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Once upon a time there were physical viewgraphs that sat on a projector located some distance from the speaker. To change viewgraphs, the speaker used a Voice Activated Slide Changer (VASC) (also know as a person who responded to the phrase “next slide please”).

As we shifted from viewgraphs to slide carousels to digital presentation the concept of someone else turning the page remained. Yet the technology evolved over time so that a remote presentation mouse is available, cheap, user friendly, but also rarely used in military settings. Instead, presentations tend to fall back on the cheapest commodity we have – people.

Well, they aren’t actually the cheapest commodity but it sure does come across as cheaper and easier for senior, and in some cases junior, personnel to have someone at the computer to respond to “next slide please”. But there’s a flip side to this problem.

Outside the military the concept of the VASC has fallen by the wayside. Look at any major presentation given today. The two most common methods are either self-flipping with a remote – or careful rehearsal and timing. In some rare cases there is someone flipping slides, but it is so seamless as to not be noticed – and the words “next slide please” are never used.

Why do military personnel rely on the concept of “next slide please”? Because some leaders maintain that sense of entitlement that they need mundane tasks performed by someone else. Others just simply can’t be bothered with the task of learning how to control a remote, or even worse, don’t have the capacity.

Now, I’m certain some of the pushback will be “why does it matter?” How can something as simple and mundane as “next slide please” be worthy of time and discussion? Because I believe, as we see a generational change, that the idea of using a VASC is becoming equated with unprofessional or lazy presentation. And that in turn colors the manner in which the presentation is received. Unprepared, lazy, unprofessional presentations lose the audience and in doing so lose the message. Which is the point of making the presentation anyway, right?



September 2011


Sal and others have covered this…but just for example’s sake.

The major military house of education that I attend recently had a “uniform day”. Here’s what people wore:

But they also wore

and  and

And being joint there were also those who wore and and and

Civilians wore this:

“Uniform” day.

There’s Diversity Thursday, Full Bore and Flightdeck Friday. Typically exciting or insightfull posts and commentary. This week I am inaugurating something new and different: “Mundane Monday”, a series of tips and ideas on the mundane things that can be banes of our existence. Administrivia (or administerrorism), use of data processing and presentation programs, the side of information assurance that the dear mongering annual training won’t cover, and a host of other normally boring things that yet cause people to say “WTF” on a regular basis. This week I’m commenting on the venerable and universal PDF file.

The Adobe Acrobat Portable Document File has been around for two decades, and been the de-facto standard for distribution of text files for half of that. One would think that after a decade of common use, both in the hallowed halls of government and without, that there’d be a bit more knowledge of it’s usage. Sadly, like most data processing tools there are few educational tools for producers, and even fewer for consumers.

The PDF format allows you to do many things – all of which universalize the document as well as reduce the file size.
– Have a PowerPoint document that runs at too many slides and too many pictures but need to email it? Try printing to a PDF (look under the “Print” option in PowerPoint) and emailing the reduced and unalterable file.
– Have a form that needs to be filled in? Create it in MSWord, then print to a PDF. If you have a full version of Acrobat (not just the reader) you can add fillable blocks on the form.
– Distributing an instruction? Rather than scan in a bunch of images and sending out unsearchable files in either PDF, TIFF, or JPG files, PDF the original MSWord document (yes, you can create a fancy government seal header in MSWord, and embed a signature as well). That makes the document searchable – and if you are really daring you can go so far as to build hyperlinks into the Table of Contents – something I believe MSWord will do if you use the Table of Contents form fields.

So, mundane. On Monday. Any good stories on improper use of PDFs? Good stories on excellent use of this common tool? Places someone should have used a PDF and went with some gucci-proprietary over-costed solution? Or other ideas to talk about on a Mundane Monday.

When your 4-star boss is given a captive audience of over 200 senior officers who are spending the year reading and studying operational art, strategy, policy, decision making and interagency cooperation please pack a slide deck of something other than the canned command brief.

Or, if that is all you have, tell the boss to skip through the slides, drop the buzzword bingo lingo, and get to the Q&A as quickly as possible.

Thank you.

PS – General Kehler, great job on the Q&A.

 “Here may be a good place to dispel two long-held myths: one, that the organization serves and always has served only the highest-ranking officers of the sea services; and two, that the purpose of this first meeting was to discuss how the Navy was going to cope with a depleted and deteriorating post-Civil War Fleet. Rear Admiral John L. Worden (pronounced WERE-den)—skipper of the USS Monitor during her epic battle with the CSS Virginia in the 1862 Battle of Hampton Roads—presided over the first meeting. But the bulk of the group consisted of commanders, lieutenant commanders, lieutenants, a Marine captain, a chief engineer, a medical director, and a pay inspector.”

From For Those Who Dare By Fred L. Schultz (emphaisis added)

Is that truly the case anymore? Here are the first sentences in the biographies of the current members of the Naval Institute Board of Directors:

 “…over 30 years of experience providing international strategic and financial advice to corporations, institutional investors, sovereign governments and private families.”

“…is a past president of the Independent Community Bankers of America, and presently serves on the ICBA Tax Committee. He is also a former president of the Iowa Independent Bankers Association.”

“…was a staff member of the House Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee, where he ultimately held the position of Republican chief counsel. While with the committee, Mr. < – – > was directly involved in the development of legislation leading up to the enactment of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.”

“…is an International Consultant with The SPECTRUM Group based in Alexandria, Virginia, which he joined in 2007. Prior to that he was President of Raytheon International, Europe, headquartered in Brussels, Belgium. He was responsible for all Raytheon business planning and development in Europe, and held this position for eight years.”

“…is the CEO of Genesis IV, an executive consulting firm headquartered in Northern Virginia. From March 2009 until 2010, he was Acting Secretary of the Navy. Previously he served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Installations and Environment). Prior to becoming the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (I&E), Mr. Penn was the Director, Industrial Base Assessments from October 2001 to March 2005.”

“…was born in Pleasantville, New York, the son of a USAAC officer. Six generations of his family were military officers among them five West Point or VMI graduates. He is a direct descendant of Commodore Thomas Truxtun, one of the earliest heroes of the U.S. Navy and Colonel Archibald Henderson, the 5th and longest serving Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps. “

“…With an economics degree from the University of Virginia, < – – > entered the U.S. Navy in 1972 and for the next 36 years was steeped in the practical side of planning, execution, and organizational leadership. “

“…is a historian and author on American naval and strategic history. His War Plan Orange: The U.S. Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897-1945, published by the U.S. Naval Institute Press, received wide acclaim from senior cabinet and military leaders and the press.”

“…is a cofounder and Advisory Director of Trident Capital. From 1990 to 1993, < – – > served as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Financial Management) and Comptroller of the Navy. From 1987 to 1990, he held several senior positions in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in Washington, D.C. From 1981 to 1987, < – – > was a Managing Director of Morgan Stanley & Co. Earlier in his career, he was a Senior Vice President with Dillon Read & Co.”

“…is chairman of Innosight, an innovation-based consulting and executive training firm focused on helping companies and institutions innovate for new growth and transformation. He co-founded the firm with Harvard Business School professor and best selling author on innovation, Clayton M. Christensen. “

“…was elected Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton in 2005 and became a Senior Vice President in 2009. In 2003, < – – > was appointed by President Bush as executive director of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB). In May 1998 she was confirmed by the Senate to serve as first deputy director of central intelligence for community management.”

“…was born and raised in Syracuse, New York. He was graduated from Syracuse University in 1965 with a BA in History and was a 3-year Varsity Lacrosse letterman.”

“…retired in October 2009 having served 35 years in the Navy. Her last position was Director, Command, Control, Communications and Computer Systems, The Joint Staff. She is now consulting and serving on the Boards of several corporations. She is also serving on a Blue Ribbon Panel reviewing the FAA’s IP-based Wide Area Network outage experienced on November 19, 2009. “

“…was formerly the Managing Director of Morgan Stanley’s Merchant Bank, Chairman of Morgan Stanley Capital partners and Chairman of Morgan Stanley Venture Partner as well as a Director of Morgan Stanley & Co. Incorporated and a member of the Firm’s Management Committee. “

I am certain some will quibble over “but…four sentences down it says” or some other such thought. The first sentance or two, to me, say what that individual holds important – how they want to be introduced to someone. The rest is important, and the real level of military service from these individuals will be covered in future posts.

In their introduction to the membership – in their “here is who I am” – only 2 mention active duty service. 1 mentions significant contributions to either the Navy as a civilian. 1 mentions significant contributions to the Navy as an Institute author. Do these biographies indicate any semblance of the spirit of the founders of the Institute?

I don’t think so.

Again, from For Those Who Dare:

…the most potent participants in the Naval Institute’s Independent Forum have been Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and Merchant Mariners who wrote and continue to write about things that concern them. These have not been professional writers. But they are the ones—the pilots, the ship drivers, the equipment handlers, the ones with first-hand experience—who possessed what long-time Proceedings Editor-in-Chief Fred Rainbow called “the passion to make it happen.”

Can anyone point out articles, speeches, statements or provocative thought from these individuals (the esteemed author aside, of course)? Not the official utterances of position, but the thoughts and opinions of the person over the things that concern them about the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard, or the Institute itself?

For those who wonder…the Annual Meeting was over a month ago. There was supposed to have been a Board Meeting this week to discuss the Annual Meeting, the questions and comments raised there, and the challenge to the vote held this spring.

At the Annual Meeting the membership was promised a dialogue over the future of the Institute. Has anyone seen the beginnings of a dialogue from the leadership of the Institute? Or a report on the search for a new CEO?

While the Annual Meeting is behind us, this issue is not dead and the challenge to the Institute’s spirit and soul is not over.

Zimmerman knew.

With yesterday’s announcement of General Dempsey as the new Chairman this brief might be of relevance.

Posted by M. Ittleschmerz in Army | 1 Comment

From “Connecting the Dots”

Promotion board result season is upon us, and yet again, the questions fill the air as members of our team attempt to do their own analysis of the results. Despite the numerous flaws in such analysis, individuals will use their “findings” as reason to either validate or alter their desired career path. I mention flaws in the analysis because none of us have the decision inputs that the promotion board did. Yes, I will acknowledge that many times the information we have may be more relevant, as generally speaking many reporting seniors do a poor job of truly documenting performance, holding juniors formally accountable (conduct), and accounting for the personality traits that, if incentivized, would truly build a prolific team (Multipliers vs Diminishers). Our approach to Fitness Reports doesn’t do us any favors (ranking based on relative seniority amongst peers, trying to be “The Good Guy” for everyone, deferring the reality check to the promotion board, etc), but that is not the point of this post. My confusion lies in what really amounts to an annual quest to identify the jobs we should ourselves take as we refine our path to obtaining the collar devices for which we so desperately yearn. Yes, there are plenty who continue to value perceived success (rank) over measurable significance (making a meaningful contribution) and that in itself remains our biggest challenge.

Read the rest at

Posted by M. Ittleschmerz in Navy | 3 Comments

Last week the CNO announced that the Information Dominance Directorate would not be acquiring programs and officers from the Surface and Submarine Warfare Divisions (N86 and N87). This decision took two years of study and was the final piece that tells us that N6’s merge with N2 really was to just free up a flag billet…which is what N6 has been doing every other year since inception.

But that’s not the 19th Century thinking. The old-think stems from the inability to further erode the power of the platform in favor of the modern dominance of the information. At the same time we see one part of the Navy realizing that the Littoral Combat Ship needs it’s own Program Executive Office to merge combat systems and hulls another part of the Navy is furthering the divide between the information and the platforms that use it.

Today’s modern Chief of Naval Operations Staff (OPNAV) is an amalgamation and transformation that only centuries of bureaucracy can provide. It often reminds me of the house I grew up in – it had been added on to and remodeled so many times that while it looked good from the outside and functioned well on the inside it was neither efficient, logical or the way any architect would have put it together. Which is probably why after the last hurricane to hit my hometown, the owners chose to tear it down rather than repair.

Now, I am not advocating that a natural disaster needs to so thoroughly wreck OPNAV that it would have to be rebuilt from scratch (though I suspect that there are many who would cheer at the thought, at least the wrecking part). Instead I propose that someone, somewhere should take a look at the mission and functions – both statutory and adopted – of the OPNAV staff and redesign it so that it becomes both efficient and logical.

To begin with – the term “Operations” should be removed. The Navy Staff has nothing to do with the operational movement of forces, nor should they. That is what Fleets are for and too many in the staff of the “Chief of All Naval Operations” think that they are there to move the chess pieces. What the Staff is really there to do is two fold – set policy and develop budgets. If it’s not one of those two things, then it’s probably make work or self-imposed churn.

Of course, we can’t just go off into la-la land and ignore some other realities – the “N-code” construct is something that needs to be retained as it is simple and universal within the various armed forces. Bad enough that we have so many different combinations of camouflage, at the very least our admin (where already aligned) should remain so.

How would one version of a redesigned staff look?

N1 – Personnel Policy: support the CNO (yes, keep the title) in formulating policy for the “man” and “train” functions. Move the Community Managers back to N1 and make Commander, Naval Personnel Command the executer of the current year budget (akin to the manner in which CFFC relates to CNO).

N2 – Disestablish: Intelligence functions do not need to be on a administrative staff.

N3 – Operational Policy: Force deployment allocation, deployment length, if there is a policy that applies to the application of forces ashore or at sea, this is where it gets approved. It might be developed somewhere else, but this is where it’s vetted before going to N5 and CNO

N4 – Logistics Policy: All things supply. And ammunition. And medical. And commissary. And infrastructure.

N5 – Strategy Formulation and Policy Wholeness: What are we doing long term? And, do all of our policies make sense when put together?

N6 – Communications Spectrum Policy:

N7 – Disestablish

N8 – Budget Wholeness: Build the budget. This is the only one that I will speak to subcodes:

N81: Personnel budgetting. Works in N8, N1 signs concurrent report.

N82: Intelligence system budgetting. Works in N8, Defense Intelligence Agency signs concurrent report.

N83: Operations budgetting. Works in N8, N3 and CUSFFC sign concurrent report.

N84: Logistics budgetting. Works in N8, N4 signs concurrent report.

N85: Platforms: The hull, airframe, seaframe, people tank what ever you want to call the macro platform.

N86: Communications budgetting. Works in N8, N6 signs concurrent report.

N87: Sensors: How the platforms see

N88: Weapons: How the platforms kill

Policy. Budget. That’s all. All those other things that OPNAV does now? Figure out (1) what value do they provide and then either stop doing the things without real value or realign those things with value to the appropriate operational commander.

And I am certain someone will quibble (especially about that N2 part) but at least it’s a place to start a discussion that is both long overdue and likely to not to have any official sanction any time soon.

4 years ago NAVADMIN 147/07 began the process of transitioning the Individual Augmentee process away from “Welcome Aboard, you’ve been selected to go on an IA” to “OK, you have time in your career path, we can send you on a GWOT Support Assignment”. Given the pathetic manner in which many commands had handled the IA assignment process (as well as the pathetic manner in which Navy had apportioned IAs to manpower claimants) the GSA was heralded as a good thing that allowed officers and Sailors to plan and removed the burden from commands to provide short notice fills from already decreased ranks.

The program was set up in three phases…but not much has been publicized since NAVADMIN 171/10 changed the name from “Global War On Terror Support Assignment” to “Overseas Contingency Operations Support Assignments”. The promise to do away with short notice tasking for long established requirements remained – but has not been realized.

Since the IA (like “NOB” and the “PRT” a name change can only go so far in Navy culture) has become such a ubiquitous part of the Navy the level of acceptance has gone up, the level of open disgruntlement has gone down and the visible level of Flag involvement in the program has disappeared.

Which must be how requirements like this are allowed to pass through five separate 4-star commands to get approved.

 LINE NUMBER: NE-4387-0001/ PLATOON LEADER / O2-O3 / UNRESTRICED LINE OFFICER, WARFARE QUALIFIED/ with a current Secret clearance and a PRD of at least 12/2012. Report date 10/3/2011 for 270 days in theater (estimated return date 9/30/2012). Duty location Afghanistan. Position Description: Postal Platoon Leader tasked to provide customer service and postal finance support for up to 6,000 personnel consistent with theater mail policies and priorities. Services include money orders, postage stamp sales, special services and package mailing.

Seriously? IAs support an Army that three years ago hadn’t deployed a third of it’s Soldiers and two years ago had learned to massage those numbers so that “being in a unit with deployment orders” counted the same as being deployed which still left 25,000 soldiers who had never deployed. And within that 25,000 (because that’s the smaller number) the Army is unable to find someone qualified to handle the mail? And needs a warfare qualified Navy officer to do it?


I understand that the Navy has a cultural bias against saying No to missions and tasking. But. A warfare qualified postal officer?


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