Archive for the 'Leadership' Tag

CDR Salamander over at his place wrote about the Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions (CSADD) program, even posting the NAVADMIN regarding it. This caught me off guard, in that while I have known about the program since shortly after its inception late last year; I had no idea that it was garnishing enough attention to warrant official sanction from OPNAV. Though from the outset, and despite being loath to add any more programs onto the pile, I thought this was and is a good idea, for the most part.

Being a PO2 on an optimally manned ship is not an easy thing. I made PO2 at a breakneck pace: 25 months from swearing in. Once I put on PO2, I knew–and was told–that there were no more excuses, I had to perform. But, to this point (and to this day) I’ve had no one to lead in learning how to lead (not just telling someone what to do while on watch, but to truly be a deckplate leader). Yes, of course there were instances where leadership was demanded and I had to lead and perform my duties as the senior person present, but those times were the exception. Day-to-day leadership I know very little about. Why? Because just about everyone is a Petty Officer in the Navy. On optimally manned platforms the pool of personnel junior to me is minute, and the window in which they are junior to me is measured in months, typically. Some Rates usually show up to the boat as E-4s, or make E-4 the next cycle after they report, and it’s around 75% advancement to E-5 for a few Rates as well. PO2 doesn’t mean much because of this; but, CSADD can change that. Some Petty Officers today seem to be cutting their teeth in regards to leadership once they get to the PO1 level because of how we promote and how man our platforms, let CSADD start to change this as well. It can put us in a position to both be a mentor and learn what it is to lead.

My first thought on discovering CSADD was that it was a program for the junior personnel to own. I also thought the CSADD program was going to stay a grassroots initiative (if it was ever was one). I know we’ve got our talking points from OPNAV, and I am sure we’re going to print them out and have them available. But, talking points from on high probably won’t resonate with the deckplates or many of the situations leading to destructive decisions. The two E-4s are going to talk about the party they all know is going to happen next Friday, and about staying away from that new female E-2 that just checked aboard, at the party. The E-5 will be talking to his fellow E-5, telling him not to blow his reenlistment bonus at the next liberty port (thought it would probably be a hell’uva lot of fun). Those are blanket examples sure, but getting through to a person in preventing a destructive decision, you need to be specific to them, you need to know them and the circumstance. Talking points don’t do that, the shipmate does. I think that is the spirit of this initiative.

The Navy for all of its talk of wanting to engage the World using web 2.0 applications is totally missing the point in how CSADD spread on facebook, through one of the central tenants of web 2.0: Viral marketing. CSADD spread virally across facebook, I was made aware of it when a fellow PO2 posted it on their page. When I found it, I thought it was mine by finding it, I thought it was great because of its seemingly informal nature which in turn gave it an altruistic quality that anything official automatically lacks. Why did the parents big Navy have to get involved and make it ‘uncool’? 

Still, this is OK. This program can still work. Just prevent any administrative requirements which tie into Division In The Spotlight inspections. Let the Chief’s Mess supervise the junior Sailor’s work in CSADD while still letting the junior Sailors lead. As the good CDR already pointed out, we’ve got a safety net eight layers deep behind the junior Petty Officer and Bluejacket looking out for their Shipmate, in case they err while learning to lead and mentor. We have limited leadership opportunities for junior personnel in reduced manning and quick advancement. Please, allow this initiative to be one of the few opportunities where we can lead.

There are a few things that I hold as self-evident. This simple progression, is one of them;

- The most effective things and the most important things are simple to describe and protect.
- When effective and important things are inconvenient to some, barriers to their needs – they complicate the effective and important.
- When effective and important things are made more complicated, they become flaccid and ill-defined.
- Flaccid and ill-defined things can be easily shaped and avoided.
- Things easily shaped and avoided are useful for everything and nothing.
- Things that can be used for everything and nothing are ineffective and unimportant.

This weekend at The Captial, Ensign Stephen E. Shaw has an important article that requires your attention titled, Naval Academy Honor Concept strays from roots.

You don’t have to be a Annapolis Alumni to be concerned with Annapolis – I’m not. The fact remains that this is the critical core of our future leadership – its seed corn. What is learned there is brought to the Fleet. What is damaged there has to be repaired in the Fleet. Honor – or one’s respect of it – is the wellspring from which all else flows. If you don’t get that right, it is hard to make the rest work from being a DivO to running a Program Office.

You have to read it all – seriously – because the strength of the article is how ENS Shaw describes how a simple system has been perverted in such a way that it is almost impossible to talk about it. So complicated, that good people can’t even argue about it because no one really understands it. You cannot enforce something you can’t explain, understand, or follow.

The French have a great word for someone who works in and is stuck in a bureaucratic mindset – fonctionnaire – that about describes the only personality type that could support the system at Annapolis as it exists today.

Here is the pull-quote,

The current widespread problem of cynicism at the Academy is an indication of a failure to do this. I often wondered, What legitimate reason does the Naval Academy midshipman have to be cynical? The quality of education is high and is provided at no cost to the midshipman. The opportunities available to each member of the Brigade far surpass those available to any comparable undergraduate student in the country, including cadets at West Point and the Air Force Academy who have fewer options for service assignments.

It is difficult to believe, as it is oftentimes claimed, that trivialities such as limited weekend liberty or regulated exercise uniforms are the main causes of cynicism. The average midshipman is not, and has never been, adverse to hard or challenging work. In fact, this is what typically attracts him or her to the Academy in the first place. Something is driving midshipmen to acquire cynical attitudes towards the Naval Academy.

In 2005, the committee structure was completely abandoned. The current “honor staff” is a subcomponent of the regular Brigade organization, and honor staff members are selected by a panel of senior officers at the Naval Academy. 27 It must be noted that few, if any, midshipmen have had a “say” in the changes that have been made to the system over the years— a system which was originally created by midshipmen and enacted by a nearly unanimous Brigade-wide vote.

Nonetheless, since the system was established in 1951, each new class of midshipmen has been taught that the Naval Academy has a non-codified, or concept-based, standard of honor despite the system’s actual structure. There is still regular discussion and proclamation that the Brigade “owns” the Honor Concept (sometimes meaning both the statement and the system, depending on whom you talk to), despite the fact that: 1) the Brigade plays no role whatsoever in the selection of honor staff members, and 2) the selected staff members report directly to the Honor Officer, who is a member of the Department of Character Development and Training Division under the Commandant. This is a far cry indeed from the original structure, which on occasion saw the First Class Committee Chairman, who was the midshipman responsible for overseeing the system, report directly to the Superintendent. 28

While the system has undergone drastic changes throughout the past 60 years, the description and discussion of it have remained basically unchanged. Due to the inconsistency between how the system was understood and how it actually operated, midshipmen, alumni, faculty members, and staff officers have little confidence in the effectiveness of the current program.

The system is claimed to be non-codified, yet definitions remain; it is claimed to not be based on fear, yet its only function is to punish (although I am unaware of any midshipmen who were separated solely due to an honor offense in the last four years); it is claimed to be owned and operated by the Brigade, yet the Brigade has no “say” in the selection of staff members, nor do those staff members have any real authority over the system, other than the execution of documented procedures and orders from the staff officers assigned over them.

As long as the inconsistencies described above are allowed to exist, it remains practically impossible to address any issues afflicting the honor system. Since the same terminology (concept, ownership, etc.) has been used for the past six decades, officers, midshipmen, and alumni who attempt to discuss these issues are not aware that they very well may be talking about different things. For example, it took me nearly four years to completely piece together the evolution of the honor system from its creation in 1951 to what exists today. The confusing language and recycled terminology has made work on this program convoluted and tedious at best. The current honor system at the Naval Academy is inconsistent, ineffective, contradictory, misunderstood, and confusing, and has little support from the Naval Academy community as a whole.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. There is nothing wrong with the MIDN at Annapolis. This generation of men and women are just fine, thank you very much. The problem is with the older generations above them.

These MIDN – the ones you want – will have no problems meeting a superior standard, all you have to do is ask. All leadership has to do is to have the courage to meet the standard in action that they describe in words.

Remember, what is learned at the Academy is brought to the Fleet – the good and the bad. Even we knuckle-dragg’n NROTC types know that……

Posted by CDRSalamander in Navy | 7 Comments
Tags: ,

A second element of a military service is the resources, human and material, which are required to implement its strategic concept. To secure these resources it is necessary for society to fore go the alternative uses to which these resources might be put and to acquiesce in their allocation to the military service. Thus, the resources which a service is able to obtain in a democratic society are a function of the public support of that service. The service has the responsibility to develop this necessary support, and it can only do this if it possesses a strategic concept which clearly formulates its relationship to the national security. Hence this second element of public support is, in the long run, dependent upon the strategic concept of the service. If a service does not possess a well-defined strategic concept, the public and the political leaders will be confused as to the role of the service, uncertain as to the necessity of its existence, and apathetic or hostile to the claims made by the service upon the resources of society.

National Policy and the Transoceanic Navy, Proceedings, May 1954, Samuel Huntington

Last week was an interesting week for Navy shipbuilding. The John Young memo and the Chris Cavas article seemed to offer plenty to discuss, and when Gene Taylor jumped in and John Young counter-attacked, we had the making of a legitimate debate with the nations future fleet in the balance being compared on the merits in public.

Except it really wasn’t much of a debate at all, because we never heard from the Navy. We never heard what the CNO was thinking at the time, but we do now. A friend of mine confirmed tonight this email is legit, and it is noteworthy the CNOs office was reportedly rather proud that my friend had a copy. They probably had no idea that he had one of my copies.

From: Gary Roughead
Sent: 2/4/2009 9:06:26 A.M. Eastern Standard Time
Subj: FlagSESWeb Mail – Alignment


In the coming weeks we will be addressing, in earnest, the 2010 budget. I am forwarding a note below I just sent to all Flags and SES, confident that our Navy is best served by staying aligned. As always I value your support.

Take care,


Admirals and Senior Executives:

We continue working on the President’s budget submission for FY10. In the past months, we have made some tough choices regarding our Navy program. More critical decisions are ahead. Those decisions will affect every aspect of our Navy, from what we buy to how we operate. We must set the example for those we lead and prepare for the challenge and opportunity ahead. I am on point and deeply engaged in all relevant discussions and decision-making. I will keep you informed so you can keep your commands updated and steer clear of the negative effects of inaccurate or outdated information.

Internal and external pressures will be significant as we work our way through what will certainly be complex and challenging budget issues. We will stay aligned and keep our lines of communication open. Discussions and deliberations must take place only within the Department of the Navy and the Department of Defense. Those internal discussions are exactly that, internal. Pursuit of individual agendas or initiatives is unacceptable. You may likely be pulled into parochial discussions. Do not go there.

Even though tough decisions are ahead, we have the talent and the competence to make them. Opportunities exist in every challenge, and we will seek and seize those opportunities to shape a better way ahead.

Our professionalism, focus on the task at hand, informed decision making and concern for the ship and not self define us. Years from now we will look back and know that we were the fortunate few to have been privileged to lead our Navy at this important time.

Thank you for all you do.

Take care,


Note the time line, after the Young memo leak, but before the Gene Taylor press statement. I like leaders who get out front and lead, too bad he hasn’t spoken to the press since the Young memo was leaked. Rather than give analysis of this memo, I’ll let readers draw their own conclusions from the real meat of the CNOs message, but I do want to offer some thoughts I have reflecting on the sum of his message in the context of this part:

Years from now we will look back and know that we were the fortunate few to have been privileged to lead our Navy at this important time.

2009 represents a historic time for the Navy. In a single year, a single budget may well define the success or failure regarding whether the Navy can seize the future, or lose the future. Consider the moment.

We live in a time of shift towards the sea, with rising great powers globally and a transition from one maritime era into another. We have a new president, meaning a new agenda is being set for the nation. We are a nation engaged in two wars on land. We are a nation facing economic crisis, while the world is suffering from the same economic crisis. We are in the middle of an unprecedented 16 years of rapid naval decline. We are in the middle of unprecedented inflation in our naval defense industry. Our nation currently has only one Navy leader with name recognition, and his name is Admiral Mike Mullen.

In previous times of transitioning from one maritime era to another, there were visible, recognizable Navy leaders who took point, and when they spoke they had the trust and admiration of the American people. These were men like Stephen Decatur, Thomas Truxtun, Alfred Thayer Mahan, Chester Nimitz, and Hyman Rickover; all of whom were popular, outspoken advocates in the public for their vision and beliefs.

I think it is very interesting that Gary Roughead, a name few who don’t read this blog would recognize, is ready to take point in the context of claiming to understand this moment in time. I don’t know if this holds true for the Navy, but I believe leaders never have to demand support from their followers in challenging times. They have either earned support by articulating a vision their followers believe in, or they haven’t.

When I look at this memo I see a CNO facing two enormous challenges. He intends to lead a Navy that doesn’t believe in a well articulated and understood vision of the future, and he is doing so absent the support of the people who also do not see a well understood vision of the future. I do not believe the Navy will be successful unless they are led by an evangelist as represented by the other naval evangelists named above during their respective eras of maritime transition, and by taking point Admiral Gary Roughead has assumed the evangelist role.

While this memo raises a number of questions, the questions for me are whether or not the CNO is prepared to assume the responsibilities that come with taking point, and whether he truly understands the scope of the obligations that come with those responsibilities. Recent track record suggests he believes those obligations are different than the ones I believe apply, the same obligations Huntington discusses above.

Crossposted at Information Dissemination

Posted by galrahn in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
Newer Entries »
2014 Information Domination Essay Contest