Archive for the 'Leadership' Tag
The taxpayers have invested millions of dollars, in some cases tens of millions of dollars, to “grow” someone to the position of Commander Command or higher. With every Command Pin, there is an institutional hope that this experience and subsequent superior performance will prepare that leader for the next level of service to their nation. Each additional exposure to Command builds on the already exceptional talent our system invites to lead. We lose all of that for a simple lack of personal judgement and self-control. How do you mitigate this problem?
We don’t have a perfect system – no system devised by humans ever is – but it is a good system. We demand a lot, we expect a lot. In an era of broader cultural shoulder-shrugging and acceptance of sub-par performance, the Navy especially continues to hold its leaders accountable for transgressions away from accepted standards both professional and personal. This is good.
Sub-par professional performance will occur regardless of what cohort you select; internal & external imperfections will always exist. Abusive personalities can advance on occasion, the weak will fall to a criminal inclination, lack of at-sea time or inadequate flight hours by strong players deemed to have “other priorities” for their career path than sea-duty can run aground or off a runway, and yes – bad things happen to good people with horrible luck – but this is as it has always been. That isn’t the issue.
There is one area causing explosive bolts on Command Pins to activate that is beyond the pale, one with no excuse or acceptable explanation. Though it impacts female leaders now and then – let’s be honest and speak as adults with each other; this is almost exclusively a male problem. Yes it takes two to tango – but the person in a position of authority has 100% of the responsibility for an inappropriate relationship. Full stop.
It seems like a simple concept to talk clearly on why and how to keep your base nature under control, but it isn’t for reasons partly social, partly socio-political.
In a perfect world, all that would be required in any Leadership 101 course would be an audio loop of Grandmother Salamander’s admonition, “Don’t sleep with the help!”, but obviously that doesn’t work. It doesn’t seem that what we are doing now is working either. I’m not sure what the answer is, but we need to find a better way to talk about these things. We have accountability right – we are failing on prevention.
Perhaps it is that people are just uncomfortable talking about people doing things they should not with their tender vittles. A silly reason for people who spend decades perfecting the art of breaking things and killing people – but the subject does strange things to people.
On a personal level, somewhere the 15-yr old boy short-circuits the middle-aged higher brain functions preventing self-control and focus; on an institutional level we find it verboten to openly discuss a well known sexual dynamic.
There is the problem – to talk honestly about this you have to talk about uncomfortable realities concerning how people interact on a very personal level – and not in a good way. Facts that are not in alignment with some people’s pet theories. I’ve never had much respect for people with PhDs in Sociology or Psychology, but I do have a tremendous amount of respect for women who have been married for decades, successfully to very powerful men. They understand well what is going on. We should listen to them.
The best of that rare breed can speak with the clarity and directness this problem requires. Here is a shot at boiling it down their advice and applying it to the maritime services.
All you need to do is to look at the coupling habits of the very powerful (see any 3x or more married man in his 60s/70s+ as a reference) to see that one of the greatest aphrodisiacs for women towards men is power. It doesn’t have to be great power – just relative power. The greater the difference in relative power – the greater both sides of the problem; the sexual attractiveness of power and the resulting unrealistic ego-driven sense of entitlement (Charlie Sheen, Schwarzenegger, DSK, WJC, etc)
The sexual attractiveness of power is personified – though not exclusively experienced – by a sub-set of usually younger, insecure women who have a very dangerous combination of personality traits; they are sexually attracted to men with power and they have an innate understanding of a man’s ego and the social weaknesses of insecure men. They know how to use one to get close to the other.
This meets a personality trait that almost all men have – a weakness for the fawning sexually-tinged advances of a younger member of the opposite sex, and an ego that craves to think that even at middle age they are as attractive as they were two or more decades earlier – that yes, they are all that and a box of chocolates.
When one side meets the other, the results are predictable.
We have all seen this and know – some more than others – that when this situation happens and the senior man steps through that open door, it is harder and harder for them to step back out of it the longer it goes on.
Almost all male leaders, it doesn’t take a Commanding Officer, will run in to this. As we are all weak and fallen – the key to avoid falling where countless have fallen before is to make sure that you try to prevent that “heart-beat-thump moment” from ever taking place.
Over at NRO, Kathryn Jean Lopez shared some advice that a longtime congressional spouse offered to new Congressmen. Modified slightly by me to fit our profession – I think it offers a sound roadmap.
Ponder with me:
1. Live in the right place for the right reasons. Be sure the decision on where to live — de-camp the family to the new duty station or to be a geographic-bachelor – is based on what is best for the marriage and family, not on your Navy career. It must be a joint decision. Marriages and families need to be the first priority in all decisions.
2. Keep your spouse close to your side. When at all possible, run your non-daily social events by your spouse and include him or her whenever possible. Ensure that evening and weekend events do not interfere with family schedule except for exceptional mission related events.
3. Social events and liberty are a danger zone. Attending social events is important, but very few require for you to be there after 2300. Avoid alcohol use in public, and private conversations with members of the opposite sex – especially when they are married to someone you own paper on or are your subordinate. Do not give out or request private contact info. You have ombudsmen and the Fleet Family Support Center for a reason. If the person you are talking to is intoxicated, walk away. If you find yourself alone with someone, immediately find a crowd. If on overseas liberty you violate the 2300 rule and have had a few drinks, remember your mother’s rule, “Nothing good every happens after midnight.” Remember, your job isn’t to be popular, fun, part of the crew, or to have a good time – your job is to lead.
4. Get over yourself! Give your designated parking space to the Navy Relief auction or other such event on a regular basis. Keep any use of “I” or “me” in public speeches to a minimum. Don’t have subordinate’s spouses address you like their service-member husbands/wives. Invite them to call you by your first name if they do otherwise. Be humble. If you don’t have an XO or CMDCM who walks in and speaks frankly with you – then you may have a problem. If your Dept Heads never challenge you and win – then you may have a problem.
5. Remember, you are there to serve the nation; not to be served. Keep focused on your Sailors and your mission. If your head is nice and spotless but you have no idea what condition the other heads are in, you may have a problem. While deployed, if your uniform is complete and in good condition while those you are speaking with look worn out and are as a whole a mix-matched mess, then you may have a problem.
6. Keep in touch with your spouse and family every day at home and deployed C4I/operations permitting. When on liberty stay away from places junior personnel frequent. If it is 2330 and you are at a mixed table of junior officers, all of a sudden you realize that 4-years-older-than-your-daughter LTJG YogaInstructor is sitting hip-to-hip next to you with your legs in contact down to the toe, and everyone has a beer in front of them with more on the way – then you may have a problem.
7. Treat all people with respect and dignity. Junior enlisted, junior officers, Chiefs, CMDCM, XO, the civilian guard at the front gate, the Commissary bagger, the person you just sent to CCU, the JO who just downed his board – you are known by the words said behind your back.
8. In the end – you are just a government employee. Irreplaceable until you leave – then forgotten. Once you hang up your uniform – 99.8% of the people you meet won’t know or care. Remember that the final vote tally takes place far from your Administrative and Operational Chain of Command – all that matters is the record presented to God. If you don’t believe in God then at least know that every AM you will have to look at that person in the mirror.
9. Heed Micah 6:8 — “What then does God require of you? Seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.”
10. Remember the angels … “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” G. K. Chesterton.
11. If religion isn’t your thing – then remember Ben Franklin; “To be humble to superiors is duty, to equals courtesy, to inferiors nobleness.“
Sebastian Abbott from the AP had a nice article from AFG last week that got me pondering again on what the Navy is missing that the Marines and Army are receiving by the metric ton; combat experience. Outside SEALS, SEABEEs, and a few other specialized units – for all intents and purposes our Navy has not been stressed by prolonged, direct combat with the enemy during this conflict. FRP and presence ops are not combat.
This is what got my attention – after nine years of continual combat, even a learning institution such as the US Marines are still relearning fundamentals;
The Marines patrolling through the green fields and tall mud compounds of Helmand province’s Sangin district say they are literally in a race for their lives. They are trying to adjust their tactics to outwit Taliban fighters, who have killed more coalition troops here than in any other Afghan district this year.
“As a new unit coming in, you are at a distinct disadvantage because the Taliban have been fighting here for years, have established fighting positions and have laid the ground with a ton of IEDs,” said Lt. Col. Jason Morris, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. “You have to evolve quickly because you have no other choice.”
Despite the previous occupants, the Marines who pushed out with Ceniceros that fateful afternoon said they didn’t realize how dangerous the mud compounds to the south of the base were until the Taliban unleashed a stream of machine-gun fire, pinning down two Marines.
“We kind of snuck our nose in the south to see what the south was about and we found out real quick that you don’t go south unless you have a lot of dudes,” said Sgt. Adam Keliipaakaua, who was leading the patrol.
All the services have history departments, they have recommended reading lists, they teach military history at the Service Academies and War Colleges – but does it sink in where it need to sink in the most, in the places where decisions are made on how to train, equip, and otherwise prepare this nation for war?
There are few things in this line of work that can bring clarity to the mind more than actual combat. It has always been true that at the end of a conflict a military has a fairly good handle on what works and what does not. True in 1945 in Europe and the Pacific, 1972 in Vietnam, and 2008 in Iraq.
After a war winds down though, the rough concensus starts to break down as the second guessing takes place, the think tanks start overthinking, and some advocates do a better job than others in selling their version of victory. That starts the process of separation of what is needed, and what is wanted.
The unsexy and difficult tend to be starved or forgotten in time. New and upproven theories come to the front in a time of peace with the promise to go around the unsexy and difficult to make war all shiny and new – or better yet, distract from the requirements of the unsexy and difficult, as only in peace can you get away with ignoring the sexy and difficult things such as logistics, damage control, and young men holding ground with a rifle.
The problem is less the cliche of “Fighting the last war” as much as forgetting what happened during the last war. Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl’s central theme of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam is in a large part the question of the degree our military is a learning institution. Unlike peacetime where a PPT or White Paper can avoid the hard truth of reality if sponsored well – in combat, the truth comes out through blood and treasure.
The wars of the last decade have been land wars and the ground services, Army and Marines, have had to learn more than the air and sea services. Just the nature of the war. Though there are many – some of the Lessons Learned/Identified are not new at all. No, they are things that were learned and written in blood decades earlier- but forgotten in the ease of peace. Just a few examples from the ground side of the house.
- RPG cages/Slat armor: Plenty of pictures of them on Strykers and other armored vehicles now, but not so starting early on in this war. The RPG dates back to WWII, so you can’t say their impact on light armor is a new issue. When RPGs became common in Vietnam, we put our 113’s in cages of one type or another. Very effective – and very forgotten. Like the next example, lives were lost, memories came for the fore, redneck engineering held the line until official production – and now we have them again. No excuse.
- Unarmored HUMVEEs/MRAP: All you needed to know about their need was learned and forgotten in Somalia. Israel and Apartheid South African experiences spanning decades also gave clues. The story by now is well known – as it was on 10 SEP 01. No excuse.
- Inadequacy of the M-16/M-4 and its varmint round, the .223/5.56mm: Tired but true argument. All discussion should have ended when the M-14 was brought out of storage wholesale mid-decade and serious talk came up towards a 6.5/6.8mm round – but the G4 guys seem to have beat the G3 guys, again, on this with a classic bureaucratic holding actin – sadly. Same institutional concept that ignored Gen. Mattis when he was MARCENT and wanted MRAPs for his Marines. The amount of our own countrymen’s blood on the hands of our accountants and non-warfighting Staff Weenies is enough to leave anyone gobsmacked. Back to the subject at hand, I recommend anyone who wants to defend M-16 series talk to MG Robert H. Scales, USA (Ret.). No excuse.
- The joy of armor. I love the Canadian example from AFG on armor, a lot. It isn’t that they didn’t learn the lessons – it is just they learned the wrong lessons. Too much peacekeeping since the end of the Korean War and the lost perspective from the end of garrison duty in Germany after the Cold War had left the Canadians within a year of getting rid of all their tracked armor. They also let the wrong people run their internal national messaging – tanks are symbols of masculine militarism, etc. When reality squatted on their national bellybutton picking, they just had a few Leopard 1s left. It didn’t’ take long for the Canadian dead from AFG to scream for tanks, as the reality of combat brought the unique skill-set of the tank to the front. Where do we find our Canadian brothers now? With a nice gaggle of Leopard A2s. They also are bringing back the CH-47. No excuse.
- Irreplaceable tracked vehicle: In the same line as the Canadian idea – we too had fallen in love with the wheeled vehicle. They have their place – but are not all things for all places. Strykers are great as long as you don’t, ahem, have to worry about IED – but if you can’t leave the road to engage the enemy or get away from a kill zone – then all you are is a death trap. We mostly knew that —- but this still makes the cut because there was a growing school that wanted to get rid of all tracks – they are still around – experience in the field says you can’t …. again.
- The gun on aircraft (USAF): Everyone knows the story from Vietnam, but as we can see with the USMC & Navy’s version of the F-35, we have not learned the importance of the gun as well as the USAF (gunpods don’t count). Infantry always enjoys a good strafing run – but recently it has also come to the attention of the COIN crowd that the aircraft cannon is a very precise and discriminating weapon. No GPS coord problems or laser designation challenges. No excessive explosions. Man in the loop accountability.
- Infantry: You never have enough infantry: Enough said. What is less sexy to a peace time green eyeshade number cruncher than a guy with a rifle in his hand? They are a pain until you have to go to war – then all of a sudden you remember that the Marines may have something there; everyone a rifleman. Talk to the Army non-infantry types who have done nothing but infantry work.
To forget and to wish away; this is human nature – and it is unavoidable. Things are forgotten either by neglect or intention – and when conflict comes, people are killed, battles are lost, and if you forget something bad enough – your nation is put at Strategic Risk because in the comfort of peace things were forgotten for the wrong reasons.
The longer you go between conflicts, the wider the gulf seems to be between what is needed and what is actually there when you show up. As it has been a very long time since the US Navy has been challenged at sea, the experience of the Army and Marines had me thinking, “What are the half-dozen problems waiting for us when war at sea comes?”
Oh, it will come – I don’t know when, and I don’t know with whom – but it will come. There are some things out there that we don’t know that will work well and others won’t. That is why you can’t put all your hopes in one system – you might have picked the lemon. There are, however, somethings that we will have no excuse for forgetting. History is too clear – the gaps too obvious to ignore. These are some of the known knowns.
- Damage Control: COLE, PRINCETON, TRIPOLI, STARK, FORRESTAL, ENTERPRISE and the whole British experience in The Falklands War demonstrate that automated DC is a myth and pipe dream. Destruction has its own plan. There is one critical thing you need to save a damaged ship and fight hurt; manpower. Multiple DC teams. Optimal manning is only good in a permissive peace time environment when you don’t have to deploy for more than a few weeks. Manning for ships such as LCS will make them a one hit wonder. They take one hit, and you’ll wonder what happened to them. Taking away DDG manning to such obsurd levels – including the DDG-1000 manning concept – and you will simply wonder, “There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today.” When we worry a lot about at-sea manning while our shore staffs bloat – you need to wonder if we are a serious, warfighting institution.
- Underway replenishment. Is there anything less sexy than an oiler? Follow the link and look at Hooper’s article here. Worth a deeper ponder.
- Organic refueling. So, does buddy tanking from one light strike fighter to another light strike fighter make you feel comfortable about our ability to project significant power ashore while keeping the CVN a healthy distance away? Do you really think we will always have USAF tankers based close to where we need to be to support us? Really? Fewer shorter range light strike fighters with their CVN closer to shore. Really? Speaking of unsexy, think the C-2 will last forever? Really? Who is doing your ASW again?
- Numbers in the game of ASW: You always … always … run short of platforms and weapons. Once the shooting starts and people start seeing submarines under every herring pod – check your Light Weight Torpedo inventory. If for some, ahem, reason your peace time LWT training and testing wasn’t what it should have been for the expected targets and environment, and they don’t work – what is your back-up weapon? How many SSN do you have, and they are doing what where? No excuse here at all. From WWII to the Falklands history is screaming at us, again – no excuse.
- NSFS: Anything less than 5″ is an insult and an embarrassment. Not archaic – ask anyone from the Falklands to Five-Inch Friday about it – again. Talk to the Marines what they think about a single mount 57mm gun with a non-functioning NLOS onboard as their NSFS.
- Redundancy in offensive and defensive weaponry: Back to the ASW example in part and a review of your standard issue WWII DD or DE. Ever wonder why they had so many different types of weapons – and so many? Well – in combat, things break or get broken – different types of targets are better addressed by different weapons. There are no training time outs in combat. A little close to the modern timelines … there was a reason certain warships were on the gun line off Vietnam and others weren’t. Numbers are hard from a PMS and manning perspective – but no one wants to be an O-ring or golden BB away from being Not-Mission-Capable when people are trying to kill you and a few hundred of your shipmates.
There, that is my dirty half-dozen of things that can/will be a problem due to neglect and complacency in peace. Your list may be different.
We should know the lessons of history, but are we applying them? I firmly believe that the Transformationalists are good people who are trying to find a better way – but they are putting too much on hope and not enough on critical thinking about practical matters. When you tell people your Amphibious Ships are too valuable to get close enough to shore to put Marines ashore – your idea of NSFS is a single 57mm gun and a few dozen missiles so bad the Army doesn’t want them – your open ocean ASW plans involve remotely piloted center consol fishing boats – and you tell people with a straight face that a Graf Spee sized warship with a huge superstructure radiating like there is no tomorrow within visual range of shore is “Stealthy” – then we should stop, pause, and reflect.
When our Fleet is challenged at sea again, will a modern day nautically-minded Tallyrand say of those who designed the Navy, “They have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.“?
It didn’t matter if I were doing them or someone else was. There is something about a man or woman leaning into the calling and committing themselves to further service to their nation, and all that goes along with it.
I don’t think I ever went to a “bad” one, but some were more memorable than others – ones with wives, husbands, and children were always good. Sometimes – the preliminary comments went one a bit too much perhaps – I always thought pithy was always best.
Pithy is not my strong suit, so when I see it done right – it sticks out. I wanted to share with you one of the better Reenlistment statements I have seen; providing the right perspective for those signing up for more service.
Congratulations on your Reenlistment!
By taking this oath in the presence of your shipmates, you have made a promise for continued dedication and fidelity to the service of your country. President John F. Kennedy would agree, as he said in 1963, “.any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy.'”
Your decision to continue to serve this great Nation requires a rare courage displayed by very few. As you sign your name today, you join those hallowed ranks of heroes who voluntarily chose to do something for someone besides themselves – to defend our Constitution, to keep our families safe, and to protect those people across the globe not strong enough to protect themselves.
I am humbled to be in your presence, and I am awed by your willingness to serve in such a noble and brave cause. No enemy can stand for long against the fearless dedication of the men and women of the Black Raven team. From this day forward, you can forever hold your head high with pride, and tell your family that you served in the greatest Navy that the world has ever seen. Your Brothers- and Sisters-in-Arms salute you, congratulate you, and welcome you back into this elite band of warriors committed to freedom. In the words of President Theodore Roosevelt, “Life has a flavor that those who do not fight to protect it will never know.”
J. H. WARE III
If you like what you read – the name might sound familiar. CDR Ware was guest on the 17JUN10 Episode of Midrats as we discussed the subject of Command at Sea. You can hear more from him here.
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……
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.
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.
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
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