I’d like to thank Vice Admiral Harvey again for giving me 45 minutes of his time! It was a tremendous opportunity and it will always be something I remember.

What qualities do you value most in junior officers? 

Looking back on it…I’m thinking of the David R. Ray or Cape St. George… (I was a CO of a destroyer and cruiser); I think I really looked for number one: integrity, which goes without question. If you’re my JOD or Engineering Officer of the Watch, CIC watch officer, or helicopter control officer and you report something to me and I don’t feel that I can rely upon what you told me because I question your integrity, then the system falls apart. A ship is held together by trust. The bonds of trust are very, very powerful—they form the basis for everything else that happens. First, last, and always is people have to believe you and you have believe in them…They don’t necessarily have to like you…but they gotta believe that they can trust you when you look them in the eye and say, “This is it. This is what I need. This is what I have to do.” They gotta believe that it’s true—or at least you think it’s true. Integrity is the foundation for everything else.

After that, I think I really appreciate a belnd of loyalty and persistence. What becomes very, very valuable to me is someone who I know, I know, I can depend on without checking up on them. They don’t have to be brilliant. It’s great to be really smart—it’s better to be smart than dumb, that goes without saying. There’s always going to be someone out there who is smarter than you are and have skillsets you don’t have…You can be the absolutely most persistent, dedicated, stay-to-it officer—the kind of person who will get it done…I really, really enjoy being with those types of officers who will just go after that job or whatever the task may be, however difficult it may be—‘till it’s done or they’re dead, one or the two.

I don’t exaggerate. That level stick-to-itness coupled with loyalty (intelligent loyalty, not blind loyalty)…Those are the kind of things I really look for—they’re the kind of things that make ships good and keep them good.

When you were Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Manpower and Personnel, your office released a document about language skills, regional expertise, and cultural awareness. Another article recently in the Naval War College Review [found here] suggested a three-tiered track for officers. How will my generation of officers look different than previous generations?

Yeah, I think that’s fascinating. As Chief of Naval Personnel, I had the benefit of being able to take a look at the Navy as a whole…and reflected on how we’ve organized that [human] talent in the past—various warfare communities, various enlisted ratings and specialties. Really, we’re focused on the world that doesn’t exist anymore: the Cold War world with a far more predictable set of circumstances and well-defined roles for everybody in the Navy, whether you were officer or enlisted, warrants or LDO. They were set to deliver a very large, blue-water Navy focused on a war at sea, whether it was in the air, on the surface, or underneath and what it took to support that. So now we fast forward to where we are and we see many, many roles and missions we are expected to carryout, ranging from high-end bluewater conflict to the stuff we’re doing today: riverine squadrons in Iraq, suppression of piracy in Somalia, supporting the Comfort on a swing down South…The scope of activity has exploded on us, yet we still have the same structure to bin our talent as we have had for the last 30-40 years.

So, I think, in my little view of the crystal ball, the Naval War College Review article…[is] a pretty good sign of what our future may be…You will see fundamental changes in the construct of the officer corps that gives us a lot more flexibility to put the talent where we need it, when we need it and then make sure those folks are really optimized.

The Navy is a classic battle of jack-of-all-trades versus deep expertise in a particular field. At various times and places, you got to have those deep experts and other times you need people who know a lot about a bunch of things and are able to swing from one particular skillset and field to another, depending on what the situation demands. I see a real unlocking of the career paths and restructuring to open it up to give our talent a chance to get more focused on the wider range of areas; we’ll see how that takes us.

It’s going to be a heck of a challenge, obviously. The structure of the officer corps has deep roots and to change those things take an awful lot of guided effort. You don’t do it lightly at all, you’ve got to give this very, very careful thought…With that said, we have to make some fundamental changes and you all will be in the midst of it.

The Navy and the Naval Academy value diversity and while we emphasize cultural diversity, how important is to maintain a force with a diverse economic background? How can the Navy reach out to underrepresented groups?

I think it’s very important to talk about diversity…People automatically assume it goes to some magic percentage of racial, ethnic, or religious background…The most important thing that people bring to the Navy is their talent, their God-given skills and abilities. We need access to the talent of the nation no matter where that talent is: Southwest, Pacific Northwest, upper-east coast, the heartland, south Florida—doesn’t matter. We need access to the best young men and women this country has to offer and to come in and do the kind of things the Navy needs to get done. For us, access to that talent and then retaining that talent once we bring it in to the Navy and showing those young men and women that, “Hey, you’ve got a future with us and will only be limited by what you bring and not because of any artificial barriers in our organization.”

We need to find that talent, we need to be able to recruit them to come in, then go and retain them…So when we talk about this diversity thing, we got to look at this and [realize] that this country is in the midst of one the most significant demographic change in its history…the majority will become the minority by 2038 (or 2042); that figure will probably be accelerated because demographics are changing faster than expected. Perhaps we need to ensure that we have access to that talent and diverse populations…Because you want a young man or woman to look up to an organization and say, “I can succeed here because there are people like me in this organization.” I think that’s so important. We need to be that kind of place where anybody looks at us and says, “I can go there. It’s important, it’s something bigger than me. I can make a contribution, I can serve my country, and I can serve myself and achieve my own goals as well.” If you view this from a big aperture, a big scope, you can see that is not about some kind of affirmative action…this is all about barrier removal within our organization and then reaching out and making sure everyone out there knows…we’re the ones you want to serve with…That’s what we’re trying to get at through going out there and putting the Navy all over this country in places where traditionally we didn’t go. That’s where the talent is.

I wonder if there are still barriers that need to be removed and what do they look like, sir?

An eternal truth that gets relearned in every generation is that as long as you have an organization populated by human beings then there will be issues. That’s just as fact of our life…You’re always going to have issues of some kind when you deal with human beings; it’s part of the territory. Recognize it, understand that, and deal with it. Yes, we have issues, they come, they go, they change and I think…we’re making some very positive steps. These steps are being recognized inside the Navy as well as outside the Navy…Also recognize we have places that we have a way to go…We’ll keep at it. We’re very committed to this from the CNO down in terms of achieving our goals and making sure young men and women know that this is the place to be.

Posted by Jeffrey Withington in Navy

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  • RickWilmes

    Great interview.

    I am left wondering with the following question.

    If integrity is loyalty to one’s convictions and values, how can the Navy attract talent when self-less, self-sacrifice is the value that the Navy is after?

    A man of integrity who is concerned with his own convictions and values can not spend anytime in an organizaton that values its opposite. It is only a matter of time before such talent leaves the Navy or sacrifices his talent to lesser values.

  • Jay


    There always may be a conflict with personal values & the (Navy’s) organizational values.

    Some issues are never cleanly cut — Sometimes you recognize that the organization’s values, while not entirely in agreement with your own, are good for the organization.

    That’s when Leadership comes in, the ability to recognize the value of the goals, and to accept and support them to the best of your ability (not just pay lip service — your Sailors will recognize your insincerity in a New York Minute…).

    Folks who decide that their convictions and the organizational values are so far apart, that they cannot be reconciled, and decide to leave, are doing the right thing.

  • RickWilmes


    I agree with what you are saying. My concern is that the more rational self-interested individuals that can think about and identify the problems and solutions facing the Navy and Marine Corps get fed up and leave the service because the organizantional values are not the same as their own. This is going to have long term consequences down the road 15 to 20 years from now.

    An example is the multiple deployments required for the “War on Terrorism” or “The Long War”. Sooner or later our service men and women will say enough already and leave along with their experience and knowledge.

  • Byron

    And then, Rick, there are that wonderful core of officers and enlisted that remain in the service so that they can more effectively help bring about change from within, rather than just quit.

  • B. Walthrop


    You make it sound as if you believe that anyone acting in their own rational self-interest would necessarily leave based on organizational inertia and the level of difficulty and demands placed on their time. I’ve read your previous posts on this, and it sounds like you believe everyone defines rational self-interest from your perspective. The decision to stay or go is vastly more complicated for each individual. As Byron points out, there is more than one way of looking at income (psychic income in the example he sites) vs. the demands of the profession. The folks who decide to leave the service (as well as those who stay) don’t have a monopoly on integrity, problem solving, and the internal fortitude to challenge the status quo. I think you need to broaden the appature on your definition of rational self-interest. What works for you (and Ayn Rand) does not work the same way for everyone. Balance is the key from my perspective.

    Personally, the Navy (and the taxpayers) have given me much (specifically by providing outstanding medical care for a very sick child), and I find it in my rational self-interest to approach my service (and my stewardship of National Resources) with the same level of integrity that the service has shown me.