Judging 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.
By Mark Tempest
Please join us on 23 March 14 at 5pm (EDT, U.S.) for Midrats Episode 220: CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell
The Chief of Naval Operation’s Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC) was established in 2012 in order to provide junior leaders with venue to identify and rapidly field emerging technologies that they see needed in the Fleet.
Who is in the CRIC, how do they get there, and what are some of the projects they have been working on?
Join us this Sunday for the full hour with Commander Ben Salazar, USN, Director of Innovation (N93) with CRIC, along with other members of his team.
Join us live or pick the show up later by clicking here.
The following is gaining high interest in the Fleet and is being shared widely. Posted here for comment.
“The Admirals back in Washington had so many pressures on them, so many diversions, they forgot their primary job is to make sure that the Fleet is ready to go with highly trained and motivated Sailors. The problem particularly manifests itself when the budget is way down.”
ADM THOMAS B. HAYWARD, 21st Chief of Naval Operations, recalling the post-Vietnam War drawdown1
The U.S. Navy has a looming officer retention problem. More than a decade of prolonged, high operational tempo and ever-increasing deployment lengths have fostered a sustained weariness at the deckplate. A rapidly improving economy and erosion of trust in senior leadership, coupled with continued uncertainty about the future, mean the U.S. Navy could be facing its most significant retention crisis since the end of the Vietnam War.
Unlike previous cycles of low retention, the one looming before us appears poised to challenge retention at all levels. Junior officer retention in 2013 was tough and is forecast to become tougher. It marked the worst year in history for the special warfare community, with record numbers of lieutenant’s declining to stay for the next pay grade. The aviation community had a department head bonus “take rate” of 36% – well below the 45% target needed to ensure community health – most recently manifesting itself by a shortfall in the number of strike-fighter and electronic warfare aviators required for the department head screen board. The surface warfare community is also seeing an uptick in lieutenants leaving at their first opportunity, driving a historically low retention rate of around 35% even lower, indicating that a significant amount of talent in the surface warfare community walks out the door immediately following their first shore tour. This trend in the junior officer ranks is particularly troubling. While officers at, or beyond, the 20-year mark have a retirement option, junior officers do not. In many cases they’ve invested six to 10 years of their life to a career field they’re now willing to leave, determined that the pastures are greener outside of naval service.
Our retention of post-command commanders is also falling. A developing trend in naval aviation is representative of a larger problem facing most communities. In fiscal year 2010, seven naval aviation commanders retired immediately following completion of their command tours, a number that nearly doubled to 13 in 2011, before jumping to 20 in 2012. Additionally, a survey of 25 prospective executive officers revealed that no fewer than 70 percent were already preparing for their next career, in the process of earning their transport pilot licenses, preparing their resumes for the civilian workforce, or shopping for graduate schools. Worse, this trend is not limited to naval aviation. Checks with other community managers show a similar disturbing trend, with increasing numbers of promising surface warfare and special warfare officers leaving at the 20-year mark. These officers are tired of the time away from home, the high operational tempo, and the perceived erosion of autonomy in commander command.
Unfortunately, the fact that a growing number of quality officers have already left the service or are planning to head for the doors seems to be going undetected by senior leadership. The Budget Control Act and subsequent sequestration, Strategic Choices and Management Review, rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, battles over the Littoral Combat Ship and Joint Strike Fighter, rise of Air-Sea Battle, civilian furloughs, and the increasing number of commanding officer firings are just a few of the significant issues (and distractors) that senior leadership has had to contend with since 2011. Despite all these, retention is poised to once again develop into the significant issue that it has historically become during past military drawdowns.
My premise is that retention problems tend to be cyclical in nature and, therefore, largely predictable based on knowable factors. Unfortunately, the ability of senior leadership to proactively address the looming exodus is made more difficult because of Congressional pressure to control spending and because of an overreliance on “post facto” metrics that, by their very nature, are only useful after several years of falling retention rates. Senior leaders within the U.S. Navy, with the cooperation of the Department of Defense and Congress, should take swift action through the use of targeted incentives and policy changes to help ensure the best, brightest, and most talented Naval Officers are retained for continued naval service and to ensure the “wholeness” of Navy Manpower.
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Admiral Thomas Hayward Oral History, Interview #7, 6/7/02, p329. ↩
Last month we examined the characteristics of leadership and found that as an organizing principle its unique strength was derived from convincing others to willingly act in a desired way to achieve larger objectives. With this in mind, what then is the best way to implement and harness the benefits of sound leadership within a complex organization? Said differently, what operating methodology is commensurate with leveraging the free will of individuals?
One approach gaining renewed interest is known as mission command. Mission command is a command and control philosophy based on “command by influence”, a phrase that reflects the essence of leadership. Mission command is a leadership-based governance concept built on trust and mutual understanding. Mission command depends on an organizational hierarchy that is comfortable delegating tasks and decision making.
The operative function within this decentralized administrative process is leadership. In this organizing mode the commander gives subordinates broad, clear goals, but grants them wide latitude of how to accomplish those goals. In return for accepting the risk of subordinate actions, the commander is rewarded with superior results. The empowerment of subordinate leaders exercising initiative in accord with the commander’s intent has a compounding rate of return in that it enables faster proactive and reactive action; which in turn expands new opportunities for the group and forecloses opportunities for opponents. In short, mission command surpasses other organizing principles because it exploits the power of “leadership-gone-viral.”
Sea Control will be adding two monthly segments to its lineup: Sea Control Europe/Britain and Sea Control Asia-Pacific. We are joined by Natalie Sambhi of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and Alexander Clarke of the Phoenix Think Tank. Today’s episode is a conversation with Nat and Alex about their backgrounds, their organizations, and their plans for their monthly series.
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.
With the new defense budget out, new QDR out, the withdraw of maneuver forces from Afghanistan, rising interest in INDO-PAC operations, and a resurgent Russia: after over a decade of COIN and land wars in Southwest and Central Asia – what is the status of the United States Marine Corps?
Materially, intellectually, and culturally – is the USMC set up to move best towards the expected challenges and missions?
Our guest for the full hour will be Dakota L. Wood, Lt Col, USMC (Ret.), Senior Research Fellow, Defense Programs at the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy at The Heritage Foundation.
Following retirement, Mr. Wood served as a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
Most recently, Mr. Wood served as the Strategist for the U.S. Marine Corps’ Special Operations Command.
Mr. Wood holds a Bachelor of Science in Oceanography from the U.S. Naval Academy; a Master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the College of Naval Command and Staff, U.S. Naval War College.
Join us live at 5 or pick the show up for later listening by clicking here.
With the battle fleet damaged at Pearl Harbor, carrier-based aircraft became the US Pacific Fleet’s main weapon. A small group of veteran naval aviation pioneers led the US carriers against the Japanese Imperial Navy, including Admiral Marc Mitscher, to whom our object today belonged.
For military professionals leading is not a collateral activity; it is a full-time, continuous responsibility. To be effective in any field of endeavor one must first know how to use the tools of the trade. While knowing the subject of one’s profession can be gained through study and experience, unless that knowledge rests in the forefront of one’s consciousness, where it serves as a backdrop for influencing daily activities, it will be as useless as an unread book.
Leadership is about convincing others to act in a desired way. Hence, the art of the profession lies in persuading others that it is in their best interest to pursuit a particular objective. Convincing then, is what distinguishes leadership from others methods that rely on compellence or coercion, such as dictatorships or subjugation to achieve objectives.
Yet getting others to willingly work to achieve a desired end takes more than eloquent talk or irrefutable evidence. The willingness to follow is a pivotal emotional commitment taken by an individual. It is an emotional investment by one individual in another based on the belief that the leader is a credible individual with worthy ideals. The currency exchanged in a follower – leader contract is trust. Thus, to reap the benefits of effective leadership, mutual trust must be continuously nurtured and reinforced.
With information abundantly available, the primary challenge for most leaders is not a lack of knowledge but the ability to pierce the fog of daily distractions and actively apply engrained leadership tenets.
Effective leaders are guided by prevailing winds of enduring principles, but informed by present realities. They do this by continuously learning and refreshing their thoughts about leadership. Professional leaders must study the subject of leadership regularly in much the same way a medical professional continuously studies and tools of his trade.
Sea Control discusses the Crimean Crisis, with three CIMSEC writers: Dave Blair, Viribus Unitis, and Robert Rasmussen. We discuss Russia’s aims and tactics, the Maidan movement, Ukrainian governance and passive resistance, and what this crisis means for Russia and the EU/NATO.