Category Archives: Seamanship and Leadership

KirkSlapsSelf

Our Debating Military: Here, If You’re Looking

“Not a military voice is heard calling for thoughtful, substantive change.”

-William S. Lind, “An Officer Corps That Can’t Score”

Will, “hello,” suffice? William S. Lind’s suggestion at The American Conservative Magazine that the Officer Corps is in a blind, intellectual death spiral is weighty indeed, but ignores the vast body of debate going on in the junior and senior ranks of our nation’s military. Rather than our officer corps living in a bubble, perhaps some of those discussing the internal debate of the military writ-large need to reach out of their bubble to see the rich discussion happening -right now-.

“Even junior officers inhabit a world where they hear only endless, hyperbolic praise of “the world’s greatest military ever.” They feed this swill to each other and expect it from everyone else. If they don’t get it, they become angry.”

-William S. Lind, “An Officer Corps That Can’t Score”

Mr. Lind accuses our Officer Corps of a hollow, cavalier attitude that would suggest they neither recognize nor wrestle with the threats of tomorrow or the mistakes of today. Ask any moderately informed officer on their thoughts about cyber-war, the F-35, LCS, insurgency, the utility of carriers, the proliferation of anti-ship cruise-missiles, etc.. and the opinions will be heated and varied. The Center for International Maritime Security has featured an entire week debating the merits of the Navy’s,“Air Sea Battle,” concept. The United States Naval Institute archives decades of articles relating to the debate over carriers. Small Wars Journal is a running testament to the continued debate over insurgency and irregular ground conflicts. There are also sometimes-anonymous outlets, like the Sailor Bob forum, Information Dissemination, or the wild wonderful world of Commander Salamander’s blog; they are quite popular in -light- of the often unique and critical perspective taken by writers.

The self-hate created by my blog's criticism is overwhelming me!

The self-hate generated by my awareness of challenges to US might is overwhelming me!

The majority of these articles are written by officers, with the approval or non-interference of their leadership. Of course, not all military leadership is necessarily embracing criticism, but that is natural to any top-down organization. We’ve made great strides. The Navy released the Balisle Report on its critical issues with maintenance. CDR Snodgrass’ 24 page study on retention is now a topic of wide debate encouraged by VADM Moran, Chief of Naval Personnel. If, as Mr.Lind describes, our officer corps had a comical “hulk-smash” reaction to suggestions of US Military weaknesses or institutional flaws, we’d have long ago beaten ourselves to rubble in the haze of an insatiable rage.

“What defines a professional—historically there were only three professions, law, medicine, and theology—is that he has read, studied, and knows the literature of his field. The vast majority of our officers read no serious military history or theory.”

-William S. Lind, “An Officer Corps That Can’t Score”

Gen. Mattis says we should have a 2000 year old brain... so we can shred triple-neck guitars.

Gen. Mattis says we should have a 2000 year old brain… so we can shred triple-neck guitars.

Mr.Lind suggests that our modern-day officers live in a historical desert, in which the lessons of yester-year are lost. I would suggest those doubters of the military’s historical memory look to the USS PONCE and the Navy’s re-embrace of sea-basing. Thomas J Cutler’s “Brown Water, Black Beret” is an excellent primer on the historical lessons the Navy is re-applying. Perhaps we might highlight the Navy and Marine Corps’ dual scholar-heroes of ADM Stavridis (ret) and Gen Mattis (ret): admired for both their acumen in the field and their rarely equaled study of the history of conflict

Mahan, ideating before it was cool. Photo-shop Credit: Matt Hipple

Perhaps Mr.Lind is disappointed in our lack of engagement with Mahan, in which case I would direct him to LCDR Benjamin Armstrong’s book, “21st Century Mahan.” Perhaps Clausewitz is our flaw? The Army and Air Force officers writing at “The Bridge” would likely demolish THAT center of gravity, if the snarky Doctrine Man doesn’t get there first. Perhaps we have not learned the importance of innovation from history! The military’s 3-D printing labs located around the country would likely raise their eyebrows in bemusement.

A Cleveland native myself, I understand how far Hampton Roads is from Mr.Lind’s home on the Northern Shore. However, anyone like Mr.Lind who doubts the military, officer or enlisted, is interested in tackling the issues should make every attempt to visit the June Defense Entrepreneurs Forum (DEFx) Conference in Norfolk. From flag officers to those who paint the flagstaff, the gamut of our service will be on location, out of uniform, debating our technical and institutional challenges in an unofficial and free forum. He may even meet some members of the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC). If Norfolk is a bridge to far, I’d encourage the doubters to sign up for membership at the Center for International Maritime Security. We have weekly meetings in DC where we talk about everything from Professional Military Education to drone operations.

Courtesy of CIMSEC author, Nicolas di Leonardo.

Courtesy of CIMSEC author, Nicolas di Leonardo.

The military is by no means perfect, but such imperfection is what drives the debate that both officers and enlisted are engaging in on a daily basis. Mr.Lind suggests interesting structural reform to better cultivate leadership in our officers. However he cites the need for such reforms based on a decrepit caricature of an officer corps the US Military is not saddled with. If one hasn’t, as a USNI author once told me, “done one’s homework,” ideas fall flat. There IS a debate happening in America’s Officer Corps, an educational and engaging one. We’re not too hard to find if you look.

 

Matthew Hipple is an active duty officer in the United States Navy. He is the editor of the NEXTWAR blog at the Center for International Maritime Security, host of the Sea Control podcast, and a writer for USNI’s Proceedings, War on the Rocks, and other forums. He would like to also give a nod to his friends at the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum, The Bridge, Doctrine Man, Athena Project, CDR Salamander Blog, Information Dissemination, Small Wars Journal, CRIC, and others who did not realize that they, like he, apparently do not exist.

JH

Happy Birthday John Harrison!

In the midst of dead-end innovation week, an innovative success beyond compare.

JH

Today marks the 321st Anniversary of the birth and the 238th Anniversary of the death of John Harrison, the inventor of the marine chronometer.

During the age of sail, accurately establishing your position at sea could be a dangerous problem. North/South coordinates were easy; east/west coordinates were difficult. When approaching land, sailors would use dead reckoning to ID known points or landmarks. However, many times positions were wrong, or navaids could not be seen, and many times were incorrectly identified. Errors like these often led to shipwrecks and wasted time; ship owners were losing cargo and great sums of money.

After a major shipwreck that accounted for over 200 deaths along with many other ships, the British Parliament offered a prize for the person who could accurately measure longitude; it was called quite simply, “The Longitude Prize,” which had a reward of 20,000 pounds (4.25 million today).

John Harrison was a self-taught carpenter and clock maker; he made it his life’s work to solve the problem by creating a reliable time piece unaffected by changes in temperature, humidity, or pressure. It would also keep accurate time during long distances, resist corrosion, and keep working on a moving ship in all weather conditions. The front runner to win the prize was an astronomer who would use celestial navigation to calculate a ships longitude. John understood that a reliable, easy-to-use time piece was the best method of measuring time, and thereby knowing longitude.

John created five versions of his chronometer, H-1 thru H-5. With H-1 being the largest and H-5 the size of a pocket watch; each kept very accurate time. John died without being awarded the prize, but he did receive funding from the English Parliament to continue his work on after the success of H-1.

His story is not as exciting as other great people in history, but more than most, his contribution in navigation made possible those exciting sea voyages that discovered other far off lands. Reading his story, he became one of my heroes. So if you would please, lift a toast to a great man on his Birthday. Cheers!

Erek Shanchez currently resides in Central Florida and is the Director of Operations for the Central Florida Warriors Rugby League. Retired from the US Navy in 2007 as a Rescue Swimmer and crewman on a 11m RHIB (SWCC).

Coursera-books

Classes for Nothing and Degrees For Free Pt. 2, or Knowledge (That’s What I Want)

By LCDR Adam Kahnke and LT Scott Cheney-Peters

In our first post Scott and I wrote about education opportunities available for those supporting the U.S. Navy, from reserve Marine Corps to active Navy to civil servants. We’ve updated that post with additional options thanks to RADM James Foggo, CDR Stephen Melvin, Chrissy Juergens, LCDR Vic Allen, and Tetyana Muirhead. In that article we focused on free courses that can be used towards degrees or certificate programs. But that’s not the only type of free training available.

Alternatively, you might find yourself in the situation “Degreed Out” (BSEE, MBA, CDFM, CISSP, OA Cert from NPS…), in which getting another master’s degree or certification may start merely seeming like alphabet soup. Also, if you’re like me and you find yourself on shore duty, it should be a time for professional and personal development, right? I tried something different and took a few classes through Coursera. Six classes actually, and I’m happy to say this was a very positive and rewarding experience. Coursera offers what are known as massive open online courses (MOOCs). In contrast with the courses in our first post, these typically have no limit on the number of seats in the class and some can be started at any time, although there are many variations on the set-up. While they too don’t charge for enrollment, a few have a small fee to test or “certify” you upon the course’s completion if that is something you’d like to pursue.

With Coursera each class ranged from 6-12 weeks in length and all required a different but not insignificant amount of work.  What did I get for my efforts you ask? All but one of the courses offered me PDF certificates of completion that don’t mean much to anyone but me. More importantly, I learned more than I thought possible in subject matters I chose (Cryptography, Reverse Engineering of Malware, Financial Engineering, Computational Finance, High Performance Computing and Guitar) by the experts in the field (Stanford, University of London International Programmes, University of Washington, Columbia University, Georgia Tech, and Berklee School of Music).

In my humble opinion, this is the future of education. I think this is the greatest invention since the public library system. It is the public library system and the internet combined, with guided direction of the world’s greatest instructors thrown into the mix. I am convinced that this is how the world will judge future academic institutions and decide where they will send their children to study full-time. It is also quite possibly, how future college students will prepare and choose their degree paths. I expect great things for the future due largely to efforts such as these. For Scott’s part, he believes the business model will allow MOOCs to count towards degree and certificate programs at “brick-and-mortar” institutions if they are individually partnered with that institution and upon the successful completion of testing on a fee basis (The Economist has covered the possible future of MOOCs in more depth, as well as even shorter, less-formal learning tools).

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

For an aggregation of MOOC courses across these and other sites check out MOOC-List.

Coursera

courseraCoursera has 554 institutions offering course-work in various subject areas. Take the world’s best courses for free and earn a certificate of completion. Alternatively, pay a few dollars extra and earn a verified certificate. This certificate verifies your identity by using methods such as your typing patterns and using an online camera to verify your picture. One of the downsides for military members attempting to take Coursera classes related to your job is that the site is not compatible with NMCI’s old browsers.

iTunesU

iTunesU has a large collection of free podcasts in several knowledge areas.  Not surprisingly, if you want to learn how to write an iTunes App this is the place to go. It seems that may universities have their own portal on the iTunesU website.  In my opinion, Apple’s decision to host individual portals has left this site a bit of a mess and course material is slightly unorganized. However, once you find the content you are looking for, it could make your commute to work much more productive.

Udacity

While I have yet to try this one, Udacity is the same basic concept as Coursera but with a twist. You can take the classes completely on your schedule. Although limited in number by comparison, the course offerings looked fairly attractive. I think I may just try the “Intro to Hadoop and Map-reduce” course if I can squeeze it in. With no deadlines it is much more likely that I will sign up, poke around at the most interesting content, and if I am not completely enamored put it off until another day.

edX

edX_Logo_Col_RGB_FINALedX is another top-tier MOOC which at the time of this writing has 38 courses to choose from, provided in partnership with such institutions as Harvard, MIT, and Georgetown, spanning many subject areas. Most edX course videos are provided by means of YouTube and do their best to incorporate students into discussion groups on online forums. edX also offers certificates of completion, some requiring a fee for identify verification.

Navy Knowledge Online, MarineNet, and Joint Knowledge Online

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention these three sites, which are in fact long-running DoD-restricted versions of MOOCs. While they may not have the best reputation and are saddled with clunky, non-mobile interfaces, they do offer training on topics directly related to professional duties. Additionally, for those seeking to expand their knowledge beyond their designator or rate, there’s a range of interesting coursework available – from drone operations to intel “A” school to short cultural backgrounds on dozens of countries.

Defense Acquisition University (DAU), FEMA, DHS, Defense Security Service

Back in our first post we talked about (at least in the updated version) accredited courses and certificate options available through DAU, FEMA, DHS at NPS, DHS at Texas A&M, and the Defense Security Service’s Center for Development of Security Excellence. As a reminder, they have many online training options there for self-edification as well. Offerings typically focus on subject such as incident response management, cyber security, and counter-terrorism.

Languages

While Rosetta Stone used to be available free to servicemembers, that contract has since expired. However, there are still several options for beginning or furthering a language for free. Both NKO and JKO have several languages available, but they’re not the most interactive, and focus primarily on a few of the high-demand target languages and militarily useful skills. That said, if you’re already an intermediate speaker or going on a specific assignment and want to brush up on your ability to talk to your uniformed counterparts, these could be quite useful. iTunesU has a plethora of options, running from minute-long immersion to more structured serial listening podcasts. For those with smartphones there are a variety of free language apps that I have yet to try, but the Duolingo app comes highly recommended and takes an immersion and gamification approach to try and cram learning for fun into the nooks and crannies of your free time. Scott may have to put away The Simpsons Tapped Out and finally get back to his Spanish studies.

If you have any additional recommendations on language learning options, please let us know and we’ll perhaps come up with a part 3. In the meantime let us know what else we missed, and keep on learnin’.

This article was cross-posted by permission from JO Rules.

LCDR Vincent “Adam” Kanhnke is a Navy Campaign Analyst, submarine warfare officer, and runs the site www.cricx.org. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and the U.S. Naval Post-graduate School.

LT Scott Cheney-Peters is a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and the former editor of Surface Warfare magazine. He is the founder and vice president of the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC), a graduate of Georgetown University and the U.S. Naval War College, and a member of the Truman National Security Project’s Defense Council. 

Follow @scheneypeters

 

25291-diploma-and-degree-cap

Classes for Nothing and Degrees for Free Pt. I

Update: Thanks to the feedback of RADM James Foggo, CDR Stephen Melvin, LCDR Vic Allen, and Chrissy Juergens we’ve updated this post with additional free accredited educational opportunities.

By Scott Cheney-Peters and Adam Kahnke

By 2000, there had been tentative attempts at leveraging the internet for military education – primarily through the use of synthetic training simulations, rudimentary file-sharing, and simple message boards. Fourteen years later the options have expanded, and with it has increased the availability of cheap or free training. In our evolving era of online education and emphasis on life-long learning, the military and government have embraced new tools and a multi-pronged approach to keeping those serving on Active, Reserve, and civil service duty trained. In this 2-part series, LCDR Adam Kahnke and I will run our fingers along those prongs in the hopes of providing you an outline of the opportunities available and shape of things to come.

In this first part we look at the type of education that many people, if they’re being honest, care most about. We’re talking about instructor-led courses accredited by scholastic councils that can be used towards certificates and degrees. Even if the Navy has already paid for your undergraduate education and you have no intention of remaining on Active duty beyond your current commitment there are still options for you, including degree programs that incur no additional service obligation. Some of these are also not fully online, but rather take a blended approach requiring some in-residence time.

Now I need to throw in some important caveats. While this article is geared towards officers (enlisted folk have a slew of generally different options), everyone’s situation is unique, so it’s important to keep in mind that these are general descriptions to raise awareness of the opportunities available. The degree (no pun intended) to which they are free or available will depend on things such as your current service obligation, how much you’re willing to obligate in the future, your rank, your location, your clearance, whether you already have a grad degree, etc…

Additionally, these were the opportunities of which we were aware at the time of this writing. We’re sure we’ve missed a few and that as time goes on some will no longer remain available. While we hope this resource remains updated, we’re lazy and easily distracted, so don’t just take our word for it, but put in a little legwork yourself. We’re only saying these are free opportunities in so much as the cost goes—you’ll still have to put in some amount of work.

Confirmed Bachelor(ettes)

If you’re a naval officer we hope that you’ve taken advantage of the many routes to getting your undergrad paid for—whether you commissioned through the Academy, OCS, or our preferred choice, Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) while attending a real university—you shouldn’t have too much to worry about. Unless, I don’t know, you changed majors thirteen times and attended some party school in Miami so didn’t bother graduating in under 8 years, you shouldn’t have much college debt from earning your BA (or BS if you chose poorly and went to Canoe U). Some of you may even have gone straight into an MA program. The good news is that if you have any federal loans remaining, whatever amount that’s left after 10 years of good payments and federal service (military or otherwise) is discharged under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (see more here). For those looking for more education, the following is for you:

Degrees

Naval War College (NWC)’s College of Distance Education (CDE) – Fleet Seminar Program (FSP)
For those officers hedging their bets on continuing on Active duty, those who already know they’re heading to the Reserves after their current tour, and those already in the Reserves, FSP can be a great choice. It incurs no additional service obligation yet offers free instructor-led, in-person courses at 19 Fleet Concentration Areas on the path to a degree (there is a fully online and CD version, but it does not normally allow the student to earn a degree). One generally has to be an officer, a federal employee, or a congressional staffer (O-3 or above; GS-11 or above). The degree consists of three core classes that also earn you JPME Phase I credit and is designed to be completed over 3 years, but can be done in 2 if doubling up on courses the second year. The names of the core courses occasionally change, but most recommend taking Strategy and War/Politics the first year, and National/Theater Security Decision Making and Joint Military/Maritime Operations the second due to lighter individual reading load for the latter two (even with the literally heavier Milan Vego tome). You’ll also need to complete 9 credit hours of elective courses, some of which can be done through the NWC web-enabled courses, but these are tough to get into and limited in their offerings, so consider combining with credit from another institution.

Naval Postgraduate School (NPS)
NPS has many programs and courses available for those non-resident, including EMBAs and other MA degrees, although the admissions for each program, including the cost for non-active duty and whether any service obligation is incurred for those who are active is very opaque on the site, which is riddled with dead links. One option for Reservists working as gov civilians looks like it might be this scholarship program. Your best bet for getting the ground truth on any specific program that catches your eye is emailing their admissions, although when I tried doing that a year ago I never received a response.

In coordination with FEMA they have developed a Center for Homeland Defense and Security, which offers an MA with minimal in-residence time (12 weeks total) at either Monterrey or DC (the rest is completed via the web). Applicants must be a US citizen and “employed full-time by a local, tribal, state, or federal government agency or the U.S. military, and have homeland security experience and responsibilities.” While FEMA pays for those from DHS, naval officers’ sponsoring agencies are responsible for paying tuition etc…so while not specified there’s likely an incurred time obligation for attending.

National Intelligence University (NIU)

I want my MS&T

                                  I want my MS&T

NIU has several options, including 2 masters degrees (MS of Strategic Intelligence or an MS&T Intelligence). Unfortunately all programs are restricted to TS/SCI clearance holders so yours truly can’t provide feedback as to the quality of the program. Hear that NIU? That’s the silent sound of me ruefully shaking my fist at you! But it makes sense given the subject matter.

From the site:

Federal employees throughout the Intelligence Community (IC), the military, law enforcement, National Guard, Reserve and other related security functions have the opportunity to apply for the resident (full-time) program through their parent agency or service, or can apply on their own for one of the NIU’s cohort (part-time) programs. The cohort program classes are conducted in the evening and select weekends at the DIA Headquarters as well as the graduate and academic centers at NSA and NGA during the day.

But you don’t have to be in the DC area to take advantage – the site also mentions Tampa, FL and Molesworth, UK if you happen to be in either of those two spots. See below for certificate offerings.

National Defense University (NDU)

In addition to the normal full-time in-residence programs, NDU offers a part-time, partially online Master of Science program and certificate programs through its Information Resources Management College (iCollege) to any government civilian employee or servicemember above a certain pay grade/rank. The coursework is available in either a blended (partially in-resident, partially online) or primarily online format and focuses on defense leadership and information technology topics. Courses are each 5 weeks long and confer 3 graduate credit hours.

Accredited Courses / Certificate Programs

DoD’s Defense Security Service (DSS)
This is a relatively new addition. DSS’s Center for Development of Security Excellence (CDSE) offers an array of free instructor-led online courses that earn ACE graduate-level credits and can be applied towards several certificates. These guys also offer “training:” restricted (based on clearance and position) in-person courses on things such as Special Access Programs (SAPs), a few accredited, and non-accredited self-paced online courses on things like cybersecurity. Additionally, the CDSE offers a separate set of security professional certifications based on testing. I took one of the accredited online courses this fall and found it, like most, to be flexible, interesting, and rewarding in so far as you get out what you put in to it. Despite frequent denials that it exists when I call, I’m hoping someday they’ll let me do one of their advanced protective security detail driving courses in tropical Linthicum, MD.

National Intelligence University (NIU)
Offers part-time MA-level Certificate of Intelligence Studies programs, including Africa, China, Counterintelligence, AFPAK, Eurasia, Strat Warning Analysis, IC leadership and Management that once again sadly require a TS/SCI clearance. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute runs many emergency management-related courses and exercises around the country both in-resident and via VTC. I haven’t been able to find any costs associated, but you do have to have a sponsoring organization endorsement from someone in your chain of command, as well as justify why FEMA should spend the time training you on, oh say prison riot responses. Many of these courses and their pre-reqs in the ISP (see below) can be applied towards FEMA programs/certificates, such as the Master Exercise Practitioner (MEP) or Emergency Management Professional Program (EMPP), but require out-of-time commitments and attendance at (free) courses in Maryland.

FEMA also offers a large range of Independent Study Program courses on things from HAZMAT to animals in disasters. If it matters, Frederick (MD) Community College offers lower-level credits towards a Bachelor’s degree for the cost of accreditation for independent study you complete online.

DHS/FEMA at Texas A&M

Another option for those looking for accredited online courses in emergency management or cybersecurity comes from the Lone Star State thanks to federal FEMA and DHS funding. The cyber security training is the most prevalent online and can be rolled up to count for 3 ACE-accredited courses. Many other courses are offered through mobile trainers or in-residence.

Defense Acquisition University (DAU)

The members of the Navy-Marine Corps team’s acquisition force, and really anyone who is interested in better understanding the mysteries of how the military ends up with the kit it does, can take a wide variety of online courses, including from Harvard Business School, and, with organization funding, in-residence courses at the DAU campus at Ft. Belvoir, VA. In order to receive a DAU-conferred certificate, however, one must be a member of the Defense Acquisition Workforce, as determined by position. For those not in that category, many of the courses have been ACE credit recommendations while DAU has memoranda of agreement with a multitude of colleges offering credit for coursework towards certificates and undergrad and graduate degrees at their institutions.

NPS
See above for details.

While we chose to focus on free, part-time, and mostly online educational opportunities – thus why we didn’t include the normal in-residence NPS, NWC, and MBA scholarship master’s programs, we also received feedback asking us to include several other lesser-known options.

Graduate Education Voucher (GEV)

For unrestricted line officers who want to pursue a graduate degree program of their own choosing (subject to approval), they can do so in their off-duty hours (i.e. while otherwise on shore duty) supported in part by the GEV at $20K per year. Taking the money incurs additional service obligation. Check with BUPERS for more on current academic year eligibility and the application process.

Marine Corps War College

As with the Naval War College, the Marine Corps University’s Marine Corps War College hosts a 1-year in-residence Master of Strategic Studies program that also satisfies Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) Phase 1 requirement for officers. If you are finishing your division officer tours or finishing up your first shore duty rotation, speak to your detailer about this option if you’re interested in an alternative experience in Quantico, VA.

Wild Cards

State
The State Department runs the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, VA. According to their website they run over 600 courses for State employees, federal civilians, and military officers, but they didn’t bother returning my email so I have no idea whether you could apply out of the blue or need to be on orders to one of their courses. Meanies. But if you’re feeling adventurous you could go through the process of applying and see what happens. You just might end up in Uzbeki-beki-beki-stan.

But learning for the purpose of credit, certificates, or degrees isn’t the only type of learning out there. In Part II Adam will lead you through the myriad free opportunities to learn for the sake of learning.

This article appeared in its original form at JORules and was cross-posted by permission. The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.

LT Scott Cheney-Peters is a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and the former editor of Surface Warfare magazine. He is the founder and vice president of the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC), a graduate of Georgetown University and the U.S. Naval War College, and a member of the Truman National Security Project’s Defense Council. 


LCDR Vincent “Adam” Kanhnke is a Navy Campaign Analyst, submarine warfare officer, and runs the site www.cricx.org. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and the U.S. Naval Post-graduate School.

cheers

21st-Century Education of a Naval Officer

It has been 135 years since Alfred Thayer Mahan first became a published author. His 1879 essay on naval education won third prize in the inaugural United States Naval Institute “General Prize Essay Contest,” appearing in what was then known as The Record of the United States Naval Institute. Recently re-printed in LCDR Benjamin Armstrong’s book 21st Century Mahan:  Sound Military Conclusions for the Modern Era, his words remain a prescient reminder of what it takes to educate young naval professionals.

Blinded With Science

cheers

Solves all the things!?

In the late nineteenth century, the burgeoning fields of steam power and advanced naval armament had “dazzled” military thinkers. Failing to fully appreciate the scope of their power, Navy leaders instituted a strenuous, technically-focused curriculum at the Naval Academy that drove young men to become engineers or other technical “specialists” in order to harness the wonders of modern science. A midshipman’s schedule was heavy with science, engineering, and technical courses at the expense of English, foreign language, and other studies of the humanities.

This movement puzzled Mahan. He viewed the education of a naval officer as principally involving morals, duty, discipline, and general professional knowledge. Required technical knowledge was only “that which enables him to discharge his many duties intelligently and thoroughly.”1 Mahan eschewed the technical specialist role, writing “that the knowledge sufficient to run and care for marine steam engines can be acquired by men of very little education is a matter of daily experience.”2

Nearly one and a half centuries later, we still find ourselves dazzled by science. Drones, cyber warfare, and other transformational technologies have led Admirals and Generals alike to clamor for officers grounded firmly in math and science. In the October 2012 issue of Proceedings, Vice Admiral Nancy Brown, USN (ret), Captain Danelle Barrett, USN, and Lieutenant Commander Jesse Castillo, USN wrote that “to build the kind of force necessary to excel in the cybersphere, the Navy’s entire man, train, and equip paradigm must be revamped to produce a new kind of officer equipped for the task: a cyber-warfare officer.”3 This belief runs counter to the moral education advocated by Mahan. Again, we are “dazzled” by the complexity of the cybersphere, and feel that we must need a completely new set of officers to fill this role. Such drastic changes may create cyber specialists, but they do not necessarily create professional naval officers.

STEM or the Fruit?

As the face of naval education, the United States Naval Academy claims that their “academic program is focused especially on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), in order to meet the current and future highly technical needs of the Navy. Graduates who are proficient in scientific inquiry, logical reasoning and problem solving will provide an officer corps ready to lead in each warfare community of the Navy and Marine Corps.” 4

During the 1980s and early 1990s, the Naval Academy was required to graduate between 70% and 80% of officers with technical majors.5 After dropping this requirement for much of the 1990s and 2000s, Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Admiral Michael Miller announced the re-establishment of a STEM “benchmark” in 2011.6 For the Class of 2013, this meant that at least 65% of midshipmen had to choose a STEM major in order to satisfy “the needs of the Naval Service.”7

The number of STEM graduates will continue to dwarf other Naval Academy graduates—regardless of any specific percentage requirement—because the institution has developed one of the finest undergraduate engineering programs in the country. This is an academic success story, and it will rightly attract midshipmen interested in the field. However, scholastic achievement and professional naval education are often two different topics.

As in Mahan’s day, our enlisted sailors prove that the principles of aerodynamics, missile mechanics, and electrical systems can be learned without college degrees and officer commissions. By overemphasizing the technical knowledge necessary from her officer corps, “the naval system of our country has continued to surround a simple enough practical matter…with a glamour of science and difficulty which does not exist.”8

Not only that, but credence in cold calculation over tactical intelligence has led current naval officers such as LT Matthew Hipple to observe that “critical inspections are becoming choreographed executions of checklists, nothing more than theater to check blocks in a PowerPoint presentation.”9 When we trust formulas and checklists more than our own people, we are allowing our reliance on the wonders of science to erode our warfighting force.

Ethics or Equations?

Today, we are confronted by many allegations of corruption and impropriety from our officer ranks. A search of the word “fired” on the Navy Times website returns a plethora of reasons for high-ranking naval officers being relieved of duty in just the past two months:

-Poor command climate
-Drunk driving
-Adultery
-Bribery
-Sexual assault
-Forcing female sailors to march down the pier carrying bags of their own feces

The words of Alfred Thayer Mahan are truer today than they ever have been: “No amount of mental caliber, far less any mere knowledge, can compensate for a deficiency in moral force in our profession.”10

Midshipmen today are focused on Physics, Calculus, Electrical Engineering, Steam, Boats, and a host of other technical courses as part of their “core curriculum”; the level of accumulated knowledge required to achieve a bachelor’s of science degree is immense. Courses such as Naval History, Ethics, and Leadership are almost an afterthought in the average study day. Currently, midshipman are only required to take four credit hours of Naval History and Warfare, seven credit hours of Leadership, eight credit hours of Seamanship and Navigation, three credit hours of Ethics, and two credit hours of Naval Law during their entire four years in Annapolis.11 This amounts to an average of approximately 17% of a midshipman’s total credit hours—more of an annoyance than an actual course of study—but a majority of their professional responsibilities as officers.

In a February 2012 piece written for Proceedings, Commander Michael Junge, USN writes that, “[the naval officer’s] mind needs to be developed to see patterns in technology and human behavior, to understand that not everything needs to be (or can easily be) reduced to ones and zeroes, and to be able to draw on historical examples to inform the present.”12 Similarly, Mahan believed that “the studious and scientific intellect is not that which most readily attaches itself to a naval life…and the attempt to combine the two has upon the whole been a failure, except where it has succeeded in reducing both to mediocrity in the individual.”13

The failure of our leaders to be fully inculcated to the history and ethics of our profession has led to an embarrassing spate of public dismissals and a lack of trust in naval leaders. Overemphasis on technical knowledge—at the expense of a moral and professional education—negatively impacts the development of the kind of naval leadership our country deserves.

A Mahanian Fix

9781612512433_0

Droppin’ the mic.

The need to reform naval education has been evident since Alfred Thayer Mahan first wrote that essay in 1879. The crux of academic thinking today centers around the notion that advanced warships and aircraft require deeply technical junior officers. However, as Junge points out, “While the civilian world once held the same idea that technical degrees were required in technical fields, recent research turns the concept on its head. In a survey of 652 U.S.-born chief executive officers and heads of product engineering at 502 technology companies, only 37 percent held degrees in engineering or computer technology, and only 2 percent held them in mathematics. The majority held degrees as diverse as business, accounting, finance, health care, and arts and the humanities.”14

The naval officer corps must return to a study of its roots. The surest way to do this is to turn our focus away from technical acumen as our primary undergraduate goal, and instead commission officers who are as savvy about their history, traditions, and tactics as they are about their Thermodynamics homework. There are three essential changes that must be adopted:

- Eliminate the requirement for specific percentages of STEM majors.

The Naval Academy already has a reputation for STEM excellence and will continue to attract some of the top technical undergraduates in the country. But a recent CNO dictate mandating “not less than 85 percent of incoming officers will come from [STEM majors]” places our focus on academic specialization rather than developing a lifetime of moral and professional learning in our officer corps.15

- Make Naval History, Ethics, and Leadership classes mandatory all four years.

Additionally, these courses should comprise no less than four credit hours per semester, accounting for approximately 33% of a midshipman’s total credit hours over four years. This sends the signal that these classes are essential to the development of naval professionals and a proud officer corps that is aware of its history.

-Make the final year’s Naval History, Ethics, and Leadership requirement an “Elective.”

In order to tailor the academic experience, offering classes on the history, ethics, and leadership specific to the warfare community each midshipman service-selects would be an excellent primer for their first fleet experience. This would serve as a fitting complement to the second-semester Practicum class already required for all 1/C midshipmen.

Several centuries before Mahan, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote, “a man then must stand erect, not be kept erect by others.”16 The moral fiber of our officer corps—not the stealth of our warplanes or the accuracy of our weapon systems—is the most important aspect of our Navy. A rigid focus on engineering and science, though both upstanding fields of study, cannot alone produce officers of “a very high order of character.” At the undergraduate level, simply graduating technicians is not in line with the Naval Academy’s stated mission “to develop midshipmen morally, mentally, and physically.” An emphasis on Mahan’s moral and professional education, with a firm grounding in history, ethics, and leadership, can drastically improve our officer corps.

LT Roger L. Misso is a Naval Flight Officer (NFO) in the E-2C Hawkeye and former director of the Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference (NAFAC). The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of his squadron, the Navy, or the Department of Defense.


1 Mahan, Alfred Thayer. 21st Century Mahan: Sound Military Conclusions for the Modern Era. Ed. Benjamin F. Armstrong. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2013.

2 Ibid.

3 Brown, Nancy, Danelle Barrett, and Jesse Castillo. “Creating Cyber Warriors.” Proceedings. Oct 2012. http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2012-10/creating-cyber-warriors

4 “Academics: Majors and Courses.” United States Naval Academy. http://www.usna.edu/Academics/Majors-and-Courses/index.php.

5 “Naval Academy Hopes to Meet Math and Science Goal.” Associated Press. 3 Aug 2011. http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2011/08/03/naval-academy-hopes-to-meet-math-and-science-goal/

6 Ibid.

7 “Academics: Majors and Courses.”

8 21st Century Mahan.

9 Hipple, Matthew. “’Choreographed’ Training is Dancing with the Devil.” Proceedings. April 2012. http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2012-04/nobody-asked-me-%E2%80%98choreographed%E2%80%99-training-dancing

10 21st Century Mahan.

11 “Academics: Majors and Courses.”

12 Junge, Michael. “So Much Strategy, So Little Strategic Direction.” Proceedings. Feb 2012. http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2012-02/so-much-strategy-so-little-strategic-direction

13 21st Century Mahan.

14 “So Much Strategy, So Little Strategic Direction.”

15 Smith, Alexander P. “Don’t Say Goodbye to Intellectual Diversity.” Proceedings. Dec 2013. http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2013-12/nobody-asked-me-don%E2%80%99t-say-goodbye-intellectual-diversity

16 Aurelius, Marcus. Meditations. Dover Publications, 1997.

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Fortune Favors the Bold

unnamedHow risk can be good, and why we need more of it

Fortis fortuna adiuuat.  So wrote the 2nd-century B.C. playwright Terence of the Athenian general Phormio who, facing a numerically far superior Peleponnesian fleet, tricked them into self-defeat through an unusual, highly risky corralling tactic.  Once the enemy fleet’s oars were hopelessly tangled, Phormio seized the advantage, rushed in, and won the battle.

Fortune favors the bold.

More recent naval history agrees.  Stephen Decatur’s gamble of a sneak attack on the captured USS Philadelphia in the early 1800s was termed “the most bold and daring act of the Age” by no less than Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson – an officer who knew something of bold and daring naval acts, having triumphed at Trafalgar with highly unconventional tactics of his own.

In World War II, Admiral Nimitz rushed barely patched-up ships to the Battle of Midway in a chancy yet ultimately successful move that defeated a numerically-superior Japanese force, thus turning the tide in the Pacific theater.

It’s clear risk can be good.

However, in the half-century since our country was last seriously challenged in combat at sea, our military has developed what Tim Kane in The Atlantic terms a “zero-defect mentality.”  This relentless insistence on flawless performance induces upwardly-mobile leaders to cling to safe, middle-of-the-road blandness, shunning risk.

Today’s enemies are bold and daring, often blatantly unconstrained by the rules of engagement, red tape and resource constraints that entangle us.  If we do not seize the initiative early and often, they will win.

Our Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen continue to innovate, defying convention to defeat our foes.  Yet our military has become so confused about risk that a successfully innovative leader is more often punished or pushed out than promoted, while paradoxically, thrill-seekers get cheered for dangerous demonstrations of “confidence.”

We must dramatically change our approach to risk.  Instead of implying all risk is bad, we must carefully educate our corps on the difference between good and bad risk.  Then, as leaders, we must encourage innovation and good risk while eradicating bad risk and recklessness.

The first objection to bold, innovative leadership stems from this zero-defect mentality we’ve cultivated.  Won’t risky actions cause mishaps, resulting in casualties and property damage?

The obvious answer is yes, sometimes: sometimes risks fail, and sometimes lives and property suffer.  Admiral Nimitz, when an ensign, ran his ship aground.  Admiral Nelson’s career was littered with failures, including the stinging defeat that took his right arm and many lives.

But, over time, intelligent innovation saves lives and prevents injuries.  This is evident not only in large-scale operations like Decatur’s raid, accomplished without a single casualty, but in more localized innovations like the Holley stick.  Essentially a long stick using simple means like a hook to catch IEDs, this simple yet highly effective tool, invented recently by a Marine in Afghanistan, prevents serious casualties every day.

“If we are too risk-averse to adapt, then in the long run, we make ourselves more vulnerable,” says Marine Corps Capt. Jerome Lademan, a member of the Chief of Naval Operations Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC).  “The enemy won’t wait on us to develop better weapons, systems or tactics.”

But surely, risk wastes money.  As budgets shrink, can military services afford to take risks?

The better question is, how can they afford not to?  In the long run, innovative processes and products save the military significant quantities of money. 

Six years ago, Navy Lt. Rollie Wicks, innovation cell member and a Chief Network Scientist at the Under Secretary of Defense, Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, urged the Navy to replace its towering stacks of hard-copy maps, charts and targeting imagery aboard ship with equivalent online resources.  Sailors were so overburdened and short on storage space, they often threw out new materials as soon as they arrived.  Yet, the tradition-bound Navy was highly reluctant to risk relinquishing these trusted paper copies.  Wicks ultimately won, and the resulting electronic Geospatial Product Library now saves the military millions of dollars and thousands of personnel hours annually.

“Now is the time to quit throwing funds at bad ideas and the wrong people,” Wicks says.  “The military needs to identify the ‘risk takers,’ surround them with the right mentors, and fund them to innovate.”

A final, frequent, objection to risky action is that it defies convention. The military, papered over in piles of checklists, often worries innovation is nothing but insubordination.  So, why promote it?  Won’t risky behavior undermine the military’s good order and discipline?

It is true that even such an impressively successful leader as Nelson was often tarred by his superiors as insubordinate.  In the Battle of Copenhagen, trusting his tactics, Nelson famously disregarded a command signal to retreat, claiming he never saw it…after intentionally putting the telescope to his blind eye.  Nelson prevailed, in the decision and in the battle.

Innovative military leaders probably will never leave their superiors completely at ease.

But by educating our forces on the different types of risk, we can keep leaders from fearing their subordinates’ potentially unpredictable actions.  Instead, leaders can trust their subordinates will confidently seize the initiative, acting boldly on a solid basis of experience and skill learned from their elders, and employing a keen intuition honed by repeated front-line faceoffs with their foes.

They will know and trust that fortune favors the bold.

Too often, we define “calculated risk” as simply avoiding risk.  Common military risk-assessment tools use numerical scales that suggest high risk is always bad, and low risk always good, often leading to a “green-washing” of all situations as low risk.  Then, without proper understanding of risk, reckless behavior tends to proliferate while innovation is discouraged.

We must reverse this debilitating trend if we intend to outwit, outmaneuver and ultimately conquer our many 21st-century opposing maritime forces.  Instead of reducing risk to a simplistic equation of numbers or, worse, a series of stoplight colors, we need to educate our troops on the important difference between good and bad risk.  Then, we must relentlessly encourage innovation while working tirelessly to eliminate recklessness.

It is time to replace “risk reduction” with “risk promotion.”

As Navy Petty Officer First Class Jeff Anderson, CRIC member and Electronics Technician on the USS Independence, points out, “Wars require the risk takers in charge, not the risk-averse.”

In other words, fortis fortuna adiuuat.

 

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Heather Bacon-Shone is a member of the U.S. Navy’s Chief of Naval Operations Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC).  The CRIC, hosted by the Naval Warfare Development Command, is composed of hand-picked junior officers and mid-grade enlisted personnel and civilians who partner in innovation with leaders in business, industry, and the military in order to solve tomorrow’s naval problems today.

The views expressed herein are those of the author and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the U.S. Coast Guard or U.S. Navy.

I have the Conn!

A Strategic Thinker Can Bloom from a STEM

Recent U.S. Navy guidance directed at least 85% of new officers must come from technical degree programs commonly known as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). This has rightfully generated a fair amount of discussion in Navy circles. What I find surprising, and insulting, is degree to which a good portion of the discussion is one-sided. The superiority of liberal arts and humanities degrees are touted and accusations flow that STEM degree-holders are all socially awkward, pocket protector-wearing poindexters who – when they are not underway – still live in their parents’ basements.

I have the Conn!

I have the Conn!

Some even claim this to be the end of the U.S. Navy officer corps’ ability to critically analyze and think strategically on matters of policy or foreign affairs. They imply that STEM majors could never understand the complexities of the liberal arts while in almost the same breath they claim that any lack of technical knowledge and understanding from humanities majors can be easily overcome with additional studying and on-the-job training.

In an effort to remove as much ambiguity as possible, and for brevity, I will take a moment to directly state some of what I think on this subject:

- Possessing an intellectual curiosity is much more important than what someone already knows when developing as a naval officer.

- Being a naval officer is a diverse and complex profession that changes as you progress in your career, so one single major or type of major does not best prepare someone for the job in its entirety.

- There are an incredible number of open-source resources available (e.g. subscriptions to Foreign Policy, The Diplomat, The Economist, and countless lectures from major universities available on the internet) for someone with a STEM degree to broaden their horizons beyond the technical. In fact, anyone desiring a career as a naval officer should do just that.

- I neither agree nor disagree with the current technical-to-humanities degree percentages required at commissioning. I do not have an adequate enough knowledge of the statistical analysis behind that decision to comment one way or the other on the specific percentage.

- And lastly, although a STEM degree is not the end-all, be-all for developing a naval officer, it does provide a good basis to develop a successful division officer immediately out of college.

It is worth asking what the U.S. Navy needs from the majority of officers immediately after commissioning. It needs them to be division officers. They need to lead a division and a watch team. The U.S. Navy does not immediately need someone to write the next volume of The Influence of Sea Power Upon History. It does need people who can do that within its ranks, so it is important to ensure they are recognized and promoted. That is a long-term issue that should not and cannot be solved by simply adjusting what types of majors are commissioned. It is a separate discussion for how the Navy manages its evaluation processes and selection boards.

The dynamic nature and remoteness of the maritime environment has always made naval warfare more complex than its land counterpart. Present ships and aircraft are extremely complex technical systems, so a firm basis in technical knowledge can be advantageous. To effectively drive and fight a ship, a division officer should have an understanding of topics like buoyancy, stability, sonar propagation, radar propagation, electrical generation and distribution, thermodynamics, and potentially nuclear engineering. Clearly many humanities majors have mastered all of these things in the past and will continue to do so in the future. A STEM degree is not essential to being a successful division officer, but it can help with initial success.

Alfred Thayer Mahan may have possessed one of the greatest strategic maritime minds in the history of the U.S. Navy. There can be no doubt that his works had an incredible influence on naval thought. But just as some assume that too technical of a mind detracts from effective performance as a naval officer, so to can too literary of one. Maybe if Mahan had a more diverse mind he may have been able to avoid such an evaluation when commanding USS Chicago:

“[Captain Mahan's] interests are entirely outside the service, for which, I am satisfied, he cares but little, and is therefore not a good naval officer.  He is not at all observant regarding officers tending to the ship’s general welfare or appearance, nor does he inspire or suggest anything in this connection.  In fact, the first few weeks of the cruise she [that is, USS Chicago] was positively discreditable.  In fact, CAPT Mahan’s interests lie wholly in the direction of literary work and in no other way connected with the service.”

In closing I will respond to the claim that having an 85% STEM requirement for commissioning will result in the same percentage across the entire officer corps. This is ridiculous because everyone who commissions does not continue to promote. As I discussed above, a solid technical understanding can help at the lower tactical levels, but as one progresses, a much broader understanding of the world is necessary. Individuals with these capabilities and understanding should be recognized and advanced regardless of their academic degree. Performance at lower levels can serve as part of advancement and selection, but previous success does not guarantee effective future performance. This is not a problem to find a solution for at commissioning. It is a dynamic issue to be evaluated throughout the personnel system at all levels of command. Just as the history or philosophy major can end up being the best Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOOW) in the wardroom, so too can the physics or chemistry major end up writing the next revolutionary strategic or operational concept for the Navy.

LT Jason H. Chuma is a U.S. Navy submarine officer who has deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet and U.S. 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. He is a graduate of the Citadel, holds a master’s degree from Old Dominion University, and has completed the Intermediate Command and Staff Course from the U.S. Naval War College. His current assignment is to the Navy Warfare Development Command where he serves as a member of the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell. He can be followed on Twitter @Jason_Chuma.

The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.