Category Archives: Events

Upcoming Lectures, Meet-ups, Happy Hours, Discussions, Symposia, Conferences

27 April – 1 May 2015 Events of Interest

This is a roundup of events by  that our readers and members might find interesting. Inclusion does not equal endorsement, all descriptions are the events’ own. Think of one we should inclcalendarude?  Email Emil at extrelations@cimsec.org.

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Upcoming CIMSEC Events

Miss CIMSEC’s first annual Forum for Authors and Readers (#CFAR15)? Here is the opening keynote by BJ Armstrong on his new book 21st Century Sims: Innovation, Education, and Leadership for the Modern Era” (videos of the presentations here)

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27 April – 1 May 2015 Events of Interest

27 April 2015 – Washington, DC – JHU/APL- Rethinking Seminar: National Security Strategy: Process, Principles, and Priorities

27 April 2015 – London, UK – IISS- “India’s Relations with its Smaller Non-Nuclear Neighbours: Continuity or Change with Prime Minister Modi?”

28 April 2015 – London, UK – IISS- “Strange Bedfellows: Shifting Alliances in the Middle East”

28 April 2015 – Washington, DC – CSIS- “U.S. Civil Drone Policy”

28 April 2015 – Brussels, Belgium – Carnegie Europe – “Can Prime Ministers Do Foreign Policy”

28-29 April 2015 – London, UK – ACI – “Global Shipping Trends and Trade Patterns”

29 April 2015 – Washington, DC – CSIS- “Global Maritime Affairs”

30 April 2015 – Washington, DC – CSIS- “Next Generation Dialogue on Industry and Defense: Globalization versus the Culture of National Security”

30 April 2015 – Washington, DC – Hudson – “21st Century Sims: Innovation, Education, and Leadership for the Modern Era, A Discussion” ft CIMSECian LCDR BJ Armstrong

30 April 2015 – Alexandria, VA – SNA – “SNA GWC Luncheon”

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Long-range Events

5 May 2015 – Chicago, IL – Pritzker Military Museum and Library – Ft CIMSECian “Adm. James Stavridis, The Accidental Admiral: A Sailor Takes Command at NATO”

8 May 2015 – Washington, DC – The Defense Entreprenuers Forum – “DEF[x] DC” ft CIMSECian Scott Cheney-Peters

12 May 2015 – Washington, DC – Cato – “Economic Interdependence and War”

13-14 May 2015 – Washington, DC – AIE – “Additive Manufacturing for Defense and Government” ft CIMSECian Scott Cheney-Peters

13-16 May 2015 – Monterey, CA – North American Society for Oceanic History – “Pacific – The Peaceful Ocean?”

19-20 May 2015 – Larnaca, Cyprus – Republic of Cyprus Ministry of Defense – “CYP Naval 2015″

19-20 May 2015 -Newport, RI – USNWC China Maritime Studies Institute – “China’s Naval Shipbuilding: Progress and Challenges” ft CIMSECians Scott Cheney-Peters, William Yale, Bryan Clark, and Kris Schenck. (U.S. citizens only)

20 May 2015 – London, UK – IISS – “The Armed Conflict Survey 2015: Press Launch”

20-21 May 2015 – London, May – ACI – “6th FPSO Vessel Conference”

21 May 2015 – Chicago, IL – Pritzker Military Museum and Library – “Rear Adm. Dave Oliver, Against the Tide: Rickover’s Leadership Principles and the Rise of the Nuclear Navy”

29-30 May 2015 – Providence, RI – North American Society for Oceanic History – “50th Anniversary Gaspee Days Maritime History / Maritime Studies Symposium”

2-4 June 2015 – Souda Bay, Crete – NMIOTC – Current and Future Challenges to Energy Security in the Maritime Environment

4-5 June 2015 – Berlin, Germany – Zentrum Moderner Orient – “Cooperation, Coercion and Compulsion across the Red Sea from the Eighteenth Century to the Present” 

04 June 2015 – Arlington, VA – “Battle of Midway Commemoration Dinner

4-5 June 2015 – Berlin, Germany – Zentrum Moderner Orient – “Cooperation, Coercion and Compulsion across the Red Sea from the Eighteenth Century to the Present” 

24-25 June 2015 – Edinburgh, UK – ACI – “2nd World Ocean Power Summit” 

26 June 2015 – Washington, DC – CNAS – “CNAS Annual Conference” (Save the date) 

11 July 2015 – Canberra, Australia – Australian National University – “SDSC Conference 2015: Pacific War”

2-3 Sept 2015 – London, UK – ACI – “6th Maritime Salvage & Casualty Response”

9-11 Sept 2015 – Washington, DC – BORDERPOL – “Curtailing Terrorist Travel: Threats and Solutions 
23-25 Sept 2015 – Mumbai, India – Informa Exhibitions and Hamburg Messe und Congress – “INMEX-SMM India”

23-26 Sept 2015 – Giardnini Naxos, Sicily – EISA – “Pan European Conference on Maritime Security”

10-11 Oct 2015 – Philadelphia, PA – Temple – “U.S. Bases and the Construction of Hegemony”

14-16 Oct 2015 – Lisbon, Portugal – Portuguese Naval Academy (Escola Naval)- “The Navy and the Great War-Politics and Naval Power” (Paper Proposals Due 28 Aug)

28-29 Oct 2015 – Joint Base Andrews, Maryland – DHS/S&T – “9th Annual SMA Conference”

11-12 Nov 2015 – London, UK – ACI – “7th Artic Shipping Summit 2015″

CIMSEC DC April Meet-Up: Non-Linear Warfare and Vinyl Records: April 22nd

2013-09-12.gypsysallysJoin our DC chapter for its April DC-area informal meet-up/happy hour. Bret Perry will lead a discussion on non-linear (a.k.a. ‘Hybrid’) warfare and its maritime dimensions in the Ukraine crisis, while you’re invited to enjoy the conversation, drinks, and the company of interesting people at an interesting location

Time: Wednesday, 22 April 6:30-8:30pm
Place: Gypsy Sally’s (Vinyl Lounge – accessed via 34th St. Entrance)
3401 Water St NW
Washington, DC 20009

Read-aheads for those interested:
Crimea and Russia’s Strategic Overhaul
– Kristin Ven Buusgaard
Putin’s Next Objectives in the Ukraine Crisis
– Hugo Spaulding

All are welcome – RSVPs not required, but appreciated: director@cimsec.org

CALL FOR ARTICLES – Policy & Analysis Document Reviews

BJ Armstrong, author of 21st Century Sims, those who wish to understand or pontificate, we must “do our homework.” CIMSEC embraces that ideal, so we are putting out a general call for articles on the policy & analysis documents that often guide or inspire our discussion on maritime security.

There is a wide variety of material to pull on, both historical and current. Many have already reviewed the US Navy’s revised Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower. However, there is a vast body of policy documentation produced – from CNA to the PLA, individuals to institutions – available for review, not to mention the many analyses of maritime regions and peoples to go along with questions of maritime strategy and military capability.This is a chance to learn, do a reality check on policy-driving documents, or even assess good/poor communication methods.

Reviews should be from 700-1400 words – because let’s be serious, if folks wanted to read more than 1400 words, they’d just read the document itself. Email your ideas and articles to:
nextwar (at) cimsec.org

For faster processing, CIMSEC members should upload any articles/material directly through their wordpress account.

The Coast Guard’s Role in 21st Century Seapower

By David Van Dyk

With standing room only and camera crews capturing their footage, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Commandant of the Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford and Commandant of the Coast Guard Admiral Paul Zukunft took the stage during the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) event entitled “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower.”

John Hamre, CEO of CSIS since January 2000, introduced the military leadership on stage, remarking that the Navy and Marine Corps have “loved each other like brothers; Cain and Abel.”

While rivalries between the Sea Services were realized years back, a new cooperative strategy looking forward is not only smart but paramount to our nation’s defense and ability to project power on the high seas and around the coastline.

The meeting’s purpose was to establish and introduce a document signed by all three Sea Service chiefs.  “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower: Forward, Engaged, Ready” (CS21R) was penned because of the changing environment, changing threats and changing resources.  While all three changes are major factors in the national stage of security and safety, it requires a unity of effort from not only the United States Sea Services, but of those around the world, working in unison to tackle problems ranging from military aggression to disaster relief.

Changing Environment

In a rapidly changing world, the sea services need to align their focus and adapt to the environment. This requires major changes, one of which is the Arctic. According to CS21R, the Arctic is becoming a major player in maritime trade.

“Rising ocean temperatures present new challenges and opportunities, most notably in the Arctic and Antarctic, where receding ice leads to greater maritime activity,” CS21R states. “In the coming decades, the Arctic Ocean will be increasingly accessible and more broadly used by those seeking access to the region’s abundant resources and trade routes.”

With research vessels and ice breakers blazing their own trails through the region, responsible practices must not only be encouraged but enforced. The Arctic Council, made up of eight partner nations, will be chaired by the United States from 2015 to 2017, allowing American leaders to map out a strategic and engaged plan for the changing northern environment. The Coast Guard, according to the document, will also be entering a design phase for a new icebreaker capable of handling the harsh conditions of the Arctic Ocean.

“Some of our biggest concerns in the Arctic (are that) someone’s going to fall in it or oil spills in it and it affects the way of life in the Arctic domain,” Admiral Zukunft said. “We have an Arctic Strategy in place that aligns with a national strategy for the Arctic region.”

Witnessing firsthand the increasing activity in the Polar Regions, the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star rescued 26 crewmembers aboard an Australian fishing vessel, the Antarctic Chieftain, that was trapped in freezing temperatures Feb. 18. Since the Polar Star had just finished “Operation Deep Freeze” to replenish McMurdo Station, according to a Reuters report, they were able to sail 800 miles and cut through 150 miles of ice to reach the vessel and save all lives aboard by towing it to open waters.

Another changing environment mentioned in the document is the increasing amount of trade occurring on the oceans, meaning more traffic for important commercial waterways.

“Skyrocketing demand for energy and resources, as evidenced by a projected 56 percent increase of global energy consumption by 2040, underscores the criticality of the free flow of commerce through strategic maritime crossroads, including the Straits of Hormuz and Malacca, as well as the Panama and Suez Canals,” the document reads. “Closer to home, dramatic changes in energy production and transportation, as well as the completion of the Panama Canal expansion project, will fundamentally alter shipping patterns within the United States and globally.”

The Panama Canal expansion project is nearing a conclusion with 85 percent completed, and it is expected to be fully operational early next year, according to the Christian Science Monitor. With post Panamax vessels taking on 14,000 containers, the new enlargement will bring seaborne giants of commerce to East Coast ports, bringing additional security challenges to Navy and Coast Guard assets.

While CS21R does not mention it, Nicaraguan lawmakers have been dealing with a Chinese billionaire named Wang Jing, Chairman and CEO of the Hong Kong Nicaragua Development (HKND) group, in building their own canal to handle, they claim, even larger ships. While details of the plan remain under intense scrutiny, the competition building in this changing region will only grow larger as maritime trade increases.

“Oceans are the lifeblood of the interconnected global community, where seaborne trade is expected to double over the next 15 years,” CS21R states. “Ninety percent of trade by volume travels across the oceans.”

Changing Threats

While operating in a changing environment, the Sea Services recognize the changing threats taking place in and around these areas.  These threats, whether from state or non-state actors, will need to be dealt with both effectively and efficiently.

According to Admiral Zukunft, transnational organized crime is worth $750 billion annually. These networks utilize their illicit activities to help fund terrorist activities as well as their own nefarious enterprises.

“Transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) remain a threat to stability in Africa and the Western Hemisphere, especially in Central America and the southern approaches of the U.S. homeland,” CS21R states. “Their networks facilitate human trafficking and interrelated flows of weapons, narcotics and money, all of which could be exploited by terrorists to attack our homeland, allies and overseas interests.”

Transnational criminal organizations are operating not only along the coastlines and drug transit zones of the western hemisphere, but also throughout Africa, where terrorist and piracy networks often share intelligence and money to fund illicit activities along the African coast.

“Construction Battalions (Seabees), Explosive Ordnance Disposal units, Navy SEALs and other Naval Special Operations Forces, as well as Coast Guardsmen and Marines, will continue working alongside partner security forces to combat terrorism, illicit trafficking, and illegal exploitation of natural resources through initiatives such as the African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership and the Africa Partnership Station,” CS21R states. “West African nations rely heavily on maritime forces to combat illicit trafficking, which have links to terrorist enterprises.”

Members of a Naval Special Warfare team conduct a fast rope insertion training operation from an SH-60 Seahawk helicopter
Members of a Naval Special Warfare team conduct a fast rope insertion training operation from an SH-60 Seahawk helicopter

Another theatre of operations where there is a changing threat is the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, where China’s actions are being hotly contested by Indo-Asian allies, including Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines and Singapore.

“Consistent with developing strong partnerships and relationships, Filipinos have been strong partners for many years,” General Dunford said. “We had a little bit of a dip in the relationship, but that’s a compelling reason for us to cooperate more closely than we have over the past few years.”

According to Reuters, China’s actions have led Japan to recently sign a security agreement with Vietnam and the Philippines, forming an alliance that will counter China’s growing presence throughout the South and East China Sea.  This agreement includes the first ever joint naval exercises between Japan and the Philippines, as well as intelligence sharing between the geopolitical adversaries of China.

“With strategic attention shifting to the Indo-Asia-Pacific, we will increase the number of ships, aircraft and Marine Corps forces postured there,” CS21R states. “By 2020, approximately 60 percent of Navy ships and aircraft will be based in the (Indo-Asian-Pacific) region. The Navy will maintain a Carrier Strike Group, Carrier Airwing and Amphibious Ready Group in Japan, add an attack submarine to those already in Guam and implement cost-effective approaches such as increasing to four the number of Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) forward-stationed in Singapore.”

The Coast Guard’s strong ties with several other coast guards in the volatile region will aid in diplomatic discussions and information sharing.

“…The Coast Guard will work with regional partners and navies using joint and combined patrols, ship-rider exchanges and multinational exercises to build proficient maritime governance forces, enhance cooperation in maritime safety and security and reduce illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing,” CS21R states. “These multinational efforts are furthered through the Oceania Maritime Security Initiative and participation in the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum.”

Boat crewmen with Maritime Safety and Security Team Los Angeles - Long Beach conduct tactical boat maneuvers during an exercise, July 31, 2012. The exercise was designed to test the unit's ability to protect a ship docked at a pier as well as underway, using four Coast Guard small boats.
Boat crewmen with Maritime Safety and Security Team Los Angeles – Long Beach conduct tactical boat maneuvers during an exercise, July 31, 2012. The exercise was designed to test the unit’s ability to protect a ship docked at a pier as well as underway, using four Coast Guard small boats.

Changing Resources

With budgets under scrutiny and the almighty dollar being hard-pressed, the Sea Services need to fight battles effectively and efficiently by realizing the changing resources available for widespread use.

“In this time of fiscal austerity, our force is sized to support defeating one regional adversary in a large, multi-phased campaign, while denying the objectives of, or imposing unacceptable costs on, another aggressor in a different region,” CS21R states. “This force-sizing construct also ensures our capability and capacity to support global presence requirements.”

In a question and answer period during the CSIS event, Megan Eckstein, a staff writer with USNI News, asked the three admirals how they would handle their services concerning the possible constraints of the FY16 budget, which received acknowledged chuckles from the largely Capitol Hill audience.

“We have to replace the current Ohio-class submarine,” Admiral Greenert said. “We don’t have the money associated to do that without ruining the shipbuilding account which permeates all that this strategy is about for the future. That is my number one conundrum right now.”

Dunford offered a different view into the budget issue, speaking of his recent meeting with Marine Corps leaders reviewing the service’s capabilities in unifying combatant commanders.

“This is really not just FY16 … this is about capability development over the next three to five, frankly seven to eight years,” Dunford said. “It’s not so much about buying more radios. It’s about us coming together and identifying the capability that we need to have and making sure that’s properly resourced.”

According to Zukunft, the Coast Guard needs to not only provide a defensive measure along the coast and in the ports, but also be able to stop dangerous and illegal shipments from even entering the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

“If you have a shipment destined for the United States, you want a goal line defense inside the sea buoy, or do you want the ability to exert US sovereignty into the territorial seas of where that ship departed?” Zukunft said. “I’d much rather have the latter, but we’re not going to have that as a nation if we don’t make this investment to build affordable ships, but…also the ability to exert our sovereignty well beyond the sea buoy.”

In the revised document, the Sea Services realized the challenges a tighter budget would have on their day to day operations and the need to cooperate on a deeper and more streamlined level.

“A smaller force, driven by additional budget cuts or sequestration, would require us to make hard choices,” CS21R states. “Specifically, in the event of a return to sequestration levels of funding, the Navy’s ability to maintain appropriate forward presence would be placed at risk.”

Changing environments, threats and resources will force the Sea Services to adapt and recognize the fluctuations across world geopolitics. Unifying efforts with allies and partners will enhance America’s own Sea Services, offering opportunities for deeper associations with countries from Latin America to the South China Sea. Whatever the environment and threat may be, America’s Navy, Marines and Coast Guard will remain ready, willing and able to handle the coming century.

David Van Dyk is a senior at Liberty University currently completing his Bachelors of Science in Communications with a focus in journalism. He is a member of the Lambda Pi Eta honor society and the news editor of the university newspaper, the Liberty Champion.  His views are solely his own and do not reflect the views of the Liberty Champion nor that of Liberty University.

The Thinking Professional v. The Practical Officer

On Thursday evening CIMSEC held the first annual Forum for Authors and Readers (#CFAR15). The opening keynote talk was delivered by BJ Armstrong, a member of the Center as well as a PhD Candidate in War Studies with King’s College, London and a member of the Editorial Board of the U.S. Naval Institute. The talk is based on his new book “21st Century Sims: Innovation, Education, and Leadership for the Modern Era” and kicked off an evening of great thinking and discussion on maritime affairs.  We will have videos of the presentations on the website shortly. The following are his prepared remarks…

The Thinking Professional v. The Practical Officer:
Sims on Sailors, Scholars & Scribes

simsIn November of 1900 Lieutenant William Sims joined the wardroom of USS Kentucky, the U.S. Navy’s newest battleship. He had just come from a tour in the Paris embassy, studying and collecting intelligence on European battleship design and gunnery practices. As Kentucky sailed for China Station Sims got his sea legs back and began getting to know his new ship. He started comparing what he had observed in Europe with what he found back at sea with his shipmates, and he began to think that despite new ships and a new found place on the world stage following the victory in the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Navy still had a lot of room for improvement.

Many of you know the history that follows, how Sims found and frankly stole the concept of continuous-aim fire from Captain Percy Scott of the Royal Navy, and then went on to revolutionize naval gunnery. His course was treacherous, and unclear, but eventually throughout the fleet William Sims became known as “the man who taught us how to shoot.”

Sims continued pushing boundaries in the years leading up to World War I: advocating for the all-big-gun battleship, developing torpedo boat and destroyer tactics, and eventually commanding all American naval forces in Europe when the U.S. entered the war. During the war he was central to the adoption of the convoy system that beat the U-boats in the First Battle of the Atlantic. When he returned home he had a second term as President of the Naval War College. There he helped establish the system of study and war-gaming used in the inter-war years to develop naval aviation and American submarines.

William Sims was, beyond a doubt, an innovator. Naval innovation is often seen through the lens of technology, defined by the weapons and hardware which we label as “game-changers” or “transformations.” However, some of the most important developments in history have come from the “software”: or innovations in tactics, techniques, and procedures. Like the development of continuous-aim fire. Ideas, it must be remembered, can be even more powerful than the steel and explosives that dominate our naval heritage.

It was on the prompting of President Teddy Roosevelt that Sims wrote his first article for publication. The success of that piece led him to realize the power of sharing ideas and innovations through professional writing. Throughout the remainder of his life he wrote about dozen articles for the Naval Institute’s journal Proceedings, and more for other magazines. After returning from World War I, he collaborated with Burton Hendrick to write a book. The Victory at Sea was part history and part memoir of the war, and was published to great acclaim. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921.

As the President of the Naval War College at the beginning of the inter-war years, Sims’ thinking on naval warfare and military professionalism had an impact on an entire generation of officers. These were men returning from war and trying to put their experience in perspective and learn lessons for the future. They had names like Nimitz, Spruance, and Halsey.

Today, the ranks of the United States military are again filled with a generation of men and women who are looking back on wartime experience. Many of our junior officers and enlisted have had a level of responsibility during their service which now causes them to bristle at perceived micromanagement and bureaucracy. The military will likely struggle over the next several years to learn how to return to non-combat roles.

What can we do to improve that struggle? What can we do today to ensure that lessons we have learned over the past decade and a half of conflict are not forgotten, and are not ignored?

Over the course of his career, Sims learned a great deal about fighting the military bureaucracy, about successful innovation, and about service before and after war. He wrote about all of these subjects in the latter part of his career, and this knowledge and advice has sat quietly in the archives for today’s innovators and service members, if they want to learn from it.

Here, with CIMSEC’s members and readers, the most relevant parts of this advice may be the importance of professional writing and personal, professional learning. Sims wrote about his experience with both. They were also central to what he saw as lacking in many officers in the Navy of his day.

Taking on The Mahan…

Alfred-Thayer-MahanIn 1906 William Sims was a Lieutenant Commander and still serving in his role as Inspector of Target Practice. The Russo-Japanese War had just come to an end, and navalists all over the world were combing through news reports and the stories of the Battle of Tsushima to analyze lessons for modern naval warfare. One of these navalists was the historian and strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan.

In his day, Mahan was the great thinker on the subject of war and peace, something like how men like Brzezinski or Scrowcroft are seen today combined with a Stavridis or McMaster. He wrote an article for Proceedings that analyzed the events in the Sea of Japan. It drew the lesson that a properly designed fleet required battleships of moderate size, with a varied battery of different sized guns, that could be built in large numbers and were multi-mission. It was a conclusion well in line with the thinking of most of the Admirals in the Navy, and it encouraged the status quo.

Sims’ own experience, gathering intelligence on battleships and in developing continuous-aim fire, suggested something entirely different. He also had a friend with a report on the actual events in the Tsushima Strait to base his analysis on. Sims wrote an article that directly contradicted the great navalist. He demonstrated that the lesson of the Russo-Japanese War was that large battleships, with a battery full of all big guns of the same caliber, were the best way to construct a fleet, even if the expense meant you could only build a smaller number of them. As he wrote in the conclusion of his article:

“I have attempted to show that Captain Mahan’s conclusions are probably in error.”

As the development of the British Dreadnaught would demonstrate, Sims was far closer to how the navies of the world would develop than Mahan was.

Sims’ essay offers readers in the twenty-first century something more than an interesting story of two great naval minds and an abandoned ship class. First, it demonstrates how important a healthy professional debate is for our national security. Without discussion generated by forward-thinking officers and junior civilian analysts in military and security journals, both in print and today online, the military bureaucracy will stagnate and become reactionary. Without the engagement of innovative junior members of the team any organization, whether military or civilian, risks becoming followers instead of leaders in their field.

Sims’ article also demonstrates the importance of expertise. Readers will understand his deep knowledge and obvious study of battleship employment and design. Today’s military innovators and thinkers must learn from this example. They must be willing to jump into the arena of ideas, but they also must be willing to do the hard work of researching and studying their subject in order to get it right.

Today, whether the debate is about the future of the big-deck nuclear aircraft carriers as we recently saw in Annapolis, or about questions of the military effectiveness of swarming small combatants versus today’s modern dreadnaughts, the arguments must be logical, informed by a mastery of the facts, and well presented.

Sims knew that in order to engage the world’s leading navalist in a debate, in order to challenge the great Alfred Thayer Mahan, he had to have his details right and his logic had to be sound. This kind of rigorous and researched engagement on the defense questions of the day offers us an example for the twenty-first century, one that we must aspire to no matter where we are writing, whether in the pages of print journals like Proceedings or online at leading blogs like CIMSEC’s Next War or our other friends at The Strategy Bridge.

“The opportunity that can never return”

But how do we get that level of expertise? Some of it will come from our personal experience on the deckplates or in cockpits deployed across the seven seas. Or service in the desert, or working on staffs in the halls of power, or the buildings of DC. Some of it will come from studying for our tactics quizzes or our NATOPS exams in the ready rooms, or working on getting the right font on the briefing slides at a think tank. But those sources are only going to provide us with a small scale of knowledge, a vital foundation that we must master but something in desperate need of context and broadening. According to Sims we must add to that knowledge through a dedicated pursuit of personal professional study.

In 1921 Sims published his Newport lecture “The Practical Naval Officer” in Proceedings. The lecture is something like a Jazz cover, since he took the title and some of the inspiration from a lecture that Mahan had given in Newport nearly thirty years before. Sims, who had locked horns with the great navalist on Tsushima, now came to embrace his view of strategic education and how to prepare officers for the highest responsibilities of command and policy. There is much to talk about in his lecture, but I will focus on this last of his three pillars of strategic education.

Sims lamented the fact that when he was a junior officer, he spent his time reading subjects that had no real bearing on the military profession. He read some philosophy and political economy, but he appears to have avoided reading military history or learning about governments and international relations or current events. As he became more senior, he slowly realized that he was missing a lot of knowledge. In fact his own perception of his time as a student at the Naval War College wasn’t that it taught him the things he needed to know, instead it highlighted all of the things he didn’t know and still needed to learn.

He wrote:

Specifically addressing the younger officers of the navy, let me say that you now have the opportunity that can never return. It lies with you to determine whether, when you become old, you will have to regret the wasted years of your youth; whether at that period of life you will find yourselves simply “practical men”—“beefeaters’’—or really educated military naval officers.

It will depend largely upon self-instruction and self-discipline. But you must keep clearly in view the fact that, under modern naval conditions, an officer may be highly successful, and even brilliant, in all grades up to the responsible positions of high command, and then find his mind almost wholly unprepared to perform its vitally important functions in time of war.

Where to start? Well, Sims leaves us with a short reading list in his lecture, which you can find in my book “21st Century Sims.” It is impressive how well this list still stands up today. But as he points out, that is just a start. Even after completing their studies at the War College he emphasized to the graduating officers that they should consider themselves to be at the beginning of their education. They must continue on their own if they hope to achieve the level of professionalism that the American people deserve from their armed forces.

There is a common bit of advice that many of us have heard from senior officers looking to mentor us: Take care of your job today, do it well, and you will be prepared for your next job. Focus on today’s tasks and everything else will take care of itself. Sims comes out in direct opposition to this advice. Sure, from a purely careerist point of view it is the best way to ensure you have the right grades and catch phrases on your fitness report for promotion. But from a professional point of view the unspoken part of this advice is that you don’t need to look to the future, to think about the questions “above your pay grade.” Instead, once you’ve completed your daily tasks and your administrative minutia, you can just return to managing your fantasy football team or play some more video games. Even in his day Sims was incensed that senior officers continued to give this advice. He believed that professionalism was more than the shine on your shoes, or the grade on your rules of the road quiz, it meant reading and studying your profession, even in your personal time.

Summation

In his recent book “Saltwater Leadership,” which you will hear some more about later this evening, Admiral Robert Wray conducted a survey of active duty naval officers. They were asked to rank seventy six leadership traits. The last two traits on the list, the least important things to teach young naval officers about leadership, were sensitivity and scholarship. Now, a bit higher on that list was writing ability, at number 33. This begs the question, if we haven’t studied our profession or looked at it in a comprehensive and scholarly way, what exactly do we have to write about? Admiral Sims would probably take exception to this list of what today’s officers believe. He would emphasize that professional writing must be about something, it must demonstrate mastery not only of the technical aspects of a problem but also understanding of the context and history of the issues involved. It must be the result of research, personal study, and yes, scholarship.

In conclusion today, I leave you with the knowledge that the pursuit of professional writing and personal professional study has a long history in the maritime service. It is true, there appear to be very few members of the Flag Ranks who published in the pages of Proceedings before they became important enough to have a staff to help them write. But across time the sailors that really made a difference like Samuel Du Pont, William Sims, Ernest King, Chester Nimitz, Bull Halsey, Bud Zumwalt, Tom Hayward, Jim Stavridis, and a few in uniform today, studied their profession and wrote articles to forward its development. They engaged in the professional debate and discussion well before they assumed the highest responsibilities of command, and our navy and our nation are better for it.

William Sims’ writings offers us an opportunity to be mentored by an accomplished leader who lived more than a century ago. His essays and lectures, with their examples of innovation, education, and leadership, can help us look at the challenges militaries and organizations face in the twenty-first century, ask the right questions, and find solutions. These certainly apply to those in uniform, but at their heart they apply to all leaders, whether from the military, industry, or government. Everyone who is interested in thinking about defense issues.

Like Alfred Thayer Mahan before him, the foundation of much of Sims’ writing and thinking is the idea that asking questions, and doing the work of research and reflection necessary to find the right questions, is at the heart of being a professional. I hope that with new organizations like CIMSEC, and older ones like the Naval Institute, with engaged junior officers and members of the defense community, we can carry on that vital part of our naval heritage.

Thank You.

#CFAR15 Line-Up Announced

Our readers have spoken, and through nominations and a round of voting selected the following works for their authors to speak at CIMSEC’s Forum for Authors and Readers (CFAR) on Thursday, February 26th. I have the pleasure to moderate a discussion between these six speakers and the audience on their recent works:

Congrats to those selected! To join us, RSVP here. Full details below:

Location: Steptoe & Johnson, LLP, 1330 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC. Nearest Metro: Dupont Circle. 

Schedule (Thursday, Feb 26th):
– 5:00 – 5:30 Registration with light refreshments
– 5:30 – 6:00 Keynote with LCDR BJ Armstrong and Q+A
– 6:00 – 7:30 CIMSEC contributor presentations and engagement sessions.

Thanks to USNI and Steptoe & Johnson for their generous support in making this event possible.