April 15, 2011

Dear Members of the Board:

The U.S. Naval Institute is one of the great intellectual organizations in this country. I joined as an undergraduate at St. Joseph’s University and later became a Life Member. Over the years I have fully participated in USNI as an author, as a speaker, and as a donor.

I have been a fan of the Naval Institute for my entire career—with the exception of six short years when I served as Secretary of the Navy during the Reagan Administration. Somehow, the Institute seemed to get off track during that period. I began to read articles in Proceedings by mere lieutenants who disagreed with me. Shocking! But after I left government in 1987, the Institute returned to its grand tradition of truth and wisdom. Despite that experience—or maybe because of it—I feel deeply that this unique “Independent Forum” must remain open to participants of all ranks and stations. Listening to your critics is smart—even when it hurts.

It was therefore dismaying to read in the April issue of Proceedings, that this “Independent Forum” that plays such a vital role in the national security dialogue is now in jeopardy with a proposal to include “advocacy” in the Mission Statement. We all share a common goal—to take the Institute to a brighter future as a stronger entity. Our challenge is how to get there and, in my view, changing the Mission Statement in the way proposed will not do that. There is a very compelling case that we are headed in the right direction now with two strong years of financial and operational performance highlighted in the 2010 Letter to Members.

It may be time for the Board to step back, reengage with our members, and build a strategic plan that we can all embrace. I concur with the views expressed by our 23rd CNO and former USNI President, Admiral Carl Trost, “USNI cannot be an Independent Forum and also be an advocate…There is no such thing as an independent advocate.”


John F. Lehman

Posted by admin in Naval Institute, Proceedings

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  • Jerry Hendrix

    Great Wisdom from a man in the know. Maybe its time to take the “Honorary” out of his title.

  • PJN

    Couldn’t agree more.

    The members have been waiting – and, I suspect, will continue to wait for a good, long while – for the Board to develop and articulate a course for moving forward through this mess. There’s been enough time to observe and orient – now it’s time to decide and act. The members of this fine institution (for whom the Board works) have spoken clearly and loudly that they want the vote to stand, the proposal to be defeated, and perhaps for a seachange to USNI Board membership.

    Ignoring the vote, as has been stated, is not only a foolish decision through the lens of common sense, but I must imagine is also against the policies and procedures of the Board, and perhaps even those that legally govern the institution and provide us our non-profit status.

    The conduct of the Board so far has been foolish and reckless. The plan moving forward is unclear. It’s time to see some leadership emerge, from the Board… or from membership, if the Board members are unwilling or unable.

  • JohnByron

    Let’s see. John Lehman. john Morgan. One of these men is an idiot.

  • UltimaRatioRegis

    What the Secretary MEANT to say was that “he wholeheartedly agreed with URR in his response to Steven Waters’ letter to the USNI membership”…

    Well-said by the good Secretary.

  • God Bless you, Mr. Secretary. Those are great words to hear!

  • Rob Johnson

    Agree with this. I have always found USN and Proceedings to be of superior quality. A supporting point, the opinion of a mere Lt in the USN or Coast Guard is every bit as important, if not more than one from a graduate student or Dr. at any university, who knows little to nothing of the real world.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    The Adm Trost quote is on the money.

  • SemperP

    I too agree with Sec. Lehman’s position, that an organization can either be an advocay group (read AARP) or an independent organziation but not both. I think if USNI goes down the path of advocacy we will put our membership, many active duty and reserve still serving, in a difficult situation. It’s one thing to take a position but another to advocate one that runs counter to service or national policy. Keep USNI as it is and let the discussion continue…