March 10, 2011
Dear Members and Friends of the United States Naval Institute:
We are delighted by the current dialogue regarding the Mission Statement for the Institute cited below:
“The U.S. Naval Institute is an independent forum advocating the necessity of global seapower for national security and economic prosperity.”
The Board’s work regarding this Statement began in late 2009 and culminated in unanimous Board approvals at our meetings in July and October 2010 and again, with one dissent, in February 2011. The Board voted so because it believes that the Institute needs to gain financial stability and to be as relevant as possible to the Sea Services, to our members, to our donors, to our employees, and to the Nation itself, especially in these difficult times. We think it is possible both to be an independent forum which speaks “truth to power” and to advocate the importance of seapower.
You will recall that economic events of 2008-2009 were difficult for the Institute. Advertising revenues declined, donations shrank, and our endowment lost almost a third of its value. The Institute, led by our senior management team, became cash break-even in 2009 due to dramatic cost controls that remain in effect today. However, the reality is that print media business lines are not growing. The Naval Institute Foundation has enjoyed increases in major donor support and both corporate and foundation sponsorships in the last two years. But, there is no guarantee that these increases will continue, nor that past operational deficits will not reappear.
Of equal (if not greater) concern is that our membership, like many other nonprofit military associations, has declined significantly in the last two decades. These demographics speak directly to the relevance challenge that the Institute is facing and must be reversed if we are to survive. Our membership decline has provided another imperative for the Board to revitalize our mission statement. We must be relevant both to our traditional supporters and to prospective new ones.
The Board’s Mission Committee, led by VADM John Morgan, and including VADM Nancy Brown, VADM Norman Ray, and Mr. Donald Brennan, undertook to ask how the Institute can be most effective at a time when our military budgets will decline due to the United States’ federal deficits, just as external threats are increasing around the world. The Board agreed with the Mission Committee that the Sea Services are critical to our national defense, to American foreign policy and to protect maritime commerce and hence our economy.
We also believe that by proactively addressing the new national security environment, we will enhance our capability to attract members, donors and supporters and, specifically, increase our relevance to Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen. Finally, and most importantly, we found we could accomplish these changes without threatening the defining concept of the Institute, our independent forum, where our members can voice their views.
Under our revised mission statement, you will see an independent forum where we seek differing views and encourage tough examination of the issues, with both sides advocated. You will continue to see articles, books, conferences and an online experience that not only meet the traditionally high standards of USNI content, but which also will bring increased relevance to the world we confront now and the one we will confront tomorrow. In short, you will continue to see the Naval Institute as a thought leader in the national security arena.
The Preamble in the Constitution remains unchanged:
“The United States Naval Institute is a voluntary, private, nonprofit association formed in 1873 for the advancement of professional, literary, and scientific knowledge in the naval and maritime services, and the advancement of the knowledge of sea power.”
And, equally importantly, that Section 1 of Article XV of our Constitution (Limitations), continues verbatim:
“Notwithstanding any other provision in the Constitution and By-Laws, the Institute’s objectives are limited to and shall include only charitable, scientific, literary and educational purposes within the meaning of those terms as used in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code or the corresponding section of any future federal tax code, and all references to the objectives of the Institute shall be construed to include such limitation. The Institute shall not, except to an insubstantial degree, engage in any activities or exercise any powers that are not in furtherance of the objectives of the Institute as so limited.”
The Institute must still operate within these proven constraints. You will not see our Naval Institute as a “shill” for any service or program, a lobby to the Congress, or a house for one-track thinking, as some might worry. We know you would not wish or allow us to do so.
The Board’s intent in proposing that we revise the Mission Statement is to take the first important step in a strategic plan that will move the Institute to a stronger, more relevant future with increased financial stability. The Nation and the Sea Services need a vibrant, relevant Naval Institute to confront 21st century challenges – we must not go quietly into the night. The Board will work to keep us relevant, and we hope you will as well. We respectfully ask for your support and we look forward to continuing these efforts with you.
Stephen M. Waters
Chairman of the Board
Thomas L. Wilkerson
Major General, USMC (Ret)
Chief Executive Officer