhaps they have family members who have served, or someone they know. More likely, they have picked up the idea from something around them; movies, books, history, or even advertising from the recruiting side of the house.

That is why we have been very careful on what we put the “Navy” stamp on. Every outreach or project for public consumption does not have to be a cheerleading event smacking of Social Realism – but it should at least reflect a neutral, reality based view of what the Navy is.

We also need to know that when we refer to our Sailors, we need to send a message that will ring true to them, and that they have confidence that their leadership’s view of them reflects what they see every day in the Fleet. That brings us to what is being called, “…the Navy’ first mobile game…”

What story does it tell to the outside audience? What does it tell our Sailors about what the Navy thinks of them?

Who did we give responsibility to bring the Navy in to the mobile gaming market? Naval History & Heritage Command? Navy Recruiting Command? CHINFO? No, of course not. I’ll let you soak in the background here, here, and here.

Does it tell the Navy’s story? No. Does it inspire? Does it help people understand the Navy’s role in the 21st Century? What does it do?

“Pier Pressure” gives sailors fingertip access to alcohol-related resources 24/7 and includes a blood alcohol content calculator and search of local taxi services.

There you go. I don’t know what is worse; the patronizing tone, the assumptions, or the horrible “in the Navy, Sailors drop pallets on ships” actual game part.

Messages, external and internal, matter. I am curious, did they run this by a focus group of Fleet Sailors? At any point, did someone mention this might be a little out of phase?

I understand the good intentions. I fully understand the huge waste to personal and professional lives due to alcohol use, but really. Besides the ability to feel like someone is trying to do something – is this really the something needed to address the problem? Is it a net gain – is this really what the Navy should put out there as its initial mobile gaming entry?

Maybe, but what message does it send? Sailors are a bunch of drunks who can’t wait until their boring day dropping pallets on ships is over so they can hit the bar, and once they get there, they don’t have the good sense to handle their drink? That isn’t the Navy I know.

It is bad enough that we accepted in whole cloth the unscientific and highly flawed study on sexual assault that painted all Sailors as either sexual predators or helpless victims led by tone-deaf enablers, but now we have to buy in to the old smear of the “drunken Sailor” as well?

Is that really what our Navy thinks our Sailors are like? Is that what we want to tell young men and women who might want to join the Navy to expect? If so, I might offer that on the “problem to solution” spectrum, this is a bit closer to problem than solution.

Enjoy the video.

Keep What You’ve Earned: Pier Pressure Mobile App Tools Trailer from US Navy NADAP on Vimeo.

seacontrolemblemCAPT Rodgers, former CO of the USS PONCE Afloat Forward Staging Base, discusses how his ad-hoc crew of Sailors and civilian mariners plucked a 40 year old ship from decommissioning’s doorstep and turned it into the most in-demand platform in the Arabian Gulf.


Sea Control is available on Itunes and Stitcher Stream Radio. Remember to tell your friends! We think Sea Control is a fine product. Anyone who says otherwise is going to steal all your banking information and email passwords because information


All images from CAPT Rodgers’ unclassified post-deployment presentation on USS PONCE.Slide26



Editor’s Note: The real question is who the jerk is who threw the chairs all around before they left.

Slide14 Slide9 Slide12 Slide18


I made my way to the USNI/AFCEA West 2014 Conference because the theme is an important one. Shaping the Maritime Strategy. And because I was fairly certain it wouldn’t be snowing in San Diego. Sure enough, the speakers and panel sessions have not disappointed. And, there is not a snowbank in sight.

This morning’s keynote event was a roundtable on Information Dominance. Moderated by Mr. David Wennergren, VP for Enterprise Technologies and Services at CACI, the panel consisted of RADM Paul Becker USN, Director of Intelligence J2 from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, RADM Robert Day USCG, Assistant Commandant for C4I for Coast Guard Cyber Command, Mr. Terry Halvorsen, DoN CIO, and BGen Kevin Nally USMC, Marine Corps CIO.

Each spoke eloquently of the need for protecting trusted information networks in an increasingly interconnected military, as well as the complexities of the dependence on trusted networks for myriad systems, capabilities, and decision support of command and control functions. Not surprisingly, the emphasis of most of the discussion was on countering the threats to our use of the electronic spectrum, which is to say “cyber” security. Each of the roundtable speakers were insightful in describing the problem of data overload, and how that overload actually stymied efforts to retrieve information. And each commented in turn that “information dominance” was not synonymous with “cyber”, which merely represented one aspect of the concept.

The discussion amongst the roundtable members did fall disappointingly short in two critical areas. The first was the focus on technical solutions for managing data and information. Connectivity and data transfer capability dominated what should have been a cultural discussion about information management. It is not the lack of sensors, or data feeds, nor connectivity shortfalls which have hampered our attempts to wring the maximum value from our information systems. We have become so enamored of the colossal capability to access raw data that we have become less than disciplined about what we NEED to know, when we need to know it, from whom we should expect it, what form that data needs to be in, and how it is to be analyzed into information useful for decision support for C2. Little of that was directly addressed, which was unfortunate, as such lack of acumen about our information and intelligence requirements will render any system to deliver those products far less effective than they should be.

By far, however, the biggest shortcoming of the roundtable discussion was the inability of any of the panel members to actually define the term “Information Dominance” in any meaningful way. I had submitted precisely that question for the roundtable via the electronic submission system in use at West this year, but someone asked it ahead of me. The attempts to define “Information Dominance” would have made a junior high English teacher cringe. We heard what information dominance is similar to, and what the supposed goals of information dominance were, but neither was in any way a real definition. (This is not a surprise. Two years ago, the Navy had an “Information Dominance” booth on the “gizmo floor”, staffed alternately by a Captain and two Commanders. I asked each, separately, over a couple days, to give me their definition of “information dominance”. None of theirs were remotely similar, nor any more adequate than what we heard today.)

The problem, of course, is the term itself. Information cannot be “dominated”, despite assertions to the contrary. An enemy with a very specific information requirement that he can fulfill reliably and in a timely manner can be said to have information “dominance” over our massive sensor and communications networks that commanders and staffs pore over in attempts to see through the fog of war. The dust cloud from the dirt bike as the teenager rides from Baghdadi to Hit to tell the insurgents of the Coalition convoy headed their way trumps our networked, data-driven ISR platform links that cannot help prevent the ambush that awaits us.

We have much work ahead of us to make most effective use of our incredibly robust data collection systems and information networks. The solution to the problems of analytical capacity resident in C2 nodes with which to turn raw data into useful information and intelligence will be far more human than digital. Commanders have to insist on a philosophy of “Don’t tell me everything, tell me what I need to know”. And then go about ensuring that those who collect, compile, and analyze data have a very good idea of what they need to know.

And we can start by retiring the troublesome and ill-suited term “Information Dominance”. As General van Riper is fond of saying, “Words MEAN things!”. They’re supposed to, anyway.

Cross-posted at Bring the Heat, Bring the Stupid.

Coursera-booksIn our first post Scott and I wrote about education opportunities available for those supporting the U.S. Navy, from reserve Marine Corps to active Navy to civil servants. We’ve updated that post with additional options thanks to RADM James Foggo, CDR Steve Melvin, Chrissy Juergens, LT Vic Allen, and Tetyana Muirhead. In that article we focused on free courses that can be used towards degrees or certificate programs. But that’s not the only type of free training available.

Alternatively, you might find yourself in the situation “Degreed Out” (BSEE, MBA, CDFM, CISSP, OA Cert from NPS…), in which getting another master’s degree or certification may start merely seeming like alphabet soup. Also, if you’re like me and you find yourself on shore duty, it should be a time for professional and personal development, right? I tried something different and took a few classes through Coursera. Six classes actually, and I’m happy to say this was a very positive and rewarding experience. Coursera offers what are known as massive open online courses (MOOCs). In contrast with the courses in our first post, these typically have no limit on the number of seats in the class and some can be started at any time, although there are many variations on the set-up. While they too don’t charge for enrollment, a few have a small fee to test or “certify” you upon the course’s completion if that is something you’d like to pursue.

With Coursera each class ranged from 6-12 weeks in length and all required a different but not insignificant amount of work. What did I get for my efforts you ask? All but one of the courses offered me PDF certificates of completion that don’t mean much to anyone but me. More importantly, I learned more than I thought possible in subject matters I chose (Cryptography, Reverse Engineering of Malware, Financial Engineering, Computational Finance, High Performance Computing and Guitar) by the experts in the field (Stanford, University of London International Programmes, University of Washington, Columbia University, Georgia Tech, and Berklee School of Music).

In my humble opinion, this is the future of education. I think this is the greatest invention since the public library system. It is the public library system and the internet combined, with guided direction of the world’s greatest instructors thrown into the mix. I am convinced that this is how the world will judge future academic institutions and decide where they will send their children to study full-time. It is also quite possibly, how future college students will prepare and choose their degree paths. I expect great things for the future due largely to efforts such as these. For Scott’s part, he believes the business model will allow MOOCs to count towards degree and certificate programs at “brick-and-mortar” institutions if they are individually partnered with that institution and upon the successful completion of testing on a fee basis (The Economist has covered the possible future of MOOCs in more depth, as well as even shorter, less-formal learning tools).

Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)

For an aggregation of MOOC courses across these and other sites check out MOOC-List.


courseraCoursera has 554 institutions offering course-work in various subject areas. Take the world’s best courses for free and earn a certificate of completion. Alternatively, pay a few dollars extra and earn a verified certificate. This certificate verifies your identity by using methods such as your typing patterns and using an online camera to verify your picture. One of the downsides for military members attempting to take Coursera classes related to your job is that the site is not compatible with NMCI’s old browsers.


iTunesU has a large collection of free podcasts in several knowledge areas. Not surprisingly, if you want to learn how to write an iTunes App this is the place to go. It seems that may universities have their own portal on the iTunesU website. In my opinion, Apple’s decision to host individual portals has left this site a bit of a mess and course material is slightly unorganized. However, once you find the content you are looking for, it could make your commute to work much more productive.


While I have yet to try this one, Udacity is the same basic concept as Coursera but with a twist. You can take the classes completely on your schedule. Although limited in number by comparison, the course offerings looked fairly attractive. I think I may just try the “Intro to Hadoop and Map-reduce” course if I can squeeze it in. With no deadlines it is much more likely that I will sign up, poke around at the most interesting content, and if I am not completely enamored put it off until another day.


edX_Logo_Col_RGB_FINALedX is another top-tier MOOC which at the time of this writing has 38 courses to choose from, provided in partnership with such institutions as Harvard, MIT, and Georgetown, spanning many subject areas. Most edX course videos are provided by means of YouTube and do their best to incorporate students into discussion groups on online forums. edX also offers certificates of completion, some requiring a fee for identify verification.

Navy Knowledge Online, MarineNet, and Joint Knowledge Online

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention these three sites, which are in fact long-running DoD-restricted versions of MOOCs. While they may not have the best reputation and are saddled with clunky, non-mobile interfaces, they do offer training on topics directly related to professional duties. Additionally, for those seeking to expand their knowledge beyond their designator or rate, there’s a range of interesting coursework available – from drone operations to intel “A” school to short cultural backgrounds on dozens of countries.

Defense Acquisition University (DAU), FEMA, DHS, Defense Security Service

Back in our first post we talked about (at least in the updated version) accredited courses and certificate options available through DAU, FEMA, DHS at NPS, DHS at Texas A&M, and the Defense Security Service’s Center for Development of Security Excellence. As a reminder, they have many online training options there for self-edification as well. Offerings typically focus on subject such as incident response management, cyber security, and counter-terrorism.


While Rosetta Stone used to be available free to servicemembers, that contract has since expired. However, there are still several options for beginning or furthering a language for free. Both NKO and JKO have several languages available, but they’re not the most interactive, and focus primarily on a few of the high-demand target languages and militarily useful skills. That said, if you’re already an intermediate speaker or going on a specific assignment and want to brush up on your ability to talk to your uniformed counterparts, these could be quite useful. iTunesU has a plethora of options, running from minute-long immersion to more structured serial listening podcasts. For those with smartphones there are a variety of free language apps that I have yet to try, but the Duolingo app comes highly recommended and takes an immersion and gamification approach to try and cram learning for fun into the nooks and crannies of your free time. Scott may have to put away The Simpsons Tapped Out and finally get back to his Spanish studies.

If you have any additional recommendations on language learning options, please let us know and we’ll perhaps come up with a part 3. In the meantime let us know what else we missed, and keep on learnin’.

This article was cross-posted by permission from JO Rules. The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.

25291-diploma-and-degree-capUpdate: Thanks to the feedback of RADM James Foggo, CDR Steve Melvin, LT Vic Allen, and Chrissy Juergens we’ve updated this post with additional free accredited educational opportunities.

By 2000, there had been tentative attempts at leveraging the internet for military education – primarily through the use of synthetic training simulations, rudimentary file-sharing, and simple message boards. Fourteen years later the options have expanded, and with it increased the availability of cheap or free training. In our evolving era of online education and emphasis on life-long learning, the military and government have embraced new tools and a multi-pronged approach to keeping those serving on Active, Reserve, and civil service duty trained. In this 2-part series, LCDR Adam Kahnke and I will run our fingers along those prongs in the hopes of providing you an outline of the opportunities available and shape of things to come.

In this first part we look at the type of education that many people, if they’re being honest, care most about. We’re talking about instructor-led courses accredited by scholastic councils that can be used towards certificates and degrees. Even if the Navy has already paid for your undergraduate education and you have no intention of remaining on active duty beyond your current commitment there are still options for you, including degree programs that incur no additional service obligation. Some of these are also not fully online, instead taking a blended approach requiring some in-residence time.

Now I need to throw in some important caveats. While this article is geared towards officers (enlisted folk have a slew of generally different options), everyone’s situation is unique, so it’s important to keep in mind that these are general descriptions to raise awareness of the opportunities available. The degree (no pun intended) to which they are free or available will depend on things such as your current service obligation, how much you’re willing to obligate in the future, your rank, your location, your clearance, whether you already have a grad degree, etc..

Additionally, these were the opportunities of which we were aware at the time of this writing. We’re sure we’ve missed a few and that as time goes on some will no longer remain available. While we hope this resource remains updated, we’re lazy and easily distracted, so don’t just take our word for it, but put in a little legwork yourself. We’re only saying these are free opportunities in so much as the cost goes—you’ll still have to put in some amount of work.

Confirmed Bachelor(ettes)

If you’re a naval officer we hope that you’ve taken advantage of the many routes to getting your undergrad paid for—whether you commissioned through the Academy, OCS, or our preferred choice, Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) while attending a real university—you shouldn’t have too much to worry about. Unless, I don’t know, you changed majors thirteen times and attended some party school in Miami so didn’t bother graduating in under 8 years, you shouldn’t have much college debt from earning your BA (or BS if you went to Canoe U). Some of you may even have gone straight into an MA program. The good news is that if you have any federal loans remaining, whatever the amount that’s left after 10 years of good payments and federal service (military or otherwise) is discharged under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (see more here). For those looking for more education, the following is for you:


Naval War College (NWC)’s College of Distance Education (CDE) – Fleet Seminar Program (FSP) 
For those officers hedging their bets on continuing on active duty, those who already know they’re heading to the Reserves after their current tour, and those already in the Reserves, FSP can be a great choice. It incurs no additional service obligation yet offers free instructor-led, in-person courses at 19 Fleet Concentration Areas on the path to a degree (There is a fully online and CD version, but it does not normally allow the student to earn a degree). One generally has to be an officer, a federal employee, or a congressional staffer (O-3 or above; GS-11 or above). The degree consists of three core classes that also earn you JPME Phase I credit and is designed to be completed over 3 years, but can be done in 2 if doubling up on courses the second year. The names of the core courses occasionally change, but most recommend taking Strategy and War/Politics the first year, and National/Theater Security Decision Making and Joint Military/Maritime Operations the second due to lighter individual reading load for the latter two (even with the literally heavier Milan Vego tome). You’ll also need to complete 9 credit hours of elective courses, some of which can be done through the NWC web-enabled courses, but these are tough to get into and limited in their offerings, so consider combining with credit from another institution.

Naval Postgraduate School (NPS)
NPS has many programs and courses available for those non-resident, including EMBAs and other MA degrees, although the admissions for each program, including the cost for non-active duty and whether any service obligation is incurred for those who are active is very opaque on the site, which is riddled with dead links. One option for Reservists working as gov civilians looks like it might be this scholarship program. Your best bet for getting the ground truth on any specific program that catches your eye is emailing their admissions, although when I tried doing that a year ago I never received a response.

In coordination with FEMA they have developed a Center for Homeland Defense and Security, which offers an MA with minimal in-residence time (12 weeks total) at either Monterrey or DC (the rest is completed via the web). Applicants must be a US citizen and “employed full-time by a local, tribal, state, or federal government agency or the U.S. military, and have homeland security experience and responsibilities.” While FEMA pays for those from DHS, naval officers’ sponsoring agencies are responsible for paying tuition etc…so while not specified there’s likely an incurred time obligation for attending.

National Intelligence University (NIU)

I want my MS&T

NIU has several options, including 2 masters degrees (MS of Strategic Intelligence or an MS&T Intelligence). Unfortunately all programs are restricted to TS/SCI clearance holders so yours truly can’t provide feedback as to the quality of the program. Hear that NIU? That’s the silent sound of me ruefully shaking my fist at you! But it makes sense given the subject matter.

From the site:

Federal employees throughout the Intelligence Community (IC), the military, law enforcement, National Guard, Reserve and other related security functions have the opportunity to apply for the resident (full-time) program through their parent agency or service, or can apply on their own for one of the NIU’s cohort (part-time) programs. The cohort program classes are conducted in the evening and select weekends at the DIA Headquarters as well as the graduate and academic centers at NSA and NGA during the day.

But you don’t have to be in the DC area to take advantage – the site also mentions Tampa, FL and Molesworth, UK if you happen to be in either of those two spots. See below for certificate offerings.

National Defense University (NDU)

In addition to the normal full-time in-residence programs, NDU offers a part-time, partially online Master of Science program and certificate programs through its Information Resources Management College (iCollege) to any government civilian employee or servicemember above a certain pay grade/rank. The coursework is available in either a blended (partially in-resident, partially online) or primarily online format and focuses on defense leadership and information technology topics. Courses are each 5 weeks long and confer 3 graduate credit hours.

Accredited Courses / Certificate Programs

DoD’s Defense Security Service (DSS)
This is a relatively new addition. DSS’s Center for Development of Security Excellence (CDSE) offers an array of free instructor-led online courses that earn ACE graduate-level credits and can be applied towards several certificates. These guys also offer “training:” restricted (based on clearance and position) in-person courses on things such as Special Access Programs (SAPs), a few accredited, and non-accredited self-paced online courses on things like cybersecurity. Additionally, the CDSE offers a separate set of security professional certifications based on testing. I took one of the accredited online courses this fall and found it, like most, to be flexible, interesting, and rewarding in so far as you get out what you put in to it. Despite frequent denials that it exists when I call, I’m hoping someday they’ll let me do one of their advanced protective security detail driving courses in tropical Linthicum, MD.

National Intelligence University (NIU)
Offers part-time MA-level Certificate of Intelligence Studies programs, including Africa, China, Counterintelligence, AFPAK, Eurasia, Strat Warning Analysis, IC leadership and Management that once again sadly require a TS/SCI clearance. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute runs many emergency management-related courses and exercises around the country both in-resident and via VTC. I haven’t been able to find any costs associated, but you do have to have a sponsoring organization endorsement from someone in your chain of command, as well as justify why FEMA should spend the time training you on, oh say prison riot responses. Many of these courses and their pre-reqs in the ISP (see below) can be applied towards FEMA programs/certificates, such as the Master Exercise Practitioner (MEP) or Emergency Management Professional Program (EMPP), but require out-of-time commitments and attendance at (free) courses in Maryland.

FEMA also offers a large range of Independent Study Program courses on things from HAZMAT to animals in disasters. If it matters, Frederick (MD) Community College offers lower-level credits towards a Bachelor’s degree for the cost of accreditation for independent study you complete online.

DHS/FEMA at Texas A&M

Another option for those looking for accredited online courses in emergency management or cybersecurity comes from the Lone Star State thanks to federal FEMA and DHS funding. The cyber security training is the most prevalent online and can be rolled up to count for 3 ACE-accredited courses. Many other courses are offered through mobile trainers or in-residence.

Defense Acquisition University (DAU)

The members of the Navy-Marine Corps team’s acquisition force, and really anyone who is interested in better understanding the mysteries of how the military ends up with the kit it does, can take a wide variety of online courses, including from Harvard Business School, and, with organization funding, in-residence courses at the DAU campus at Ft. Belvoir, VA. In order to receive a DAU-conferred certificate, however, one must be a member of the Defense Acquisition Workforce, as determined by position. For those not in that category, many of the courses have been ACE credit recommendations while DAU has memoranda of agreement with a multitude of colleges offering credit for coursework towards certificates and undergrad and graduate degrees at their institutions.

See above for details.

While we chose to focus on free, part-time, and mostly online educational opportunities – thus why we didn’t include the normal in-residence NPS, NWC, and MBA scholarship master’s programs, we also received feedback asking us to include several other lesser-known options.

Graduate Education Voucher (GEV)

For unrestricted line officers who want to pursue a graduate degree program of their own choosing (subject to approval), they can do so in their off-duty hours (i.e. while otherwise on shore duty) supported in part by the GEV at $20K per year. Taking the money incurs additional service obligation. Check with BUPERS for more on current academic year eligibility and the application process.

Marine Corps War College

As with the Naval War College, the Marine Corps University’s Marine Corps War College hosts a 1-year in-residence Master of Strategic Studies program that also satisfies Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) Phase 1 requirement for officers. If you are finishing your division officer tours or finishing up your first shore duty rotation, speak to your detailer about this option if you’re interested in an alternative experience in Quantico, VA.

Wild Cards

The State Department runs the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, VA. According to their website they run over 600 courses for State employees, federal civilians, and military officers, but they didn’t bother returning my email so I have no idea whether you could apply out of the blue or need to be on orders to one of their courses. Meanies. But if you’re feeling adventurous you could go through the process of applying and see what happens. You just might end up in Uzbeki-beki-beki-stan.

But learning for the purpose of credit, certificates, or degrees isn’t the only type of learning out there. In Part II Adam will lead you through the myriad free opportunities to learn for the sake of learning.

This article appeared in its original form at JORules and was cross-posted by permission. The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.

Cross-posted by permission from CIMSEC’s NextWar Blog

Within the U.S. Navy, routing up correspondence seems fairly straightforward, but in the execution there always seems to be issues that make it anything but. In some commands, dozens of pieces of correspondence are routed per day, and in even the best commands, an occasional piece of correspondence tends to either get lost or misplaced. Conversely, if leaders aren’t accountable, correspondence may be held onto for longer than standard policy, contributing to a negative climate. Either way, it seems like locating correspondence is always a hot topic. One thing I’ve noticed, when managing an administrative department at sea, is that most of the e-mails, questions, and drop-ins we received were related to the tracking of correspondence.

eCART_1There is no standard issued software to administer the routing of correspondence at sea, so we decided to create one with support from other members of the administrative department and the CMC. The software, called eCART (Electronic Correspondence and Routing Tracker), is used to track all correspondence that goes up through the ship’s office to the XO and/or CO. Correspondence is still placed in a traditional folder with a routing slip, however, leaders now input the correspondence name into the eCART program for tracking. When it’s hand carried to the next person that it’s going up to, the user clicks a button in eCART to mark it as being “routed” to that next position in the chop chain. The program then automatically sends them an e-mail informing them they now have custody of that certain piece of correspondence. For ease of use, the e-mail contains a link that takes them to the eCART program, where they themselves can continue routing the correspondence up the chain.

eCART_2When a user is routing up correspondence via eCART, they can add comments electronically. These comments, as well as the full chain of custody with dates and times, are seen both up and down the chop chain to increase transparency in the process.
When there are new comments to be read, there will be an asterisk preceding the subject that alerts the user. The interface is very straightforward and is broken into two tabs – “My box” and “My Correspondence”.
“My box” displays all the pieces of correspondence that the user’s position has custody of. “My Correspondence” displays all the originating correspondence from that user whose routing is still in progress or marked as completed/returned. For personnel that wear more than one hat, they could switch back and forth between their positions in the program by selecting their role in a drop-down box (ie: OPS may be the Safety Officer, and STRIKE may be the Legal-O). This allows any number of authorized users (even a whole office) to control one box and all receive e-mail notifications. It also allows another authorized user to fill into a position as “acting”. Thus, the routing process can still function when someone goes on leave or TAD. Since having several users control a box could create a problem with accountability, the program always logs the specific person that takes any action.

eCART_3Included is a complete administrator interface, which allows designated managers to add, modify, and deactivate users and positions. There is also an option that allows the user to skip all e-mail routing notifications, which may be useful for VIP positions like the XO and CO that receive many pieces of correspondence. However, for the XO and CO, who may not want to be bothered to use the program themselves, it is more likely for designated authorized users, such as members of the ship’s office, to go in and record a change every time correspondence is transferred in or out of their boxes.

The program is built entirely on Microsoft Access. One Access file (acting as the database) is put onto a hidden directory on the ship’s shared drive or exchange server. A second Access file containing the user interface on top of 850 lines of VBA scripting acts as the client and is also put on the shared drive or exchange server as read-only and distributed to users. The client calls and communicates with the Access database on the network, which allows it to serve as a de facto software and database package, supporting up to 50 users accessing it simultaneously. The database file can easily be saved, backed up, and even transferred between LANs by simply compressing it into a zip file. The program calls and interacts with Outlook e-mail through an appropriate reference, and automatically detects the Windows’ user and alias information, so it automatically logs in the appropriate user when opening the program.

eCART is a finished product that can be deployed at any command, but is specifically intended for commands at-sea. Initially, it may be hard for all leaders in a command to adopt this new process, but with proper training, and even the implementation of policies such as one that rejects any correspondence not logged in eCART, it can easily become second nature.

This photo sort of looks like a ship, right? It is, but then again it’s also something else.

UMM QASR, Iraq (March 22, 2012) P-309 was the ninth patrol boat delivered to the Iraqi Navy under FMS program. (U.S. Navy photo) UMM QASR, Iraq (March 22, 2012) P-309 was the ninth patrol boat delivered to the Iraqi Navy under FMS program. (U.S. Navy photo)

This is not just a military asset; it's an economic asset and a political asset with strategic effects in each of those spheres. A military planner working on security assistance has a challenge in thinking big enough to recognize this ship and those who sail in it as more than a militarily important system.
Photo from NAVSEA PEO Ships website

For this example, the vessel–an Iraqi patrol craft made by an American company and part of a U.S. foreign military sales contract–is not just one of the assets Iraq’s military needs to protect a very crowded and consequential waterspace. It’s also a multi-decade relationship, where both countries get to know each other on an operator-to-operator level as well as on other levels. That relationship can have strategic effects as the lieutenants become admirals, and the relationship builds trust, access, and communications paths outside the formal diplomatic process and regionally as well as bilaterally.

One of the patrol spaces this ship protects drives the entire country’s economy–the oil platforms and pipeline infrastructure–and its shipping. This is recognizable to a military planner, though the economic part takes a bit of wider thinking to understand how U.S. security cooperation fits into it with training and equipment. But let’s add something important on here: U.S. policy is to support Iraq’s reintegration into the region, and it’s a top foreign policy priority for the U.S. with regard to Iraq. The military sphere tends to be a bit easier in reconnection than some other spheres; navies, since they’re mobile sovereign territory in international waters, can be the fastest of those–especially when the U.S. is acting as an honest broker. To pull off that kind of multinational reintegration is not solely a military function, but can utterly depend on the military aspect. If the U.S. really wants a whole-of-Executive-Branch (much less whole-of-government) approach to a policy problem, DoD’s mass has to be subordinated to the overall effort, even when it might not necessarily make short term military sense.

The example above isn’t perfect. Security assistance in Iraq and Afghanistan has been far from the standard situation seen by a security cooperation office, and special authorities in the law made security cooperation in these countries much different than in other countries. A more forceful example would be where the host nation is paying for every penny of the asset, since feelings about “what ‘we’ are giving ‘them'” emotionally colors the discussion, and it’s worthwhile to emphasize that foreign military sales is not necessarily coming from the U.S. taxpayer. On the other hand, the nonmilitary effects of this ship and crew, and the regional effects of what this ship does and the separate bilateral relationships that navy has with regional navies and the U.S., are pretty clear and useful to bring out the challenge of thinking about security cooperation as more than arms sales or exercises.

Many folks seem to miss the nonmilitary and regional effects of the military-to-military relationship built out of security cooperation, or even that the process is heavily structured in U.S. law. This post about security cooperation misses important considerations about what security cooperation is and what it’s supposed to do (this one by the same author is better, though of different focus). A comment of mine on that War On the Rocks post identifies structural problems in the argument, and there are other opportunities for quibbling, but that post proves that it’s worthwhile to outline some basics of SC with a view towards those regional and extramilitary effects.

Security cooperation (SC) is not very familiar to most operators in the Department of Defense. SC’s a difficult skill set. SC can pay off not only as a force multiplier, but also to provide diplomatic effects which can be game-changing. DoD personnel may only experience SC once, as an exercise or engagement event, or by doing a tour that includes a collateral duty associated with foreign military sales (FMS). More experience is in the foreign area officer (FAO) commmunity, whose officers can wind up doing SC from several angles over multiple tours, but there aren’t many FAOs around. Because the skills needed are relatively obscure inside DoD, understanding of what SC is becomes fragmentary and often misses the point. American SC can suffer from that bad understanding. (The way U.S. government agencies in the Executive Branch staff and train for SC missions doesn’t help the problem, either.)

DoD isn’t the agency where SC initially gets defined—because SC is not solely a DoD mission; it’s a State mission for which Defense is the executive agent.

Let’s define some terms here. SC includes

  • security assistance (SA), which itself includes
    • foreign military sales (FMS) weapons sales,
    • International Military Education and Training (IMET),
    • a multi-page list of other programs that somehow fit or get shoehorned into the process, and
  • security cooperation (Sc), a confusingly named subset of the bigger SC which mainly deals with exercise events with host nation or meetings between military personnel.

The first one, SA, is covered under federal law. (Note: IANAL and doing this off the top of my head.) U.S. Code Title 22 is the main law that covers diplomatic and consular functions and is for the Department of State what Title 10 is for DoD. The second part of security cooperation, the non-FMS part also called security cooperation, has rules under Title 22 but is more under a section of Title 10. That part of title 10 used is different from what you might expect, and it’s administered by personnel working under a different rule set than those under the full operational command of a COCOM. DoD personnel in country doing SC serve under the direction and supervision of the Chief of the United States Diplomatic Mission to that country (usually the U.S. ambassador to that country). Security cooperation, including security assistance, is a diplomatic function, under the Ambassador’s control in country. FMS cases and IMET and exercises have significant State Department approval and coordination–and additional coordination and approval by other agencies, and in some cases White House/Congressional approval–even though DoD has the mass and the executive agent role. The effect can sometimes be that the poor bureaucrat in the other agency is either like Horatius at the bridge or Niedermeyer in the riot, trying to get the massive influx of DoD people to go a different direction. It also can become counterintuitive, since American businesses might be fighting for the contract, or if one player–even a host nation–decides it’s worth lobbying for their interests more effectively to Congress than another player.

Note here that the Security Assistance Management Manual, the reference used in the War On The Rocks post, isn’t the controlling document. The law both trumps one agency’s manual and also highlights the diplomatic and interagency nature of SC. It also implies that the SC function is something we do as an ongoing and sustaining function of a country team, rather than something switched on once a COCOM has commenced large scale operations.

Since SC is a diplomatic function, one has to consider SC less like a military operation and more like a diplomatic operation. Results will be diffuse. They will have “one step forward two steps back” aspects. Results will be hard to measure in many respects. The effort will be like a coalition effort, with occasionally immense frustration on the ground and in the staff paying off strategically, but in different spheres than expected, or with effects long after the staffer is gone. For a planner looking for consistent positive results with a focused engineering-style goal oriented mindset this is anathema. A DoD planner or operator wants to get from point A to point B in a direct and uncluttered manner. Diplomacy, especially the work performed by Department of State colleagues on the country team on ground in country, is more chaotic and messy. If done right, SC advances the national interest of the United States; builds networks, access and relationships beneficial to the U.S.; eases stresses among and between partners; provides a common operating framework in the field; and provides a useful diplomatic tool as part of an embassy country team.

(Oh, by the way: There’s no Title 10 “command” in security cooperation organizations. There is no sheriff’s badge, no salad fork, no “forces”, even though the responsibility can weigh heavily, and DoD personnel could be in remote and dangerous locations. You’re a part of the embassy country team. There’s not even an organic Article 15 or medal-awarding authority, unless you’re a general for whom a COCOM has specifically delegated it in writing.)

For representatives of either agency to best advance U.S. national interest in the long term, both Defense and State have to be able to restrain some of their agency-level cultural impulses to achieve SC most effectively. Training, both in State’s A100 class for their newly commissioned officers, and at the Defense Institute for Security Assistance Management or similar venues for DoD personnel interacting with a country team, helps introduce the cultural difference to each agency. Other agencies with a hand in SC, such as the Departments of Commerce or Treasury, have a much smaller presence and make do with corporate knowledge and help from the larger groups interacting around them. (Homeland Security mainly interacts through Coast Guard personnel, who are more acquainted with DoD’s foibles and when in theater interact often with country teams with and outside the security cooperation office in the embassy.) Some aspects can cause real friction without planners realizing its source, such as when a J5 officer assumes there’s a J5 in State, or that a Post’s plan is written with the same process as DoD’s, or that the plan is followed as closely as a DoD plan would be. On the ground, people on the country team have to make it work through force of effort and personality.

The benefits of SC have national influence, not just military, from public affairs/public diplomacy to changing policies in a country. SC also has a regional influence: in the ability to use the U.S. effort as a go-between between two partners unhappy with each other, in the ability to build regional ties with the U.S. invited to play, and in the ability to influence regional decisions based on a calculation from a nation that has to deal with what the U.S. has done in the neighborhood. It could well be that host nation has no culture of maintenance and the equipment they paid for is failing. It could be that the country’s using the military to dispense largesse domestically, and the U.S. interest in improving capacity isn’t perfectly aligned with that national desire. It could be that there’s a Red Queen effect, where the security cooperation guys are running as hard as they can to stay in place capacity-wise. It could also be that those frustrating efforts pay off in unusual ways. The military planner will do well to reach out to those other American agencies, to actually listen and adjust planning based on that reaching out, to see the role of SC as more than military capacity building, and to plan for a long and difficult but rewarding SC effort.

Cross-posted by permission from CIMSEC’s NextWar Blog

There’s been a big uproar lately about innovation in the Navy throughout message boards and the blogosphere – what is innovation, what it’s not, and what method Big Navy should be taking to jumpstart innovation among the fleet, if any at all. LT Jon Paris and LT Ben Kohlmann, both of whom are very involved in the conversation, had a great discussion about the topic on CIMSEC’s Sea Control Podcast, hosted by LT Matt Hipple. LT Paris followed up with an excellent blog post. While there are some contrasting views, it seems like one thing that’s agreed upon is that the deckplate innovation already occurring in the fleet sometimes doesn’t make it “up and out” or isn’t as publicized as it should be. In that capacity, LT Hipple, and some members from the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell, offered a challenge to start publishing examples of innovation in the fleet. I’ve decided to take this up head on in a series of “Innovation Files”.

Nearly every command has a “Plan of the Day” (POD) – a widely distributed one-page agenda with at least the current and following days’ schedule of events. Depending on the command, certain PODs are very long and many regularly contain dozens of events per day, some at overlapping times. Early on, I noticed a couple glaring inefficiencies particular to my command. First was the process – A yeoman would be specifically assigned to “do the POD” for the day, a duty rotated among the junior yeomen that nobody wanted. This task started by opening the previous day’s POD, changing the date, piling through various e-mails and files on the shared drive, and then writing the new daily schedule by hand. After an hour or two, it would get routed up to the ship secretary, personnel officer, admin officer, training officer, operations department, various department heads, command master chief (CMC), and some others before finally getting to the XO. Every position in the chop chain had their own changes and events to add, and it required the yeoman to literally go around the ship looking for each of these people, and then going back and correcting the changes for each correction or addition. It wasn’t uncommon to print in excess of 15 POD drafts before the final revision. As you can imagine, POD duties were an all-day event, and since the POD needed to be finalized and signed by the next day, it kept everybody around well into the evening.

After much thought, the XO, personnel officer, and I agreed on a plan to create a public calendar on Microsoft Outlook to streamline the POD process. However, PODs have a very specific format, and Outlook can print nothing close to the format. For example, asterisks had to be next to times if the event was to be announced on the 1MC, events had to be in bold lettering if the CO was attending, and everything had to fit on the page in two neat columns. It wasn’t as simple as hand-copying every single event into the old POD format though; the daily schedule constantly changed throughout the day, and there was no process in place to ensure if any late additions or modifications in Outlook were included in the POD. This, along with other human errors, severely complicated the process, and made it essentially as inefficient as the old method. If only there was a better way!

autoPOD-1Introduce the automated POD (autoPOD). We decided to devise a macro app on top of Microsoft Publisher, a computer publishing tool, to automatically translate events on Outlook into the same easy POD format everyone was used to seeing. Macros are essentially programs, coded in easy-to-learn VBA (Visual Basic for Applications), that are built on top of application documents (in this case Publisher’s and Outlook’s) meant to automate tasks within these programs. Because of this attribute, it gets around IT policy requirements, which prohibit the introduction of specific executable programs not pre-approved by SPAWAR. Microsoft Publisher was chosen over Word because it’s specifically designed to manipulate documents with multiple dynamic text boxes. Through an appropriate script reference, the app asks the user permission to reach out to any designated public Outlook calendar. Then all the user has to do is click one button, and it automatically inserts the daily schedule into the POD publication – complete with dates, events, headers, etc. The layout is easily manipulated by different codes inputted into the appointment screen on Outlook. For example, for an event to appear “bold”, which indicates the CO is attending, an actual Outlook invitation for that appointment is sent to the CO, which is then designated on the user interface with a specific user name.


Along with events, the app supports all sorts of informational headers put in by different users through Outlook tags – for example, the operations officer puts in the appropriate command duty officers and duty sections, and the quartermasters put in sunrise and sunset times into Outlook. The app supports time structures displayed as “All Day” or “TBD”, and all types of recurring events. Different permissions (ie: read only, add, or modify/delete) can be granted to different users to modify the Outlook Calendar, and the program is set up for an administrator to view when and who is putting in the events, so it’s not possible to sneak a last minute evolution for the next day without the XO and CMC knowing.

autoPOD-3AutoPOD was eventually customized for several other tasks. By request, we built an automated Plan of the Week (POW) 10-day printable outlook on top of Microsoft Excel for the Planning Board for Training (PB4T), which mimics the POD format each day, for planning purposes. Other ships had a weekly or monthly outlook summary with important events listed on the back of their POD, and autoPOD was customized for these commands as well, using the “priority” attribute to determine if the item should be displayed on a weekly summary. We have continuously refined AutoPOD to accommodate every ships’ POD format, meaning there will be little, if any, visible change to the Sailor. For example, there are options to modify the font, size, and width for the time and subject columns. Additionally, it’s designed to be plug-and-play – all contained in one publisher file – so it can be used immediately and without any complicated installation procedures. Detailed documentation is provided on how to install the program and manipulate the schedule via Outlook.

It is worth noting that the initial concept of autoPOD was not received well in its early stages. For example, the yeomen were used to a certain way of doing things, and didn’t want to move over from Word to Publisher. Despite comprehensive training, some department heads and department lead chief petty officers continued to send e-mails to admin with their events, instead of deconflicting and scheduling it themselves in Outlook. However, after much dedication and patience, everyone slowly acclimated. The new system is now second nature, and it’s hard to think of how life even functioned in the past.

To date, autoPOD has been distributed to over a dozen ships, across several waterfronts. It has undoubtedly made the POD process less frustrating, and has saved countless manhours and time, from the junior yeoman who can produce a POD in minutes, to the XO who no longer has to micromanage the process. Unfortunately, we recently hit a bump in the road when asked to set up the app on a ship that finished an extensive shipwide IT refresh known as a Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) installation. At the time, CANES strictly restricted ships from creating and using shared calendars, along with other security settings that prevented the app from working properly. A workaround is in progress, but it illustrates a point that has been brought up in the recent discussions – many Navy policies and procedures are around for valid reasons, but often come at the expense of productivity and innovation. It’s essential to collaborate between the fleet and appropriate project managers / designers / policymakers to figure out an optimal mix.

nerds2jpgDon’t be distracted about the Aegis, Russia, or China – the first thing you need to read in this December’s Proceedings is the “Nobody Asked Me, But …” contribution by Lieutenant Alexander P. Smith on page 12.

The most important ingredient to a successful Navy is not its ships, aircraft, submarines or secure budget. No, the most important part of our Navy is its intellectual capital, specifically the education of its officers.

The naval service will face a multitude of challenges that will require a true diversity of experience and education in its leaders in order for the best decisions to be made. If everyone brings the same tool-set to the table, you are in trouble.

There has been a long-dwell discussion in our Navy about what type of education our leaders need. For the last few decades, there has been a heavy bias towards technical education; a bias that is about to get heavier;

The tier system was developed in 2009 as a result of fewer NROTC and U.S. Naval Academy graduates entering the nuclear-reactor community. The Regulations for Officer Development and the Academic-Major Selection Policy direct that a minimum of 65 percent of NROTC Navy-option scholarship midshipmen must complete a technical-degree program before receiving their commissions. A technical degree refers to Tiers 1 and 2, which comprise all STEM majors. Tier 1 includes most engineering majors, and Tier 2 refers to majors in biochemistry, astrophysics, chemistry, computer programming/engineering, civil engineering, physics, and mathematics. All other academic majors are non-technical, or Tier 3.

As a result of the new policy, a high-school senior’s best chance of obtaining a Navy scholarship is to apply for Tiers 1 and 2, since CNO guidance specifies that not less than 85 percent of incoming offers will come from this restricted pool. In fact, an algorithm decides the fate of hopeful midshipmen, balanced in large part with their proposed major selection annotated in their applications.

This is a huge error. 65% one could argue if one wished, but 85% is simply warping to the collective intellectual capital of the Navy.

We don’t even need to review all the English and History majors that do exceptionally well in the nuclear pipeline – but to put such a intellectual straight jacket on the entire Navy over the requirements of one part, that is a sure sign of a loss of perspective.

In last Sunday’s Midrats, Admiral J.C. Harvey, USN (Ret) made an argument for technical education that is fine for the nuclear community, but the Navy is not the nuclear community. If you look at the challenges from Program Management to Joint/Combined Combat Operations; none of those are helped by a technically focused mind. Just the opposite, it begs for officers of influence with a deep understanding of economics, diplomacy, history, philosophy, and yes … even poetry.

One could argue that the problems we have had in the last few decades derive from a lack of nuance and perspective by officers who fell in love with theory and the promise of technology, who had no view to history, civilian political concerns, or even human nature. As a result we got burned out “optimally manned” crews, corrosion laden “business best practices” ships, and an exquisitely engineered if unaffordable delicate Tiffany Fleet – not to mention entire wardrooms in 2001 who couldn’t place Afghanistan or Ethiopia on a map, much less even had a brief understanding of the background of Central Asia or the Horn of Africa. Back to LT Smith;

Does the tier system produce better submariners or more proficient naval officers? If less than 35 percent of our unrestricted line officers have developed the ability to think comprehensively through critical reading and reflection, what will the force look like in 20 years? These are questions to ponder regarding the benefits and disadvantages of STEM graduates. We ought not to forget the value of future officers developing a keen interest in foreign affairs, history, and languages.

We actually know the answers to that. To this day, once you leave the CONUS shores, we lack wardrooms and Staffs with sufficient knowledge of any of those areas.

It is about to get worse.

If we really have a problem getting well qualified nuclear engineering officers on our submarines and carriers – then instead of having negative 2nd and 3rd order effects throughout the Fleet – then let’s focus on how we keep and manage the careers of our nuclear engineers. Do we need to look at the Commonwealth model? Do we need to look at compensation and non-Command career paths that can still get someone to CAPT at 30-yrs? Is the Navy having to serve the Millington Diktat as opposed to Millington serving the Navy?

Whatever the problem is – forcing a 85% STEM officer corps is not that answer.

What do we need our officers to be able to do? Be outstanding engineers? Well, as our friend LCDR BJ Armstrong, USN might ask, “What would Admiral Mahan say?”

Wouldn’t you know – we know the answer;

The organizing and disciplining of the crew, the management under all circumstances of the great machine which a ship is, call for a very high order of character, whether natural or acquired; capacity for governing men, for dealing with conflicting tempers and interests jarring in a most artificial mode of life; self possession and habit of command in danger, in sudden emergencies, in the tumult and probable horrors of a modern naval action; sound judgment which can take risks calmly, yet risk no more than is absolutely necessary; sagacity to divine the probable movements of an enemy, to provide against future wants, to avoid or compel action as may be wished; moral courage, to be shown in fearlessness of responsibility, in readiness to either act or not act, regardless of censure whether from above or below; quickness of eye and mind, the intuitive perception of danger or advantage, the ready instinct which seizes the proper means in either case: all these are faculties not born in every man, not perfected in any man save by the long training of habit—a fact to which the early history of all naval wars bears witness.

Doesn’t sound like an STEM heavy requirement to me.

« Older Entries Newer Entries »
2014 Information Domination Essay Contest