Archive for the 'Loren Thompson' Tag

So Navy Times scribe Phil Ewing sat down with me the other day to discuss blogging, the ex-USS Iowa, naval history and blogging. The result was a Scoop Deck interview, entitled “Hanging’ with Dr. Hooper“. If you want to know why I do this–and why I’m retiring the old “Defense Springboard” alias, go pay Scoop Deck a visit.

In the interview, we discussed how blogging has become a means to for new defense policy/national security talent to emerge. Having the trillion-dollar defense industry tied to three or four oft-quoted defense commentators is not healthy. The community needs a more voices–whose views are not compromised by where they’re getting their paycheck.

In the interview, I threw down a marker for those big-league defense commentators:

“…what I’d like to sort of try and be is the anti-Loren Thompson. Loren is a great source, a smart person, but he’s become so ensnared in his competing interests, it’s difficult to take him credibly [a good example is here].”

Uh…can you hear us bloggers now, Loren? Or are you at the beach?

(To be honest, I’ve been Loren bashing a long time–back before it was cool to do so. Here’s some coverage of Loren contradicting himself on the LCS back in September 16, 2009 and Loren doing a ex-SECNAV Winter apologia from early 2008. In my mind, good, solid debate makes for better strategies and better weapons…but when paid flacks enter the public sphere they, more often than not, protect errors and work to sustain mistakes.)

In the interview I pushed back on the choke-hold Washington, DC holds on defense policy debates. That’s normal–DC is the center of gravity, where the decision-makers live. But over-centralization leads to group-think and limits input. So, in my mind, it’s good to build and maintain separate, independent centers of defense policy expertise.

Let’s put it this way. San Francisco isn’t exactly synonymous with defense expertise–but it’s growing–from scratch–a community of defense policy people:

“…doing it out here in San Francisco has been great. There’s a lot of enthusiasm for this. We’re starting to build a policy community where there wasn’t one. We’ve got Kyle Mizokami, he’s blogging about the Japanese navy and the Japanese self defense force; we have Christopher Albon [note: when he’s not off doing thesis research in Africa]. It’s neat to build a competing center to provide a little bit of a a reality check on the Beltway bloggers, so to speak.”

San Francisco doesn’t have a critical mass of defense policy expertise available–yet. But in a few years, who knows? Wait and see…

Finally, well, we discussed civil-military communication. Though the military has made enormous progress in engaging, it still has a way to go:

“…When the military loses its ability to communicate itself and its ideas in a patient way, that’s disturbing. That weakens the very fabric of our nation. It’s tremendously important for the military to learn how to engage and explain itself to its citizens. In this era of complex weapons, of projects, of complex strategies, it really needs to go the extra mile and tell its message. Anything I can do in that regard, I feel like, is time well spent…”

And time well spent it is….Go read the interview. And if you want more perspective on this interview–my politics and the like, go check out and read about it over there.

Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute is constantly in news articles and opinion pieces about the military, especially on the subject of acquisition. He is knowledgeable and opinionated – a powerful and highly influential combination from the perspective of those in the military trying to shape a message that is delivered to reporters, the defense industry, and, ultimately, the general public.

Other think tank academics from the Heritage Foundation, the Brookings Institute, the hot new tank in town Center for a New American Security, American Enterprise Institute, CSIS, CNA Corporation, and CRS (just to name a few) are frequently quoted in news articles about the military on just about every subject. An outside industry expert provides the balance, context and/or an opposing view.

So, does the military proactively and regularly engage these experts? Is this engagement institutionalized or haphazard? Do they have dedicated staff responsible for managing these relationships? The technology industry and their marketing and public relations professionals are very good at this. They court the renowned industry analysts (Gartner Group, META Group, Forrester, and the like) as vociferously as they do technology, business and consumer media, as they know that the industry analysts are significantly influential with the media. In fact, before every major product launch, initiative announcement or company news, they schedule one-on-one meetings with these experts to let them see the new products, kick the tires and test drive them. Not only does it give the technology marketers advance knowledge of any weaknesses (perceived or real) to the product, but it also gives the marketers a chance to directly communicate the technology company’s objective, audience and rationale for the new product. The expert may or may not agree with the technology company’s point of view, but at least they are informed directly by the source – not via a third party or a leaked document. When reporters do call them for a quote, these industry influencers will at least know the technology company’s position.

It is clear from the comments many of the defense industry think tank reps make that they are in constant contact with their own well-cultivated DoD sources. But, is DoD leadership as religious in their outreach to these influencers? If not, they should be. Incorporating them into the military’s communications strategy and outreach process will help the military leadership better make its case.