The greater navy community is trying to figure out how to “get through” to a new generation of Naval Officers. Senior Naval Officers have misinterpreted a lack of new membership at USNI as a lack of desire by young officers to be a part of the conversation when the opposite is true. The rise in sites such as “Sailorbob” is evidence of this. We want to have an impact in the conversation. Senior and retired officers that I have talked to also want us to be involved. Now both sides need to find a middle ground where both sides can communicate.

There are a few myths that I would like to first dispel. We, the millennial naval officers, are in fact proud members of the community. We have many similar stories and experiences. We have deployed to the same places and have enjoyed leading sailors. We still like having a cigar on the bridge wing at sunset, we still enjoy watching a rooster tail shoot up from the back of a Destroyer and we still drink coffee to get through a long watches in CIC. However, there is one large difference. We communicate differently. The Naval Institute is asking the hard questions of why their membership is aging and the younger officers are not joining in droves as they have in the past. The answer is that there is a communication divide which has to be actively addressed. Social media and blogging sites are how our generation communicates. We are less likely to develop our ideas for a magazine where it will take two or three months to see print when we can blog it and see feedback within hours, if not minutes. The Naval Institute Blog is a great step but it needs to go further. I see two avenues that can be addressed: Wardroom Discussion pieces, and Junior Officer advancement.

First of all, direct communication with ships in the fleet about what issues and concerns are facing them in real time is how you become relevant again. The Institute should be trying to drive the Wardroom conversations like they once did. Technological advances in communication should be seen as a step up instead of a step back. Ships can now have two-way communication, while at sea, with USNI. If a controversial issue is in Proceedings, there should be a call out to ships to have wardroom conversations on the piece and provide feedback on the website. A CO should drive this wardroom conversation and be proud to have the points that were raised posted under the ship’s name on the USNI website. I think that senior officers might be surprised at the results that they get back. Who knows, they might hear something new.

Secondly, while JO’s are trying to get qualified they are constantly in need of professional information. “Message to Garcia” tasking comes to mind. The Institute needs to ensure that the USNI website is the place that JO’s turn to for this information. Once JO’s see the Naval Institute as a resource that they can use, they will also see it as something that they want to contribute to. This will drive participation in the Blog as well as the magazines.

The Naval Institute is vital to the future of the professional dialog within the navy. The millennial generation of Naval Officers wants to be a part of this dialog, and already is in its own way. The goal of the Naval Institute should be to ensure that the dialog is happening in their forums.

LT Rob McFall is a Surface Warfare Officer that spent four years on USS WINSTON S. CHURCHILL out of Norfolk, VA. He is currently stationed in Washington D.C. and is a member of the U.S. Naval Institute and the Next Generation of National Security Leaders at the Center for a New American Security.

[ADMIN Note: Tell us what you think, how the above might happen and we will engage as a staff to tell you what are trying to do internally. Also, please note we welcome guest posts]

Posted by LT Rob McFall in Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy

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  • P.S. Wallace

    A blog format gives immediacy and ease of posting. A periodical format gives more permanency (especially as relating to the historical record), an increased measure of prestige, a greater vetting, perhaps a wider readership (or at least a wider range of readers), and often longer length as well. The periodical also offers the opportunity to separate the wheat from the chaff for those with limited time.

    At professional engineering conferences, many short papers are presented, often numbering in the hundreds. Out of those papers, some are seen as having such unusual merit that the authors are invited to expand upon or revise them for publication in the main journals of record, where they became an even greater part of the body of knowledge.

    Perhaps something similar can be done in the naval world. For I do not see the periodical format ever disappearing, even if it no longer exists in print form.

  • P.S. Wallace,

    “A blog format gives immediacy and ease of posting. A periodical format gives more permanency (especially as relating to the historical record), an increased measure of prestige, a greater vetting, perhaps a wider readership (or at least a wider range of readers), and often longer length as well. The periodical also offers the opportunity to separate the wheat from the chaff for those with limited time.”

    The staff of the Naval Institute agree. That is why the blog was launched as a part of USNI, not as a replacement to Proceedings.

  • LT S

    LT McFall is right. As a fellow “millenial” Naval Officer I am extremely proud to serve in the Navy and I genuinely feel that we have some good ideas on several different facets of Naval life, whether it has to due with the Surface, Submarine or Aviation community. Yet, we rarely are offered the time or place for those conversations. (I realize that the good officer does not need to be invited to add constructive criticism or thoughtful comments, but it’s certainly easier when you realize that your opinion/ideas are at least welcome and even appreciated.)

    Officers on sea duty don’t spend an appropriate amount of time engaged in professional dialogue. We’re too busy getting ready for the next inspection, trudging through Admin drills or working with the Goat locker to figure out the best way to get our sailors to the schools they need/deserve for the benefit of the ship and their career. Officer training isn’t spent on discussions of controversial issues – its spent on Navigation safety training from a recent incident, or weapons/tactics training. While those topics are necessary they don’t encourage the type of professional discussion that would be elicited from reading and discussing a Proceedings article or tackling a recent leadership challenge seen/felt in the wardroom or elsewhere on board the ship. The only time that this happened for me at my first sea duty, was when our newly turned over CO mandated such discussions at least monthly at a venue other than onboard the ship.

    As LT’s like us head back to ships, submarines and squadrons as department heads, I think its important to encourage this type of a discussion. A Naval Officer’s professional training does not end as soon as he/she is commissioned, yet very few wardrooms take the time to officially pursue such important topics, because it only hinders completion of the other requirements that exist for a healthy sea-going vessel.

    I think this blog is the right place to start. It was at LT McFall’s suggestion that I read his post, and I’ve looked at other postings on the blog besides this one. I will be encouraging other “millenial” officers with the same passion for their job as LT McFall and I have to join the discussion. I am an avid reader of the other military blogs, but they can sometimes digress into a slew of childish comments – that issue is not readily apparent with the USNI blog. I hope to find many more useful and interesting discussion topics on this blog and I intend to encourage a similar discussion with all the members of the wardroom (senior/junior) at my next command. It would be great to see this blog used as a tool by CO’s in every community to tackle Navy wide or even community specific problems – as my old CO used to say, “No one has a monopoly on good ideas.”

  • jwithington

    I will comment more tomorrow, but the challenge to the Institute is to articulate why 25-30 year olds should take the trouble to join. The Web is a “only” medium for communication and interaction, and even if USNI were to “upgrade” its web presence, all is for naught if it can’t explain why JOs should bookmark the page. More tomorrow.

  • P.S. Wallace


    Agreed. The blog is part of the Institute.

  • EWB

    Another junior officer here, on my shore tour, relatively fresh from my fleet squadron. I joined USNI when my former skipper (a Facebook friend) started posting a lot about the mission statement debate. Skipper, you’ll probably read this, so don’t let it go to your head: the passion of the members for doing things the right way, in an open forum, is what drew me in. When I found myself reading the USNI blog (as well as Information Dissemination and a few others) on a nearly-daily basis, I decided it was time to join.

    Here’s the thing. Even with a Skipper passionate about USNI and the grand scheme of naval things, I wasn’t really aware of USNI, its history, or its open-forum discussions for the first six years I was in the Navy (ten if you count ROTC). Proceedings was only a magazine that sometimes appeared on a wardroom/ready room table.

    USNI’s first challenge is to advertise itself to JOs, and that may start at the midshipman/officer candidate level. Given the extensive training pipeline in nuke and aviation communities, it probably needs to start before the first sub/squadron. Some Proceedings articles (especially if they are designed to do so) could be adapted into discussion fodder for the Ethics classes we all take in accession training. Although Navy Times has embraced the tabloid aspect of it, a thoughtful set of Proceedings/USNI blog pieces on the selection of Commanding Officers, their training, and the places where the system and/or the officers fail could make for a far more interesting and memorable class than the simple dissection of a dead philosopher.

    Skippers and DHs, if your JOs haven’t heard of USNI, they’ll never get involved. As LT McFall said, it’s not that we’re not interested in solving the problems of the world (read: Navy). It’s that the majority of us aren’t even aware of USNI as a forum for these problems. Keep a copy of Proceedings on the wardroom/ready room table, and when you see someone reading it, ask him what he thinks about the article and engage him in a discussion. Send a link to an interesting post on this site and others. Maybe ask whether anyone got a chance to read it over lunch. Yes, we’ll ignore a lot of the emails (Skipper, you’ve got us working hard!) but we’ll gradually get engaged.

    And of course, as LT McFall said, to keep people coming back, especially this generation of millennial officers, USNI has to have the content to be viewed as a resource not only for interesting sidebar discussions but for legitimate professional needs. THAT is what will lead one JO to direct another to USNI. USNI shouldn’t be the place to find a ready-made Battle of Midway celebration kit for the poor JO tasked with throwing the party, but should have a timely blog piece with links to some historical and/or archived material that will give said poor JO appropriate context. It would be a great place to have a discussion on the merits of centralized/decentralized command and control (and whether our extended-range radios and data links are gradually shifting us away from our proclaimed doctrine), or on information overload and how best to get an operator a manageable amount of correct information that will enable him to make sound tactical decisions. The first is a topic that was covered (in less detail) in my aircrew syllabus; the second is one that comes up rather frequently when in front of a scope that blossoms with unassociated tracks. Both would be something I as a JO would send out to my JO friends as the topic surfaced.

    One last thing…although LT McFall didn’t mention the initiative to gain enlisted members, I think getting more JOs in the ranks will help with that as well. I referenced all kinds of nerdy sources (and often forwarded copies of them) as I hung out with my sailors when the topic came up – the story on NPR about the sharks who like AC/DC, the NY Times article about farmer’s markets, the 600-page book about the Vietnam War I was just reading…why not the Proceedings article or USNI blog post I just read? Just as with the JOs, it’s a fight for awareness as much as anything else.

    LT Elizabeth Burnham

  • To Jeff’s comment, “I will comment more tomorrow, but the challenge to the Institute is to articulate why 25-30 year olds should take the trouble to join.”

    I will answer that in a small way and speak to your experience as one of our USNA Midshipman bloggers.

    Because we are in a unique position to help you gain access in an informal way to senior leadership. To enable that conversation. Not to break the chain of command but to allow you an avenue outside of the formal, institutional military construct to have a conversation – to make your voice heard. This happens well on our blog – formally and with the anonymous capability as well.

    It is always, always about allowing the junior voice to speak – officer, enlisted, student of both.

    The barrier to writing in Proceedings is high. We know that. The challenge of maintaining a print magazine is even higher. We also know that Proceedings is a fabric of the Navy’s history. Which is why we plan to have every article from 1878 published on our website in the next year. (AWESOME

  • GIMP

    I’ll throw a quick recommendation out. Have a “resources” tab and under that tab have a thorough and vetted set of resource links that are actually relevant to naval leaders. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had all my favorites canned by NMCI, and there are dozens of websites we need to access to do business daily. On any given day it’s FLTTMPS, AIR 4.0’s airworthiness, BOL, NKO, NSIPS, ESAMS, and the list goes on and on and on. The navy’s web site listings give equal weight to the worthwhile and the worthless. Give JOs a reason to come and they’ll stick around a while. Make the resource tab a place JOs can go to when they need to get something done and they’ll come back to the home page when they have time to visit and something to say.

  • P.S. Wallace

    I do not wish to threadjack, but it is pertinent–in regards to the comment that the barrier to writing in Proceedings is high–it is in fact too high, artifically high, especially considering what has been published there before, and that magazine has lost my faith and confidence that it is an effective vehicle for maintaining the fighting abilities of the Navy.

    While alternate means of communication are fine, it is simply unacceptable if Proceedings becomes merely the way people try to influence the Washington budget process and the blog becomes the JO ghetto. There has to be balance.

  • Introducing USNI and creating awareness at a time when one is most receptive to receiving valuable professional advice or expressing an idea is a moving target. That moment clicks at different times for many. This highlights the importance of consistently conducting a high level discussion in print and online at all times because when you’re ready USNI will be there. Those serving you here at USNI take our responsibilities to you very seriously and will respond to whatever extent possible to be relevant to you. For your part, nothing could contribute more to the independent forum than spreading the word virally through your communities about this place and those who share ideas here. We look for grand slam solutions when at times base hits will get the job done. An example was our Editorial Board meeting this past week, when some dozen or so of your shipmates accepted one of the most important challenges we have ever faced. Each will recruit a willing junior colleague and mentor them through the process of submitting an article for Proceedings during the next twelve months. With twelve new junior voices contributing we expect fresh, relevant debate and productive discussions. We’re listening to you carefully and appreciate your efforts to shape USNI to meet your needs. More to come.
    Bill Miller, publisher at USNI

  • Alpha

    “We welcome guest posts” but you require an email address and a name. Is USNI really that ignorant about internet identity tracking and the risks that JO’s take when publishing something that takes a stance not in line with popular thought?

  • YN2(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III

    There’s huge potential in USS OTHER SHIP submitting UNCLAS challenges they face while deployed and crowd sourcing solutions (not literal solutions, mind you. But, examples leading to solutions for them)via USNI.

    USNI can be, as facebook, tumbltr et. al are: the ties that bind. USNI needs only be the platform that allows Sailors to network and expand their knowledge base. The technology is there, and it is relatively cheap.

    Get into the Wardrooms and Chief’s Mess. To do this, use the influential members you already have, have them approach the Wardrooms and Chief’s mess. The Chief’s Mess is 95% networking. Provide for them an additional forum to network and collaborate. There must be some retired CMC out there that could go talk to the Mess aboard ship.

    One thing that is probably going to have to be a corollary to such an effort, is monetizing it. That I suppose is what makes this hard…

  • Mike M.

    I think there is a deeper problem.

    When I first started reading the Proceedings, 35 years ago, it was a cauldron of discussion and debate. Getting an article published was career-enhancing.

    Today, a significant portion of the Navy has become actively hostile to any sort of professional paper. Getting an article published is at best worthless…and at worst damaging to your career. And the Proceedings suffers for it.

    Navy leadership needs to encourage discussion and debate – it fosters new ideas, and hones them in the fire of debate. The result is worth the minor inconvenience of losing some control over the message. People aren’t stupid – they can smell propaganda a mile away. Tight message control doesn’t work anyway.

  • P.S. Wallace

    In reply to Mr. Miller,

    Twelve mentorees is fine and all, and I don’t mean to be a jerk, but the question needs to be asked–if you are outside the chosen 12, then what?

    I hate having to be the gadfly, but here are some questions that I think need to be asked–are these articles from the 12 guaranteed publication? If not guaranteed, are they going to be refined and guided till they are worthy? It’s not hard to count the number of articles published in Proceedings per year. 12 is a substantial number. How easy is it going to be if you are a non-12 JO to get published, if basically 12 other JOs have got a leg up? How many articles from JOs (Navy definition–O-4 and below) have been published as articles in the last two years, anyway? How many were on fleet warfighting issues and not on what I would uncharitably call “trendy” issues? Can Proceedings say with a straight-face that articles to date have been published solely on merit? Etc. Etc.

    Like I said, I hate to be that guy. I hate to be a gadfly. But it seems like it needs to be done. How about you guys stop being trendy vis a vis what the civilian leadership theory boys say and just start publishing good pieces when they come across the transom? My guess is that will generate more good articles than any mentoring process will. Figure out who your audience is, for once and for all. If Washington, so be it. If the fleet, so be it. If both, so be it. But decide, and stick to it.

  • ““We welcome guest posts” but you require an email address and a name. Is USNI really that ignorant about internet identity tracking and the risks that JO’s take when publishing something that takes a stance not in line with popular thought?”

    Alpha: we have and will post guest pieces with anonymity. We recognize the risks but we have a very good track record on this blog of guarding anonymity.

  • P.S. Wallace,

    Thank you for your input – and you are not ‘that guy’. You ask some important questions. We have noticed an uptick in JO and Junior Enlisted submissions in the past few months and we are carefully tracking those articles. Some are worthy of publication and some need help.

    We are not trying to give anyone a leg-up at the expense of anyone else, rather take to heart the need for mentoring that has been expressed by our members. We see our audience as those interested in the discussions of the Sea Services. That may be Washington and it may be The Fleet. The two are not mutually exclusive.

    The mentoring process begins with the JO submission not hand-picking favorites.

  • Admiral Jim Stavridis

    As someone who is not a “millenial” Naval Officer, but who at times feels like I’ve been around a “millenium” at least, I strongly agree with Rob’s ideas. And I think USNI can accomodate anonymous posts, if folks are more comfortable that way. In this turbulent 21st century, we best create security not by building walls, but by building bridges — to include between ourselves in open dialog.

  • LT Rob McFall


    Thank you very much for your comments. They mean a great deal to me.

    I have received a good amount of feedback from Senior Officers and peers alike today and I have seen a common trend. Everyone wants to improve our communication.

    Admiral, as arguably the best communicator in the Navy, what advice do you have for the rest of us? You seem to be able to connect with officers and sailors at all levels. How can we, as an organization, improve our internal communications?


    Rob McFall
    LT USN

  • P.S. Wallace,
    No offense taken. We need to hear your concerns. The “12” is not a limit, it’s an outreach from some of your peers who hope to take a step in the right direction with Proceedings. Look at recent issues, and you will have to agree there is already a junior voice, one that is thoughtful and important. If you have thoughts, submit them. No guarantees on publication in Proceedings, not even from the “12”. Most flag officers can produce a rejection letter or two. And almost all will get a call from time to time with suggestions from the editors. The result is always a stronger statement. The editorial board includes junior officers, and we can describe what goes on there in more detail if there’s interest. The bottom line is we can’t get all the good stuff in Proceedings (just a reality of paper publishing), and much of what you see here in the posts and comments is more than worthy of Proceedings. We’re working now on ideas for expanding the online version of Proceedings to take more content and open the door wider. Meanwhile we see more cross-pollination of ideas and thought between the blog and Proceedings than we ever anticipated. Seeds planted here on the blog have grown into full-blown Proceedings pieces. Proceedings articles are discussed on the blog. It’s better than we hoped, thanks to you and our guest bloggers. You control the agenda here. We’re not done, never will be.

  • Fouled Anchor

    @USNI Publisher – You mentioned something I was logging on to discuss and that is the connection between Proceedings and the blog. The blog by nature has a great deal more energy and interaction than the online Proceedings articles. I’m not sure if that’s a nature of the audience/s, the delay in article comments getting posted, or something else.

    What about Admin and/or the editorial staff picking an article from the most recent Proceedings and posting it to encourage increased dialogue? Could be daily, on some set schedule, when it appears there is a slow blog day. Maybe even selecting an older Proceedings article and encouraging some compare/contrast on the Navy then and now? I believe Proceedings remains relevant and includes many great articles…but their usefulness is only guaranteed by ensuring they are discussed, debated, and disseminated.

    @LT McFall – Great post and great discussion you instigated. Some super ideas and dialogue as a result of your effort. BZ!

    @Everyone – I believe another recent post raised the idea of some fleet engagement-type seminars. That might make more people aware of USNI, the magazine, and the blog, and allow USNI leaders to hear more great ideas like those presented here.

  • Andy (JADAA)

    I’m very, very pleased to be seeing this discussion. It’s needed addressing and I think the discussion here is as vital as the good Lieutenant’s original posting. One thing that keeps me, at least, coming back to many blog and sites is the community (an wildly over-used word, I know) that frequently grows up around the commentariat to a particular blog. Equally true in some discussion forums associated with a site or blog.

    Perhaps it’s worth exploring putting this blog’s toe into the waters of discussion forums. Moderated, yet open for some freewheeling but reasoned discussions. Consider it.

  • EWB

    @Fouled Anchor @admin: Proceedings has an electronic format that allows comments? 1) Advertise that on this blog. I never before clicked on the Proceedings link, mostly because I didn’t realize there was additional content beyond what was delivered in my physical mailbox. 2) Absolutely link to particularly discussion-worthy stories (whether or not they have a lot of traffic already). 3) Definitely bring in historical articles. In relation to the current CVN/CV-light discussion going on as a result of a April Proceedings article, post a link to the 1930s and 1970s and 1990s discussions (I’m making up dates here) of the relevance of carriers and their appropriate size/airwing composition.

    @ GIMP: That resource tab is a solid idea, though I’m not sure FLTMPS is really in USNI’s lane. If USNI covers all the sea services, including the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard, surely there’ll end up being a lot of extraneous links. I’d rather have pieces of the Guide to Naval Writing, the Watch Officer’s Guide and other USNI-published books available, along with a better resource than for fitreps/evals. I throw it out to the crowd to refine this idea.

  • I like the tab idea, but I’ll go ya one better. Make a USNI version of that users can customize for themselves.

  • I think one way to encourage more submissions is to accelerate the publishing schedule. Rob notes a lag of two to three months from submission to print, but in my experience, it’s more like six or seven. I’m a just an old GEN X’er, but still lack the patience to wait that long to find out whether or not a piece will be printed when there are so many other options – blogs, other publications, etc. to get an idea out. No offense to the “Normans” — I’ve been reading them for 20+ years — but your regular columnists and flag officers shouldn’t have the monopoly on the right to have current topical articles posted. If a submission is good, fresh, and relevant, publish it within the next month. If there isn’t room or it misses a hard deadline, give the author the option to “publish” here, similiar to the Small Wars Journal Model.

    Finally, tread lightly with the editor’s pen. If an article is well written and skillfully articulated, your editors needn’t choose more politically correct language to appeal to whatever sort of demographic they may be chasing.

  • Fouled Anchor

    @EWB, it sure does, and hopefully you’ve checked it out now that yoy’re aware of it. It offers access to a few sections for anyone and the entire magazine for members. It also has an electronic version of the magazine which is a pretty cool feature.

    @Alo – I like the personalization idea. I wonder what the cost might be.

  • Mittleschmerz

    @ EWB, Fouled Anchor, et al on the electronic access to Proceedings.

    Yes, it’s there.

    It is very very cumbersome.

    If digerati X-ers won’t go there because it is cumbersome, then the Millenials won’t either.

    And if you can’t get them in the door, it doesn’t matter how good the content is.

    Oh, and it doesn’t have to be flashy – look at Google’s success…all meat, no garnish. The USNI website needs a functional makeover so that content can be rapidly found.

  • There are many valuable insights from this thread, and we will discuss them all. In particular with Fouled Anchor’s comment about the connection between Proceedings and the Blog, we have wondered about admin taking an active role in posting but done so only rarely. The USNI editors and editorial board control access and the agenda in Proceedings, (trying of course to choose well for the audience). With the Blog, our guest bloggers choose their own topics and say what they want within loose guidelines requiring only civility and respect within the dialog. Turning over the agenda to the readers has revealed huge benefits by encouraging debate in areas we missed in Proceedings or times when events overtake the long lags in the Proceedings editorial review and printing cycles (we can discuss that, too). Our guest bloggers will pick up Proceedings articles and work them over on their home blogs, and even here once in a while. We worry that if admin posts them it will appear as if we’re trying to control the agenda here, too. It’s a dilemma, and we would appreciate hearing your advice. Thanks, keep talking.
    USNI Publisher, Bill

  • CpoCreed

    @Battle Yeoman: Retired CMCs always welcome within lifelines/flightlines. However, we do have active-duty CMCs & fellow senior enlisted leaders who keep pulse on millenials’ & digerati’s preferred mode of communications. Although Chatham House Rules in effect on most goatlocker deliberations, am sure the good word will get out to deckplate triads.

  • LT Rob McFall


    This has been a great conversation and I hope that it will not stop here. It is obvious by all of the responses that this is a topic of great interest to members of the Naval profession of all ranks and generations. As technology continues to evolve, the only way that we can ensure that we are reaching the newest members of the naval service is to evolve the medium in which we have the conversation.

    Many of the conversations that occur in this blog, in the social media, and whatever the next forum is, will be as old as our profession itself. Questions of leadership and seamanship are eternal. More experienced sailors should continue to mentor the younger generation, and the younger generation should continue to ask their seniors for guidance. This is how we ensure that we maintain the most powerful navy in the world.

    During this discussion we have seen Admirals and Junior Officers, senior members of the goat locker and young seamen jump in and provide feedback on how the Naval Institute can move forward into the future. We have started the conversation and want to help. USNI now has the Conn.


    Rob McFall
    LT USN

  • jwithington

    Just witnessed an interesting exchange of posts via my Facebook feed.

    ENS Y: “Will be serving as admin officer onboard my ship!”
    LTjg Z: “I served as admin for a little bit…lettme know if you need any advice.”

    I wonder if USNI could act as a web portal for JOs. Like EWB said, have articles posted on things like naval writing.

    An unofficial naval wikipedia would cost very little (I would think) for USNI to manage.

  • This topic was very well received at the 2012 Junior Leader Innovation Symposium at NWDC in Norfolk