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 Navy, Policy, Proceedings

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  • Thomas B.

    Well… how is this different from NMCI, when the masses were told to shut-up despite the obvious defects in NMCI? How is this any different from your CO saying “do as I say, and not as I do”? So basically, the officer that leaked this memo is a traitor and a back-stabber. The worst type of officer. Can you image the hell that would be unleashed if a junior officer dimed out his CO? But I guess this is a reflection on the quality of people in the military now.