Admiral James G. Stavridis currently serves as Commander, U.S. European Command, and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. A 1976 Naval Academy graduate and surface warfare officer, ADM Stavridis skippered a destroyer, the U.S.S. Barry, and commanded Destroyer Squadron 21. From 2006 to 2009, he commanded U.S. Southern Command.

Career Questions:

Out of each USNA class, only a small number graduates achieve flag rank. What did you do differently to command two geographic unified commands?

Simply persistence. Although I spent my first five years thinking quite seriously about getting out of the navy to go to law school, I always looked honestly at all my options both in and out of uniform. In the end, what kept me in was the great people I was able to work with every day, both USNA graduates and other colleagues. So much else is luck and timing.

Do you have any advice to current midshipmen or junior officers?

Read lots of novels. Every time you imagine another life, you expand your own. And learn another language—to learn another person’s language is to learn their life.

How did your experience at the Naval Academy help you throughout your career? Was there anything the Academy did not prepare you for?

Overall, my time at Annapolis gave me a cadre of close friends, a sense of humor, a grounding in French and Spanish, and a lifetime of memories. Nothing can really prepare a person for life after college, but the academy came close.

Any memorable or notable stories from your time at the Academy? 

I was a proud editor of the Log Magazine and Salty Sam, class of 1976. The editor of the west point equivalent, the pointer, was recently retired general and close friend Stan McChrystal. We remain good friends today—it is a perfect reminder of how the relationships forged at the academy transcend career and time.

How do your graduate degree in international relations and your PhD in law and diplomacy help you in your current command?

 International affairs is the novel that never ends. Every single day we all get to read the next chapter on the front pages of the newspaper (downloaded to our iPads). To be involved in that daily, from serving in the crew of a ballistic missile destroyer to being a combatant commander or the leader of NATO operations globally is fascinating and an honor.

On your facebook page, you have a varsity letterman jacket with three gold stars. What sport did you play at the Academy and do you believe that athletics helps develop military officers?

I played varsity squash and tennis. Our squash team finished in the top five nationally each year. The travel and interaction was invaluable and the chance to play both sports all over the world in the years since has been wonderful.

Policy Questions:

EUCOM was originally created in 1952 to streamline America’s defense of Soviet aggression. What would you consider EUCOM’s current purpose?

Supporting our NATO allies as we work together in Afghanistan, Russia, the Balkans, piracy, narcotics, and defense reform. The vast majority of our allies come from EUCOM and NATO, and together we are far stronger than any of us along. We are also working hard on interagency and private-public partnerships.

How is EUCOM adapting to China’s rise in military power?

 Working with them in piracy off the horn of Africa and seeking zones of cooperation in other global security challenges, e.g. in Iran and Afghanistan, for example.

As Supreme Allied Commander, NATO, what are the difficulties in aligning the goals and needs of twenty-eight separate militaries?

The challenge is connecting all the different cultures, languages, and national approaches—but the only thing harder than tackling security challenge with allies is trying to solve them alone.

General Alexander, Commander, U.S. Cyber Command, recently spoke to the Brigade of Midshipmen about cyber warfare. You successfully “hacked in” to General Alexander’s power-point presentation. Do you believe cyber warfare is the future of warfare, and how prepared is the United States and NATO to win a cyber war?

I do believe two important areas of future engagement for all of us are in cyber and alliance engagement. Keith is a good friend and a brilliant strategic thinker, and our nation is lucky to have him leading the new cyber command.

How has the recent entry of former Soviet states into NATO affected the dynamics of NATO?

 It is a very positive development, expanding the alliance from a dozen countries to 28 today—all dedicated to common defense, operations in Afghanistan and the Balkans, and focused on defending freedom, democracy, and individual liberty.

How is EUCOM supporting the Global War on Terror as well as Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom?

We send 30% of our 100,000 people forward to Iraq and Afghanistan at any given time, we help train the 40+ countries in our region that are part of the coalitions there, we work closely with the interagency partners from the drug enforcement agency to the agency for international development, and we sustain the diplomatic pressure in concert with state department.

On a more serious note, how badly will Navy beat Army this year?

Seriously, let me say that in 1976, my senior year, we beat them 51-0. This year, we’re going to beat them easily (again); but when the final whistle blows, there won’t be another group of people in the world with whom we are more proud to stand shoulder to shoulder in defense of this nation.

ADM Stavridis, Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer these interview questions.

Posted by jjames in Foreign Policy, History, Innovation, Marine Corps, Maritime Security, Navy, Piracy, Proceedings, Soft Power, Strategy, Travel

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Good interview! Couldn’t get an over/under on the game, though.

  • In yesterday’s Boston Globe Renny McPherson argues in “The Next Petraeus” that the US military isn’t producing enough “visionary commanders.”

    McPherson writes:

    “…the US military has failed to produce enough leaders like Petraeus–the kind of broad-minded, flexible strategic thinkers needed to lead today’s most difficult missions. And a large contributor to this failure is the military’s inflexible system of promotion, which can actively discourage young officers from getting the mind-expanding, challenging experiences that could turn them into potent generals.”

    While this article led to much debate in the wardroom, the consensus was that while we could do more as a Navy and Marine Corps to promote the sort of well-rounded career experience that McPherson (rightly) argues makes a “visionary” General or Admiral, these experiences and career paths are out there and available…and that there are more “visionaries” than McPherson submits.

    I think the career paths and experiences of many of our leaders, like Adm Stavridis (whose career covered the spectrum of experience from command at sea to doctoral work in diplomacy) prove to the junior officer corps that command and “mind-expanding, challenging experiences” go hand in hand in the Navy and the Marine Corps.

    I remember I had a seminar course in National Security Studies my senior year at Annapolis taught by Admiral Crowe. It was an amazing experience to say the least. I remember him saying one day, in that great Oklahoma tone, that his heart was shaped at sea and his mind was shaped in the experiences he had with people.

    And what he meant, I think, was that there is no replacement for standing officer of the deck on the bridge of a ship in a storm, but also none for standing up for yourself in a classroom at Princeton (where he got his PhD and would often say was one of the most important experiences of his career).

    So it’s important that we junior officers hear our leaders, like Adm Stavridis, encourage us to read novels and learn a language and show us, by example, that a “career path” and a “well rounded and diverse career-experience” are not mutually exclusive.

    It’s important because it makes what the Boston Globe is saying a whole lot less sensational.