For all Members of the Naval Institute,

In the 2011 annual ballot the Board of Directors has recommended an historic change to the Mission of the Naval Institute to “advocating the necessity of global seapower.” The Board believes that the United States must support and maintain a strong, global naval capability and that a proper role for the Institute is to be a proactive advocate for that goal.

This is an important initiative from our Board of Directors; one that deserves your full attention as a member.

The full ballot will appear in the March Proceedings, and is now online here , together with a more comprehensive justification for the new Mission Statement.

In keeping faith with the 137 year tradition of our professional association as the “Independent Forum of the Sea Services” I encourage members to engage on this important initiative.

Share your views, and cast your ballot NLT April 11, 2011.

Major General Thomas L. Wilkerson, USMC (Ret.)

Chief Executive Officer

U. S. Naval Institute

Posted by admin in Naval Institute

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  • The Naval Institute, founded “for the purpose of discussing matters of professional interest,” has provided a forum for such discussions since 1873. As a midshipman at the Naval Academy, I joined the Institute to expand my professional knowledge. As a junior officer, I maintained that membership and continued the journey of learning about my trade through the discussions of other professionals and through the scholarly (and fictional) books of the Naval Institute Press. As a systems engineer with a defense contractor, I have continued to benefit from these discussions, as a means of understanding the needs of my customers.
    Throughout the past 29 years of my association with the Institute, and in fact through the 138 years of its existence, the forum that is the Naval Institute has been open to the debate of ideas. In 1954, for example, it published Dr. Samuel Huntington’s National Policy and the Transoceanic Navy, in which he argued for “a real revolution in naval thought and operations” leading to a new strategic concept for the United States Navy. His claim, that “application of naval power against the land requires of course an entirely different sort of Navy from that which existed during the struggles for sea supremacy,” challenged the core mission and organizational priorities of the Navy while supporting the need for its continued existence as a global force.
    Huntington recognized that such a change would entail some controversy and necessary public debate, and concluded “… too often one still hears from the average American the question: “What do we need a navy for? The Russians don’t have one.” This attitude can only be overcome by a systematic, detailed elaboration and presentation of the theory of the transoceanic Navy against the broad background of naval history and naval technology. Only when this is done will the Navy have the public confidence commensurate with its important role in national defense.”
    Such a public debate is only possible when all sides of an issue can be discussed. The open forum of the Naval Institute, designed from the beginning for such debate, has served our nation well in this regard. If the Institute had been an advocate for global seapower rather than an independent forum, then arguments contrary to Dr. Huntington’s would not have been welcome. This stifling of debate would significantly devalue the Naval Institute. I oppose the change in mission.

  • As an organization that values dialog, I would expect that the Institute take a less aggressive approach in requesting the members’ approval for this change in mission. Publishing both the revised mission and a ballot in the same issue of its primary journal, the Institute has effectively ended debate before it started. Issues raised in the Proceedings often take months or even years to play out, both in the Comment and Discussion section and in articles with counter-arguments.
    I urge the membership to reject the proposed mission on this basis alone.

  • Alexander Martin

    As a Naval Institute member, active duty junior officer and contributor to Proceedings Magazine and the USNI Blog, I would feel extremely uncomfortable voicing my opinion (or encouraging my peers to voice theirs) with this proposed change in USNI’s mission statement. I think this change in mission will cripple the debate that so richly occurs at the Naval Institute.

    I’m in agreement with Ken Adams, and Norman Polmar – vote no.

  • Solon

    Not sure where Polmar’s post went, but I guess it got “Pravda’d”. Honestly, if this course change becomes implemented, I’m out. This forum will become little more than an advocacy stump.

  • J Sander

    Focus is good, but I think the existing mission statement, being more broad in scope, better serves to describe what USNI is and should be about. Education and dialog promote understanding which in turn supports informed decision making. Advocacy tends to become dogmatic and rigid. This world needs more of the former and less of the latter kind of thinking.

  • Andy (JADAA)

    I first worked out the following thoughts at “Information Dissemination,” but have chosen to cross-post here to my “home,” as it were: My first exposure to “Proceedings” was as a 10-year old in Coronado, CA, when friends of my parents saw my fascination with back issues and lent me several to read and re-read. As a young Ensign, I joined and maintained my membership as best I could until, finally, as a retirement “present” to myself, I became a Life Member. I have watched the changes that ebb and flow as evidenced in the editorial content over the years, and note, with no small concern, the large number of “Flag Happy-Talk” articles that take up inches and end up saying very, very little. On the other hand, I do enjoy the occasional “WTF?!?” articles that somehow make it through the process and while I do sometimes disagree, I appreciate the mental exercises. The morphing of USNI into yet another haven for retired Flags to flog their own hobby horses is not in the best interests of the Institute, its membership, the United States Navy or the American public. I will be voting “No.”

  • Hopefully this will be soundly defeated.

    This is yet another step in the vivisection of the American public opinion into tiny special interest groups, all shouting and not one listening except to themselves.

  • P. Wallace

    I joined the Institute when I was 15 or 16. That was over 25 years ago. Today I have to ask who is the intended audience.

    The Institute, at its heart, is supposed to be where the unrestricted line discusses the issues of the day. During its glory days it helped that line figure out how to fight the fleet. That is the justification for the Institute having offices at USNA-Proceedings has proven a way for thoughts and ideas to be discussed without requiring the blessing of the powers that be; and both the development of the fleet and the officer corps has benefited therefrom. The intended main reader of Proceedings used to be unrestricted line officers (and any interested outside observers, if they cared). The purpose was figuring out how to fight the fleet.

    Today, I honestly think Proceedings is open to the charge of sometimes not trying to talk to that line officer out in the fleet, but to the types of folks who populate the Beltway (think tankers, DOD-types, flag-levels, congressional staffs, etc.) In some issues the intended reader is clearly the outside observer (and any interested line officers, if they care); the purpose of the magazine figuring out how to assure support for funding the fleet.

    And in that case there is a loss. For there are other forums for exploring big picture defense issues and talking about sea power in an advocacy way, but there is only one forum where the unrestricted line can discuss that which is required for the fleet to win in war (and to also secure the national interests oustide of war)–and it is already under enough stress.

    At what point do both USNI and Proceedings become no longer for Professionals, but by them? I don’t know, but perhaps closer than we think. I’ll be voting no.

  • R. Mahr

    The Board has an agenda that may not be in the best interest of the membership, else they would have allowed more discussion, or waited until a general meeting. A mission statement that has served us well since the founding should not be discarded easily and without careful consideration. Recall this is an organization that was founded by a group of Naval officers for mutual benefit. What it has become is something different over teh years. Perhaps there is no going back to a truly professional journal, but there is a time to say ‘Stop. Enough expansion beyond what the original purpose.’ If advocacy is needed, there are other worthwhile organizations already extant. At a minimum the Board should have first engaged the membership using a robust discussion either within this Blog, another online forum, or well in advance using an article in our own magazine laying out the rationale, with pro and con views from the Board, allowing for open consideration and rebuttal within the pages of the journal. As with ballot initiatives in any organization I beleive they are counting on the tendency of the membership to trust the judgment of a member-elected Board, many of whom we have respected and followed in our careers. I will vote ‘no’ when I receive my ballot, both because I disagree with the change and because it has not been properly discussed. I will also vote anti-incumbent as elections allow.

  • SwitchBlade

    Interesting that my USNI membership number won’t let me follow the link. I need a mailing label. Since I don’t have one because I pass the magazines to my father and brothers, I guess I’ll have to wait for the March issue. Also interesting that the recommended mission statement doesn’t seem to be posted on the USNI site (at least I can’t find the link).

    However, for my two cents worth – I get back from my father his copies of Air Force Magazine. That magazine’s mission is to advocate for the Air Force. I’ve mentioned several times the contrast between the useful exchange and discussion of subjects in Proceeding with the Air Force advocacy in Air Force Magazine. While they both have their place, there is only one Proceedings. Turning it into another advocacy magazine would not only make it redundant, it would mean the loss of the only forum like it in the military today.

    I will be voting NO.

  • KhakiPants

    It’s very simple. Let there always be discussions of various viewpoints, including those that advocate for the necessity of global command and control of the see. Let there NEVER be official USNI lobbyists.


  • KhakiPants

    And seA too. ;P

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    The old one is still valid and debate – vigorous debate – is and will always be greatly needed.

    Vote NO.

  • Lowly USN (retired)

    I am highly disappointed one cannot enter ones USNI membership number to follow the link. I am in Liaoning Province, China and do not have access to a Proceedings mailing label number required to access the ballot. One should be able to submit an e-mail ballot as long as all pertinent data is provided. I too shall wait until March to cast my no vote for reasons already mentioned in this forum.

  • Redeye80

    Voting NO!

    It is time for Major General Thomas L. Wilkerson, USMC (Ret.) find other employment.

  • @Redeye80 — look at the post again. Gen Wilkerson does not use the personal pronoun in announcing the proposed change. There’s no indication that this initiative is his doing. It may be the case that he is simply carrying a message as directed by his employers (the Board of Directors).

    He also says, ‘In keeping faith with the 137 year tradition of our professional association as the “Independent Forum of the Sea Services” I encourage members to engage on this important initiative.’

  • JohnByron

    Wave off. you’re on a foul course. Ken Adams has it right.

  • JohnByron

    Redeye80: Wave off. You’re on a foul course. Ken Adams has it right.

  • saltysam

    I admire the Good General for trying to effect change to face what he sees as the new wind. With regret I must point out that there is little cause to change something that is not yet broken.
    I hold to the strength of Tradition. I plan to vote NO.

  • B. Walthrop

    Regarding Member Numbers: It is annoying that your member ID and member number are not interchangeable.

    If you call 800.233.8764 between 0800 and 1630 EST and push 1 after the recorded message, you’ll be able to retrieve your member # (rather than member ID which is listed online.

    Do not let not having access to your own print copy of Proceedings (or Naval History) keep you from voting on this important issue.


  • Byron

    From the peanut gallery: I was a member for close to ten years, and a reader (when I could get a copy) much longer than that. Since I’ve helped repair Navy ships since the early 80’s and have come to love this job I feel I have a vested interest in what happens to my Navy. Further, I used to consider Proceedings to be a terrific source of information on the inner workings of our Navy. Unfortunately, it became something different. I grew tired of articles that were blatant PR pieces to promote this program or that weapons system. And the discussion grew very stiffled, something that I thought was the whole purpose of the Institute. I declined to renew my subscription in 2003. Fortunately, I soon discovered Navy blogs and the information and discussion began to flow again.

    Members of the Institute, you’ve lost your course. Not only has discussion been stifled, but articles of true value and interest have all but disappeared. Now you want to change the charter, something that has stood the test of time. Here’s what I have to say about that:

    If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.

  • Herb Carmen

    I will vote against any proposed change to the USNI mission and will continue to encourage fellow USNI members to do the same.

  • SB

    You know this process will be much easier if the specific board members pushing this idea are identified by name. That way we can get rid of just those specific individuals instead of the entire board. Just trying to reduce the collateral damage ya know . . .

  • Claude Berube

    There is a role for sea power advocacy but this is not the right method.

    First, USNI contributors through articles, books and blog posts can already advocate for sea power. USNI’s current mission statement is sufficiently open to allow any thoughtful and well-crafted contribution to appear in Proceedings, Naval History, the blog, or NIP books. Second, the proposed Theodore Roosevelt Center for Sea Power Studies would do exactly what the mission statement change would do. I quote, in part, from the brochure I was given in recent months: “develops and advocates defense policy solutions based upon the necessity for global sea power to maintain national security and ensure economic prosperity.” The proposed TR Center seems to fit in line with the suggested mission statemet but would not alter USNI’s overall mission.

  • SwitchBlade

    Got a mailing label today. Here’s the secret (copied from the ballot) so we can all see what we’re discussing:


    Article 1, Section 2.


    The Mission of the Institute is “to provide an Independent Forum for those who dare to read, think, speak, and write in order to advance the professional, literary, and scientific understanding of sea power and other issues critical to national defense.”


    “to be an Independent Forum advocating the necessity of global sea power for national security and economic prosperity.”

  • Byron

    So they want to turn the Institute into a lobby? Got it.

    I wish I could say, ” I can’t believe they’re doing this”, but given how politicized most flags are these days, I guess I can.

  • P.S. Wallace

    As far as the mission of the Institute–I’ve been a member or associate member (back when we had those) since the mid-80s. My spidey-sense keeps telling me that the mission statement did not always use to be the “dare to read, etc.” thing, but something different. So, I did a mighty 30 seconds worth of research and pulled the following from Wikipedia (which means it may or may not be accurate):

    “to provide an open forum for the exchange of ideas, to disseminate and advance the knowledge of sea power, and to preserve our naval and maritime heritage.”

    I actually think that’s the old one (though I could be wrong), and for the record I like it better. The new mission statement (the advocacy one, that is) flies right in the face of the first part of what I am going to call the old one: “an open forum for the exchange of ideas”.

    So, in the spirit of that “open forum”, sometimes you just have to ask hard questions: if we get this new mission statement, are Proceedings articles eventually going to get rejected if they don’t advocate for global sea-power? How about USNI press books? The following is not necessarily my view, but what if an economic collapse happens in this country and an author genuinely believes that we need to retrench (out of necessity)? Is he going to get published?

    What if the article only concerns internal Navy matters and is not something that will “make benefit glorious Navy of America” in the sense of advancing global sea power support? What if it is a controversy that needs to be discussed but would tend to make outsiders look askance upon the Navy. Will it be given space?

    If another Sea Control Ship/Big CV-type debate comes along, will it be squashed because one alternative could be viewed as not facilitating “global sea power”? Diesel SSKs?

    They may seem like silly questions, and some may say the Board is separate from the Editorial Board of Proceedings and thus we will never have to worry, but then if those two things are true why are we being bothered with a change in mission statement in the first place? Presumably when one makes a change one does so for a reason; because one wants to take something in a new direction or one wants to emphasize one thing over another–and not because a consultant current in “modern business thought” has been hired and we must get right with current biz school doctrine (regardless if there is a reason or no).

    Of course, I understand they do teach Covey at the Academy, and there are quite a few business books on the new Professional Reading Program. “Begin with the end in view” indeed. Which may be exactly what we are doing here (double meaning).

    Frankly, to get back to the original question implicit in my first post above–if we are now going to be all about advocating global sea power, who are we advocating to? Presumably not to the unrestricted line officer corps (and USMC/Coast Guard equivalents), because one would think we get the idea already. Thus, it must assumed we will advocating to outside observers, and in particular those inside the Beltway (and for the record, they are outside observers, not part of the team, or else I am a member of the Green Back Packers. I mean, I watched and supported, right? Then I must be a member of the team, right? Where’s my ring?)

    But if we are now focused on mainly talking (er, advocating) to those outside the sea services, then are we any longer having an internal dialogue amongst ourselves on how best to fight the Navy and how to develop ourselves as an unrestricted line officer corps (both as individuals and as a corps)? And harder question–is that conversation already on the wane? I think it may be.

    Because it is now apparent to me now that the flag-level “happy talk” articles that pop up over the years and that we all seem to hate were never intended mainly for those inside the service, but for those inside the Beltway—so that they would support budgets. All fine and good (well, not really), but the URL and their USMC/USCG equivalents still need a professional forum. What is it going to be if it is no longer USNI and Proceedings? And is it the Naval Institute and Proceedings today? Once again, not so sure.

    I’m going to hazard a guess that the reason outside observers–meaning Beltway types–started reading Proceedings to start with is because the sea services were having a franker conversation amongst themselves than could be found anywhere else in Washington–and those observers liked it. It was something that was unique in the political-world–somebody actually saying what they believed and who also made sense.

    Thus, I argue that the reason Proceedings and USNI became valuable is because it was, at the end of the day, officers talking to brother officers (along with saavy civilians such as the “two Norms”, Friedman and Polmar)–and not federal agency boosters trying to sway Congress.

    I thus submit that anything that would threaten that open, free, and easy-to-contribute-to-conversation amongst the “Band of Brothers” will both harm the Navy/Marine Corps/Coast Guard as a fighting machine, and would vastly lower the credibility of the Institute and magazine with those whom some would wish most to sway. Which may be the problem. The ones you should wish most to sway are your brother officers. If you do so, you will raise their own professional abilities as you strengthen yours. And if they are convinced, they will convince others for you via the strength of the conversation in Proceedings and elsewhere.

    I voted no.

  • Byron

    Gosh, so far, looks like 27 against, none for.

  • JohnByron

    And about the same ratio at other blogs – dozens agin, none for.

    Plus serious discussion of starting a new online magazine for naval officers outside the Naval Institute…

    And interest in voting the current USNI board off the island…

    And rather keen interest in identifying the board members who put forward this change in mission statement and voted to present it to the membership…

    On the last, were those on the board in favor of this to step forward and identify themselves, that would show real courage. Somehow I don’t think that’s gonna happen…

  • Problem is, most of the members are not participants in the blogs. Most will get it and say, oh sure, sign it and send it in. They have to be alerted to the problem.

    Maybe we need a change of process. In my state, when there is a ballot issue like this, the ballot handbook sent to all voters contains an argument for with a listing of those supporting it, an argument against with a listing of those opposed, followed by rebuttals to each argument with a listing of those giving the rebuttal.

    At least that way you would know where the board members stand. An argument from someone you respect might carry more weight.

  • Byron

    I’m certain that somehow the board is slowly becoming aware that the members are not the least bit happy. Perhaps this should be a message to them that’s it’s time to find another venue for their “vision”.

  • ” Perhaps this should be a message to them that’s it’s time to find another venue for their “vision”.
    …that’s my plan.
    w/r, SJS

  • Jerry Hendrix

    I have cast my ballot, strongly in the negative as anyone who knows me might expect. I also voted against the election of the majority of the board of directors. This may have little to no effect however, since there are only enough candidates for the number of board slots, so the casting of only 1 “yes” vote would be sufficient to bring about election. One might hope that the board would see the defeat of the bylaw change as a vote of no confidence and step down. That being said, I believe that an altenative slate of directors should be proposed with public affirmation of support here on this message line. I recommend Capt. Gerry Roncollato, USN (Ret), Capt Victor Addison, USN (Ret) and LtCol Frank Hoffman USMCR (Ret) as three candidates for the board from the retired list. I am sure there are some senior active duty guys that would be good as well. Please make suggestions.

  • Mike Jones

    Second Jerry Hendrix’s comment and add CDR Bryan McGrath, USN (Ret) to the list.

  • The USNI mission change proposed by the Board of Directors is pernicious and ill-considered. Proceedings has for well over a century been the most trusted and influential military journal in the world, precisely because it is a professionally focused forum without an agenda. The proposed mission change effectively kills the open forum in favor of advocacy. This would have the inevitable effect of undermining the stature and influence of the Naval Institute. The proposed change is a bad idea that must be rejected.
    The Board should recognize the near unanimous rejection of the proposed change, and withdraw their recommendation. Failing that, given the increasing similarity of the voting process to 3rd world elections and the absence of early opportunity to discuss and understand the proposal, there is danger that many members would “Trust the Board” without understanding what is at stake. If the Board still wishes to advance the change, the ethical course would be to delay the vote to permit a wide and informed discussion. Absent that, vote No. Jim Barber, CEO and Publisher USNI 1984-1999.

  • annis44

    For all Members of the Naval Institute,In the 2011 annual ballot the Board of Directors has recommended an historic change to the Mission of the Naval Institute to