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Sea Control 150: Former Secretary and First Lady of the Navy, John and Margaret Dalton, Pt. 2

By Travis Nicks

We were honored to speak with former Secretary of the Navy John Dalton and his wife, Margaret Dalton, about their service during the Clinton administration. Read or listen to Part One of this two-part interview here.

DOWNLOAD: Sea Control 150: Former Secretary and First Lady of the Navy, John and Margaret Dalton, Pt. 2

TN: You served as a leader for essentially your entire life. You started as a naval officer. We’ve talked about your business career, where you were a leader in every organization you worked for – from Goldman Sachs up to your post at the top of the banking industry in the government. And of course, you became Secretary of the Navy. I’m just wondering what your advice would be to Sailors and junior officers that want to serve their country in the same capacity that you have, or to the same degree that you have.                                             

JD: I got unsolicited – shortly after I became Secretary, I received “The Timeless Traits of Leadership” that this minister had sent me from California. And I never had heard of him or knew him. But he and his staff did a retreat, and they came up with these eight traits of leadership. And I tried my best to live by those. And they are: a leader is trusted, a leader takes the initiative, a leader uses good judgement, a leader speaks with authority, a leader strengthens others, a leader’s optimistic and enthusiastic, never compromises absolutes, and leads by example. And I think those traits of leadership were very helpful to me when I was in office.

In terms of my prior career, I think you can summarize those eight traits of leadership in another leadership program –basically, know your stuff, be a person of character, and take care of your people. And, you know, I think if you do either of those eight traits or following the summarized version that was very helpful to me. But I want to emphasize the fact, Travis, that I had some success in business and in government, and I had some failures in business and government. And so you know, everything’s not pretty and rosy. I mean, I’ve had a business one time where I thought I was going to face bankruptcy, I avoided it, but there are ups and downs in business and in government. And I tell midshipmen when I talk to them, and I tell interns when I talk to them, the three things that you have to rely on when things go badly (and they will go badly for all of us)… I talk about having a lot of balls in the air, but three of those balls are crystal and those are you family, your faith, and your friends. And I think relying on those kinds of things had been very helpful to me throughout my career – are things that should be emphasized in nurturing all of those things.

TN: So, Mrs. Dalton, if we could transition over to asking you some questions.

MD: You may do that.

TN: So, Mrs. Dalton, how did you find being the First Lady of the Navy?

MD: I loved every minute of it. It was a great, great experience. It opened my eyes so much. We had not been married when my husband was in the Navy – he was in graduate school when we married. So it was my first experience in any kind of Navy life. I just, I loved every minute of it. As you said, there were some tough times that he had that I was there for, but he loved every minute that he was in that position. Every day, it could be a hard day, but it was a good day. And he looked forward to going in every day. And that made happy. That made me really happy.

TN: So what kind of experiences do you feel like you had before you became the First Lady of the Navy that contributed to how well you were able to help the Navy after you became the First Lady of the Navy?

MD: Well, I’ll have to say that people all my life have told me that I was a good listener. And every time people had issues, you know, they would come and talk to me. Every now and then Johnny would say to me, “Your shingle. Did you have your shingle out today?” And so that was one thing that was helpful to me – that I was able to listen to what I was being told.

And when he first became Secretary, I was asked what kind of Secretary’s wife I wanted to be, whether I wanted to be active or whether I just wanted to go to social things. And I said, “No, I really wanted to be active.” And the quality of life issues and working with the wives and families became my bailiwick. And I have never had any trouble talking with people. All our married life we’d been in a lot of social situations, and I always felt comfortable, and so I was never uncomfortable with new groups and visiting with new groups. And I think that that prepared me – having had those experiences in the past, and just knowing that I have to be aware of what people are telling me and listening and being able to respond, or being able to pass them on as they need to be passed on.

TN: Alright. So what got your eye about quality of life issues in the first place that made you want to focus on quality of life issues?

MD: Well, the first time we ever took a trip alone, we went to Hawaii. One of our first travels was to Hawaii. And the women picked me off and Johnny went to meet with Sailors and there were ships. And I went to look at housing and schools and, you know, medical things. And the first thing they did was to drive me to look at housing. The first place we went was to see the Air Force housing, which was just lovely – and I thought this is a great, great way – I’ve never looked at how people in the Navy lived.

And then they said, “Now we want to show you the Navy housing.”

And I said, “Where?” And they were telling me where it was, and they said where it was. And I said, “Well, is it near that slum area that we saw?”

And they said, “That is the slum area.”

And I knew that right away – I said, “That can’t be.” We went to look at the houses and I was appalled. I said, “We can’t have anybody living like this. Why would anybody be in the Navy – why would anyone want to be married to someone in the Navy if this is how you live?” I mean there were terrible termite problems, there were holes in roofs. I’ll never forget this house – they had a sort of porch. It wasn’t necessarily some sort of porch or some additional thing. And there was a big space between the roof lines. And any time it rained, which was every day, rain came down between those two rooms. You can’t live like that. It was awful, it was just awful.

I was always interested in the medical things, and when they had issues with medical things and how could they get such and such when they were too far away. And the educational things were pretty well taken care of because the schools were good. But the housing was a real issue. That sort of kind of became my thing.

JD: If I could interrupt, on the housing thing. When she went to see that Navy housing in Pearl Harbor, she did her thing and I did mine. We came back and we were changing clothes for dinner, and I said, “How was your day?”

And she started telling me about it and how bad it was, and literally teared up talking about how bad Navy housing was. And she said, “You can’t let Sailors live like this.”

And I said, “Okay, Margaret, when I get back to Washington, we’ll ask for a briefing on the housing, and I want you to come.”

So, we had this briefing which was scheduled for 30 minutes, and it lasted about an hour and 20 minutes. And the civil servant who was leading the briefing said, “Mr. Secretary, thank you for asking for this briefing. I want you to know that I’ve never met a Secretary of the Navy before, and I’ve certainly never given a briefing, but I’m happy to tell you about Navy housing.” And so she went on to talk about Navy housing.

And I realized that we had a big problem, I mean, Margaret had already told me about it, but I could see that it was a bigger problem than I thought. And we did some more homework on it, and I asked for a meeting with Bill Perry, Secretary Perry, who was the Secretary of Defense at the time, and a very outstanding leader. And I asked for a meeting with him, and I went in to see him, and it was just the two of us. I guess somebody told me – our office not to bring any staff, and he didn’t have anybody there. And so I laid it out for him. I said, “Here’s what the Air Force spends per capita. This is what the army spends per capita. This is what the Navy spends per capita. And this is what the Marine Corps spends per capita.” I said, “Mr. Secretary, retention is going to be a major problem if we don’t correct this.”

He asked a few questions and we went back and forth. And I wasn’t there more than half an hour, you know, I finished and he got it. And he said, “Let me look at this and I’ll get back to you.”

Before the day ended, John Deutch called me. He was the Deputy Secretary of Defense at the time, and said, “You’ll have 100 million additional dollars to spend in the next two fiscal years – the remainder of what’s left this year and next year on Naval housing.” And he said, “Do you want it all to go for Navy Housing?”

TN: It really is just amazing how you can affect so much change by listening and noticing what are clear problems to the people experiencing them, but would otherwise never be recognized.

MD: The other thing, too, about that, is that these women… I don’t think their husbands would have liked it if they had gone and told the Secretary because of their careers. But they didn’t feel at all hesitant to tell me things. And I could tell my husband without giving any names. But I know that if they’d gone up person to person and said something, then that would have been an issue for the husband for sure. The husband would have perceived it as a big issue. But they could tell me things, and they told me a lot of things. I heard a lot in five and a half years.

TN: One question that I was curious about is that over the time that you all served as the Secretary and First Lady of the Navy, there was quite a few scandals and tragic periods – to include to tragedy from Tailhook, we talked a little about budgeting but it had some real dramatic implications for the fleet. And then I think it was 1995, CNO Admiral Borda took his own life tragically. And there was just a series of very public and sad experiences for the Navy family. And I’m curious how you felt, or how you responded to that, and how you were able to console and help recover the Navy in that time.

MD: Well I do think that the people were really affected by that, and I think – I didn’t hear as much as I thought I would have hear about that when we would travel about that. I heard more around here about it.

TN: Around here in D.C.

MD: Yes. And I think that probably, an awful lot of the people here knew Admiral Boorda – the wives and, of course, the officers enlisted. But the wives, many of them knew Admiral Boorda. And so it was a personal thing for an awful lot of the people around here. And I think that, you know, you deal that the way you deal with the death of any friend or any associate. I think probably, you had a lot more backlash.

JD: Well, I recommended to the Secretary of Defense, after interviewing four or five or six – I don’t remember how many people I interviewed to be the CNO, all three and four star admirals. I don’t think I interviewed anybody who was less than three star. But I interviewed a number of people and you know, recommended to the Secretary of Defense that Admiral Boorda be selected. And we talked about the morale problem. And Mike Boorda was a people person. And he was the first enlisted Sailor that made it to four stars and I thought with the morale problem that we had, that he would be good for the navy. You know, there were those who disagreed with that. I think he was a good CNO. He had his faults like we all do, but I remember being with him the day before he committed suicide. And he was as happy and as full of life and, you know, vintage Mike Boorda, the day before.

As a matter of fact, you know, I have a budget that includes the Navy and Marine Corps, and there’s always a tousle between the two services in terms of, well, how the pie’s going to be split. But, you know, I only have so many dollars for the Navy Department, and we have to fund two services. But, the CNO, Mike Boorda, and the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Chuck Krulak, asked for an appointment with me and they came in to see me the day before the budget was released, for me to send it down to Bill Perry. And he’s, the controller for the Department of Defense. And they came in and did a high five in front of my desk, and they said, “We got a recommendation for you that we think – we’re both happy with and we hope that you’ll support.” You know, for them to give, you know, a high five in my presence – I mean, they just wanted to show me…

TN: I don’t think a lot of Marines would believe that General Krulak was capable of giving high fives.

JD: But he did. He did that day, and the next day, I was in a meeting with three or four people. And typically, if the CNO needs to see me, or the Commandant, his aide will come in to see my aide and say, “I hate to interrupt the Secretary, but my boss needs to see me right away.” And that didn’t happen. Chuck Krulak came busting in. I mean, I can remember how the door opened. And he came in, he said, “Admiral Mike Boorda has been shot. And, he was at his home, and we have circumvented that the Navy Yard with Marines, and we are going to find the perpetrator.”

You know, he committed suicide. And so I went immediately to the hospital. I asked, we had a press conference and so on, and I just said, you know, “This is a terrible tragedy.” And they asked me a lot of questions, and I said, “I really don’t know any of the details at this point.”

At that point, it wasn’t even confirmed that it was a suicide. But, the next day, in asking questions, I talked to Admiral Pease, who was CHINFO. I said, “I know you had a meeting with Mike Boorda that morning. Tell me about it.”

Well he said, “We had finished this other meeting,” And then he said. “‘You know, you have this meeting this afternoon with a reporter from Newsweek,” he said. Admiral Boorda said, “What does he want to talk about?’” And he said, “He wants to talk about the medals.” And he said, “We’ll just tell him the truth.” And then, it was about lunchtime, and he said, “I’m going home to lunch.”

And he took the keys to the car – normally, the driver, you know, would – and he said, “No, I don’t want you to drive me. I’m going to drive my car home.” And so he drove his car home. And he’d said he was going to go have lunch with his wife. Well, he knew his wife was not there. She was on some social function, and so she was not there. And so he went home and wrote two suicide notes: one to the Navy personnel, and one to his family. And walked out in the side yard and killed himself.

It was a tragedy, and I’ll tell you, I know that President Clinton went to Mike Boorda’s home, I believe it was that evening, and met with his wife and his other – his children, and spent like an hour and a half visiting with them. And that was never reported. But I know that’s, you know, the family members have told me that’s what he did. And he really empathized with people and spent quality time with them, when things like this happened. It was a big blow to the Navy, you know, when this happened. It really was.

TN: How did you all, as a team, go about getting the Navy back on track, and making the leadership transition happen smoothly, and recover from the emotional toll of the situation as an institution?

JD: It was, you know, one step in front of the other. I mean, it was a tragedy, but you know, we had a job to do, and my job was to name a new or recommend a new CNO. And, you know, I talked to several people and recommended Jay Johnson. And the Navy, you know, had a job to do and had to move on. I mean, it was a tragedy, and there was a wonderful service at the National Cathedral, and the President spoke, and I spoke. But anyway, I talked about what a fine – I read the true gentlemen that was back in, and I said this depicts Mike Boorda, you know, he was a gentleman. A true gentleman. And I also told a story about what a great ship-handler he was. One time, we were at sea, and they did a man overboard drill. And, you know, Mike Boorda said, “I’ll take the con.” And so you know, the CNO is the officer of the death, the conning officer for this man overboard drill.

TN: I’m not sure if I’d be mortified or enthused.

JD: Well, you know, he pulled that ship around, and I mean, you know, you could look over the side, and there was the life preserver – the lifeline, floating…the man overboard. I mean, it was… And Admiral Boorda said, “Mr. Secretary, do you want to do one?”

I said, “No, thank you.” I mean, I knew where my skills were, and they weren’t – I mean, ship-handling to that level? I couldn’t compete with that.

TN: That would be fun to watch.

JD: But that was, that got a big laugh from the congregation when I said no thank you. But anyway, you know the Navy and Marine Corps are resilient. And they marched off and continued to march. They got the job done and they had a job to do, and it was an unfortunate incident, and it really was a terrible tragedy.

TN: Mrs. Dalton – did you see an emotional toll having an effect on leadership morale in D.C. at the time?

MD: I did not. Yeah, I mean, it was sad, and it was a shock, and people talked about it. But I really don’t remember it as – as he said, there was a job to be done. And I understood there was a lot of talk, but that was pretty much what it was. But we all, everybody tried to be supportive of Betty Boorda. I was just saying, one of the great things about Mike Boorda was the enlisted just loved him. I mean, he was so close to them.

JD: He was the Sailor’s Sailor. I mean, you know, he really was.

MD: Yes, he really – that was one of his great, great things. They – all over the Navy – they all thought he was wonderful. And they were so proud that somebody who had started out as an enlisted had risen to that rank.

TN: As the first person to be prior-enlisted and then become a four-star admiral – you alluded a little bit to controversy about that kind of ascension. I’m just curious how that played out, and how that was taken into account in his selection as CNO.

JD: Like I said, we, earlier, we had a morale problem, and you know, Mike Boorda was the Sailor’s Sailor, and you know, there wasn’t much pushback when he was named. I mean, he got confirmed easily. I mean, he had been Chief of Naval Personnel and been on the Hill a lot and had a lot of friends on the Hill, and they were very supportive of his nomination.

MD: He made friends very easily.

JD: Yeah.

MD: He was a real easy person to like.

JD: He really was.

TN: With three people in leadership – in Navy leadership – at the time that had people on the mind and had quality of life as a focus (the two of you and Admiral Boorda), I’m curious how you found the quality of life issues to be taken by the fleet if you found that Sailors and Sailors’ families were receptive to the kinds of changes that you were making with housing and with a restored focus on people, or if that was taken strangely.

MD: Oh no. They were thrilled. They were thrilled with the improvements that were being made. I mean, I have people to this day who come up and thank me. They really do.

JD: Well, I tell you what. I have an email from a three-star Army general, just in the last couple of days, and he said, “Please give my regards to Mrs. Dalton, the best First Lady of the Navy the Navy ever had.” I mean, you know, this is an Army three-star who said that about her.

MD: Well, I think it became apparent that morale and quality of life and the families were high on his mind, in addition to what their husbands were doing and that kind of thing. And they knew that I was there to speak up for them. And I’d pass on whatever I saw and whatever I heard. Like I said, it’s amazing that people will still say something, you know, all these years later. And they’re out, their husbands are out, and they’ll just say, “Oh, I remember X, Y, you know.”

JD: I mean, we left office in ’98, I mean, that’s been almost, 20 years ago.

MD: And I think it’s been a very long time since anybody’s paid attention to the family life. I mean, I could be wrong, but I think it had not been a priority.

JD: Particularly in the Navy Department. I think the Air Force and Army, they had emphasized those issues more than we have.

TN: Navy families are notoriously resilient and famously tough. I’m just curious if you found that in your listening to the families talk, if there was any resilience to bring up issues, or if…

MD: Not to me. Not to me. They tell me everything. I mean, I know if they told their husbands they had told me these things, they might not be happy, but they would tell me anything. I’d go in and we’d have these meetings, and every time we’d go someplace, I’d meet with a good sized group of ladies, and they never held back. They knew that I would pass it out, that I was genuinely concerned about it, because I really was. As I said earlier, I had no prior knowledge of Navy life at all. My father had been in the Army during the war, but he was long out before I was born. Or he was out shortly after I was born. And so I never knew anything at all about military life, and certainly not about family life in the Navy. This was my first experience with it, and it was a huge eye-opener.

TN: How so? How was it an eye-opener?

MD: Well, first of all, I thought that the deployments – I can’t imagine having my husband gone all the time. And I found that everybody just rolled with it. They knew that that was their life. And I found two – it was great how they all just sort of knew each other. They’d been stationed someplace with someone else – we were together in Iceland, or we were together wherever it was, you know. And the family feeling within the Navy is just phenomenal. It really is. There’s so much support, which I had no idea about. I mean, I didn’t have a reason to know. So I’d go, and anything I learned about any kind of Navy life or Marine Corps family life was new. And it was generally, for the most part, it was wonderful. And nobody seemed to complain. At that time, as you said, they had six month deployments and it was a pretty regular thing. You knew your husband was going to be gone for six months before he’d be home. The one thing I did here was that, when they were coming home, the wives that were used to being in charge of everything, and the husbands that would come in and decide that would be in charge – and that point was always a hard breaking in for them, but for the most part, they knew that.

But now, it’s very different. And with – as you were talking about with the drawdown a while ago, now it’s very different. The Navy is so small now, you know, spread so thin, you have to be all things to all people and be all places for anybody, anything – whether it’s a conflict, or whether a potential conflict, or it’s a tsunami, or an earthquake – whatever. We’re there. You know, the active duty person is gone – and a lot. And they come in, and just because they’re back home, it doesn’t mean they’re really home because they’re training for the next deployment, or they’re out doing something else that’s so they’re not necessarily home. And I applaud the recommendation to increase the size of the Navy and Marine Corps because I think it’s very difficult for families now.

TN: You really get it.

MD: Well, it’s what I did. I mean I just think it’s got to be. And I think that living conditions now – I’m so pleased that the living conditions are better now. That’s so great because I can’t imagine leaving even for the six month deployment and leaving your family in these terrible conditions if they were 25 years ago – in a lot of places – not every place, but a lot of places – and being gone, and knowing that your family was living like that. Now you know that they’re in good, substantial, nice housing, have access to whatever they need – good medical care, good, you know. I think that’s a good reason for having people stay in. I think there are a lot of enlisted people who now stay. They got good housing, affordable housing, a good situation for schools – I think that helps with retention a lot.

But the fact that we’re so small and we have to be everywhere all the time, and there’s just not enough of us to do that without being deployed an awful lot of the time. And that’s – that is a hindrance to retention.

TN: For the Navy families that you’ve conversed with since you’ve left the Department of the Navy, I’m curious if you hear the same discussion – I don’t want to say complaint, but criticism, that the quality of life issues are sort of streaming back up again, because of the length in deployments and the reduction in maintenance budgeting.

MD: Well I don’t have a reason to hear that now. The people that I’m normally with are people who are in that sponsors group that I told you about, and they are far enough removed from that. They’re all – their husbands have been out for a long time. And so I don’t hear that much anymore. But the one thing that I do know is that they’re not enough. We do need to build up the size of the Navy and the Marine Corps so that the active duty person is not gone, all the time.

I have something else too, on that. I was talking to somebody and she said, “You know, the veterans have been great in really working on wounded warriors and that sort of thing.” But the veterans are particularly the ones who have not been out that long and who are pretty close to the situation. They could also be really beating the drums for increasing the size of the Navy and the Marine Corps. Cause they’re right there, they just left there and they haven’t been away for that long.

TN: Might be the reason they left.

MD: Very well could be. Could be unhappy wives who never saw their husbands, or unhappy husbands who never saw their wives who were deployed.

TN: So on a little bit of a lighter note, will you tell us about the sponsor program you’re involved in?  

MD: Oh, I will, I will indeed. I have the privilege of being the sponsor of the Seawolf submarine. And women who hves that privilege of cruising a ship and being the sponsor, is invited to join the Society of the Sponsors. And what that means is that anyone who has christened a ship can join this, and we’re kind of a – it’s a very unique group of people. And a sponsor of a ship is, as just about anybody knows (anybody within the Navy), the one person who is with that ship forever. There’s lots of different crews and lots of different captains, but there’s only one sponsor. It’s really a special bond between not just the ship and the sponsor but between the other people who are sponsors and who’ve had that experience. And it’s a good group of ladies and it’s a good thing to be – to be a sponsor.

TN: I had the privilege of going to the christening of the USS Tulsa is the first time I’ve ever had that opportunity. And seeing that whole ceremony, and the seriousness with which our sponsor, Kathy Taylor, took it was just a really cool experience.

MD: I’ll tell you… When I was president of the Society of Sponsors, and as president, I went to every ship that was – well, I was supposed to be. There were a couple I couldn’t go to. The christening and the commission of every ship that was, you know, in that group during the two years I was president of the organization. And it was great. It was just, they make you feel so special, and you just think, you know, you’re queen for a day. It’s a great experience.

TN: Well, Secretary Dalton, Mrs. Dalton, thank you so much for taking the time to have this conversation with CIMSEC. Are there any last things you wanted to convey to our listeners?

JD: I loved my service as Secretary of the Navy and wouldn’t take anything for the experience and you know, our Sailors and Marines are special people and they get the job done. I’m very proud of them and grateful to them for what they did and wearing the cloth of our nation. They’re great people.

MD: And I will say people ask me what the best thing about being the Secretary’s wife was. And there were lots. We had the privilege of doing an awful lot of very wonderful things. But the best thing were the women, the wives, the families that I had the opportunity to meet and associate with during that time from all over the world. They really are special, special women, and I applaud them for everything that they day.

TN: Well, Sir and Ma’am, thank you so much for your time, and this unique opportunity to get your perspective and your insight. Thank you so much.

MD and JD: You’re welcome.

JD: Thank you.

John Dalton served as the 70th Secretary of the Navy from 1993 to 1998. 

Mary Dalton is Secretary Dalton’s spouse.

Travis Nicks formerly served as the Vice President of CIMSEC. These questions and views are presented in a personal capacity.

Cris Lee is Senior Producer of the Sea Control podcast. 

Call for Articles: Bringing Back Sea Control

By Dmitry Filipoff

Articles Due: September 3, 2018
Week Dates: September 10-14, 2018

Article Length: 1000-3000 words 
Submit to: Nextwar@cimsec.org

Great power competition is back, and with it new demands for capability and deterrence. After years of focusing on power projection and low-end missions, many first rate navies have allowed high-end skillsets to erode. As security priorities shift, navies too must change. 

One vital mission for winning and deterring great power conflict is sea control, the ability to secure command of the seas. Today sea control has morphed into something of enormous complexity. It can be a convoluted contest, with platforms and payloads projecting influence across multiple domains. Navies are ever more reliant on electronic effects for warfighting functions, turning cyberspace and electronic warfare into pivotal battlegrounds for sea control. Sea control is the sum of many elements of oceanic warfare, requiring diverse skills and tactics.

In spite of technological change, sea control will remain an important mission so long as the oceans remain crucial to human progress. It is the vital prerequisite for projecting power and securing access via the maritime domain. It can enable blockades and commerce raiding, allowing a navy to exert tremendous pressure on a nation’s vitality. Sea control is a mission as timeless as naval power itself, and one deserving of thorough preparation.

How can the navies of today revitalize their sea control capabilities? How can they become proficient in high-end missions and tactics? What will achieving sea control require, and how best to use it once attained? Authors are encouraged to consider these questions and more as navies around the world reconsider their development in the context of renewed great power competition. 

Dmitry Filipoff is CIMSEC’s Director of Online Content. Contact him at Nextwar@cimsec.org

Featured Image: BALTIC SEA (June 9, 2018) Thirty maritime unit ships from 12 nations maneuver in close formation for a photo exercise during Exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2018 in the Baltic Sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Justin Stumberg/Released)

Warfare Tactics Instructor: A Unique Opportunity for Junior Officers

By Rear Adm. John Wade and Cmdr. Jeff Heames

Rapid technological advancements and the re-emergence of near peer competition require that we continue to invest in high end tools – platforms, weaponry, and sensors. Equally important are the tactics to employ them and the associated training investment we must make in today’s warfighters and future leaders in the Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) cadre. The centerpiece of an amped-up warfighting culture in surface warfare is the Warfare Tactics Instructor (WTI) program, available to all division officers, department heads eligible for shore duty, and a small number of limited duty and chief warrant officers.

The ideal onramp into the WTI community is during the first shore tour following completion of at-sea division officer assignments. This timing allows the WTI program to fit neatly in a career pipeline. Three attributes set the WTI program apart: the opportunity to develop expertise in areas the Navy needs, exposure to exclusive professional development opportunities during the readiness production tour and throughout a career, and the empowerment to make significant contributions at a very junior level.

Expertise

The ability to develop confidence through professional expertise early in a career has a profound accelerating effect on an officer’s development, and directly contributes to a sense of purpose and fulfillment. WTIs are afforded the time, resources, and experience-building opportunities they need to learn while making substantive contributions to tactics and warfighting proficiency.

The WTI program offers a gateway for young officers to develop deep tactical expertise in the fields of Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD), Anti-Submarine/Surface Warfare (ASW/SUW), and Amphibious Warfare (AMW). Each field begins with a two week Instructor and Tactics Course (ITC) followed by a tailored, 14-16 week course of instruction. During this instruction period, prospective WTIs are mentored and coached to develop their skills at leveraging the Plan, Brief, Execute, and Debrief (PBED) methodology for rapid learning. Following this training, WTIs complete a 24-month “readiness production tour” at SMWDC headquarters or one of four SMWDC Divisions – focused on Sea Combat, IAMD, AMW, or Mine Warfare – or selected training commands (CSG-4/15, TTGP/L, ATG, CSCS, or SWOS, to name a few). During this tour, WTI skills are matured both in the classroom – and at sea – during Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) and other fleet training events.

Learning by Teaching

The emphasis on teaching as a basis for learning is based on an idea espoused by the Roman philosopher Seneca, who declared, “docendo discimus” or, “by teaching, we learn.” This model of learning is also used to develop WTI candidates, which is why instructor skills are a main focus of ITC. Quality of lesson delivery is established through a rigorous standardization process that must be completed for each lecture delivered by a WTI. It’s not uncommon for a WTI to invest weeks or months of research, as well as conduct numerous “murder boards” with fellow WTIs, technical experts, and senior officers, before presenting at the podium. The process is meant to maintain a high standard of instruction where WTIs have established mastery of content and exhibit confidence in delivery.

Focused Specialty Areas

During initial WTI training, students are assigned relevant tactical projects that match critical fleet needs and account for student interests. Projects often involve new technology or capability that must be thoughtfully and effectively integrated into maritime warfare doctrine. Other projects center on updating existing doctrine or repurposing existing systems in new and innovative ways. Specialty areas and projects are assigned based on WTI preference and crosscut broadly, from high-end tactics to training systems and learning science.

Focus area research often extends past initial WTI training, into subsequent readiness production tours, and beyond. SMWDC provides mentorship, applies resources, and opens doors to connect WTIs to thought leaders, technical community experts, industry partners, and community leaders to develop their specialty area work.

Coaching and Training Skills

WTIs are the core workforce of SMWDC’s advanced tactical training at sea. They rely on replay tools that include systems data, voice, and other information to rapidly build ground truth and facilitate debrief sessions. Equipped with irrefutable data on what really happened, the “I thought” and “I felt” ambiguities are driven out of the debrief process, enabling shipboard watch teams to learn and grow together more rapidly.

The combination of WTI knowledge, replay-assisted PBED, and specialized training focused on team dynamics and coaching skills offers a powerful method for improving learning across the fleet. The aim is to create an environment of transparency and mutual trust among watch team members, where Sailors enter debrief sessions eager to identify their own shortfalls in order to improve team and unit performance.

Lt. Cmdr. Katie Whitman, left, provides advanced training during an event at sea during her readiness production tour at Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center headquarters on Dec. 15, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo)

At-sea training allows WTIs to observe multiple ships and teams across a variety of training and operational circumstances. The WTIs gain practical insight into how doctrine plays out on the deckplates, as well as hone their ability to identify team performance issues during at-sea training. While the immediate objective is to improve tactical proficiency and unit performance, the skills WTIs gain are extraordinarily useful in future roles as department heads.

Performance Analysis

The final link in WTI expertise development leverages the strong partnership between SMWDC and the technical community. Our ability to measure and analyze performance among units is a challenge due to complex weapons systems, ship configuration variance, and the number of watchstanders distributed in different controlling stations. To build a clear picture of how tactics, training, and systems converge into warfighting capability, a detailed event reconstruction must take place that considers system actions, operator actions, and tactics.

Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Corona, Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Keyport, and SMWDC have developed a Data Analysis Working Group (DAWG) to conduct performance analysis of SMWDC training events. The intent is to extract empirical, data-driven insights from the careful analysis of systems, operators, and tactical performance.

The process is laborious, but straightforward. Following at-sea training, event data is extracted from unit combat systems and sensors and then brought to NSWC for detailed analysis. Following initial analysis from the technical community, WTIs and SMWDC leaders stand up a 1-2 week DAWG event.

By examining system performance, operator performance, and tactics as a consolidated effort, the process can lead to discoveries not captured by direct observation – system anomalies, operator actions, and flaws in tactics. Findings and lessons learned can be very useful because they are underpinned by empirical data and technical analysis. To date, more than 40 weapons system performance anomaly reports have been generated from DAWG events. Systems issues have been identified and funneled to the appropriate technical community to resolve, tactics have been updated, and numerous operator performance issues have been provided to the training community as opportunities to grow or strengthen curriculum. This allows SMWDC to advocate for tactical updates among partner warfighting development centers and provide feedback to the TYCOM and Surface Warfare training enterprise.

For the WTI, immersion in performance analysis activity with civilian technical experts offers a unique lens into how weapons systems, operator performance, and tactics are all linked to create combat potential.

Professional Development

Because the program is highly sought after by driven, focused professionals, the majority of WTIs are on track to return to sea as department heads. Notably, WTI cadre retention is double historical averages in the Surface Warfare community at roughly 70 percent. WTIs heading back to sea have a notable advantage given the training they receive and the experiences they gain at a formative stage of their career that others simply do not.

Assignment Consideration

Similar to officers with other subspecialty skills – Nuclear Program, Financial Management, Operations Analysis, and Space Systems – WTIs have unique skillsets based on their focus areas. For example, IAMD WTIs in readiness production tour billets at the Naval Air Warfare Development Center in Fallon, Nev., have completed the Carrier Airborne Early Warning Weapons School, becoming dual-patched WTIs. These officers are among very few in the Navy with expertise in Integrated Fire Control (IFC) from both the Aviation and Surface perspectives.

To maximize the return on investment for these unique WTI skills, SMWDC is closely aligned with PERS-41 in the distribution process, ensuring future assignments leverage these strengths (e.g., assigning a WTI with IFC expertise to IFC-capable units). While assignments will always consider many variables, this close relationship ensures WTI experience and skills are considered during the assignments process. 

Continuing Education

WTI training and readiness production tours leave less time to complete graduate education between division officer and department head assignments. To mitigate this challenge, WTIs are awarded priority for graduate degree programs at service colleges as well as the Naval Postgraduate School distance learning programs.

Additionally, WTIs are afforded unique and exclusive professional development opportunities that extend throughout their careers. Annual “Re-Blue” events held at SMWDC Divisions are a venue for WTIs, both in-and-out of readiness production tours to attend week-long immersive workshops where information is exchanged and re-distributed into the fleet. Funded travel to Re-Blue events keeps WTIs connected to the sharp edge of the operational Fleet during their readiness production tours and beyond. Re-Blue events are an example of SMWDC’s commitment to maintaining excellence within the WTI cadre.

Empowerment

SMWDC is unlocking the potential of our junior officers and post-department heads, empowering them to swarm and solve difficult problems. While experience will always have a place at the table, this new generation of naval officers holds several key advantages. Unencumbered by “the way things have always been,” these officers are better suited to envision a future that leverages trends in technology, communication, and learning. This is an area where fresh perspective is an asymmetric advantage. WTIs bring their creativity, ingenuity, and initiative to developing the next generation of cutting-edge tactics, techniques, and procedures.

PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 26, 2016) — Lt. Serg Samardzic and Lt. Aaron Jochimsen, Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTI) of the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) coordinate missile exercise rehearsals on the USS Princeton during an anti-submarine exercise in the Southern California operating area Sept. 26, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Trevor Andersen/Released)

WTI’s are creating a positive impact in the Fleet. From immersion in their focused specialty areas to tactical projects, and deckplate innovations, WTIs have built an impressive list of contributions since SMWDC’s formal establishment in June 2015. Consider the below examples of projects inspired, developed, and built by WTIs, while being supported by SMWDC leadership.

  • Lt. Cmdr. Katie Whitman was the lead action officer developing the SWATT in port and underway curriculum from the ground-up, using best-of-breed practices culled from aviation and other communities. She developed replay-assisted PBED for rapid learning and crafted the SWATT performance analysis strategy, which are now distinctive features of the exercise.
  • Lt. Ben Graybosch partnered with NUWC Keyport to revise the VISTA replay tool to include A/V-15 sonar system data, enabling the detailed “ground truth” ASW replay for unit sonar teams within 4 hours of completing ASW events. Graybosch’s effort moved the needle on ASW ground truth replay availability from days or weeks down to hours after an event. With replay tools that offer ground truth much earlier, we can increase the velocity of learning within surface ASW teams dramatically. VISTA is now employed in every ASW event supported by SMWDC and other fleet training events.
  • Lt. Brandon Naddel was the lead author for the Naval Surface Gunnery Publication released in 2017. Naddel and his team revised a 15-year-old document laden with technical jargon and dated systems into an information-packed and easily understood tactical publication relevant to all surface ships.
  • Lt. Tyson Eberhardt authored tactical guidance for the emerging Continuous Active Sonar (CAS) capability. Eberhardt leveraged at-sea training and experimentation events to rapidly refine tactical guidance in 2017. Based on his work, the CAS capability was used to great success in the operational fleet later that year.
  • Lt. Matt Clark designed and built a Target Motion Analysis (TMA) training tool accessible on any classified terminal with built-in performance analytics. Clark’s tool has potential to provide insight on the rate of individual skills decay in TMA. This type of information could then be used to inform currency thresholds for future training requirements.
  • Lt. Aaron Jochimsen was the lead author for the SM-6 TACMEMO. He conducted extensive research on SM-6 that included production site visits, participation in wargaming and experimentation, as well as involvement in fleet missile firings.
  • Chief Warrant Officer Troy Woods completed a readiness production tour with the Center for Surface Combat Systems, where he was involved in training individuals and teams on IAMD skills. Woods was subsequently assigned to USS BUNKER HILL (CG 52), where his skills are being put to use as lead IAMD planner within the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group. Woods attended the IAMD WTI Re-Blue event in Dahlgren, Va., to share the operational perspective with his fellow IAMD WTIs and receive the latest tactical information from SMWDC IAMD Division leadership.

The WTI Program is a career opportunity that values our officers and empowers them to solve complex and challenging problems. SMWDC WTIs naturally have an eye toward innovation, are re-building the surface warfare library of tactical guidance, are shepherding new capability from delivery to operational success, and challenging the status quo in surface warfare training. Lt. Jochimsen, the lead author of the SM-6 TACMEMO, said it best:

“The opportunity to develop deep knowledge – Subject Matter Expertise – is a game-changing confidence builder as a junior officer. I feel much more prepared for the challenges of an at-sea department head assignment after completing a WTI readiness production tour.”

Conclusion 

The WTI cadre of warriors, thinkers, and teachers are uniquely equipped with the experience and knowledge to make significant contributions during their readiness production tours and throughout their careers. It is no coincidence that the same skills involved in developing tactical mastery are extraordinarily useful in subsequent assignments at sea – department head, XO, CO, and major command.

While statistically significant trend data does not yet exist for WTI selection for career milestone billets, members of the WTI cadre performed very well during recent administrative boards.

For those looking to increase their confidence and competitiveness for future at-sea assignments, the WTI program offers a unique opportunity to strengthen their professional attributes and shape the Navy for years to come.

Rear Admiral John Wade is Commander, Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center. 

Commander Jeff Heames serves as the assistant chief of staff for operations, training, and readiness for Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center.

Featured Image: PACIFIC OCEAN (May 9, 2017) – Warfare Tactics Instructor (WTI), Lt. Lisa Malone of the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Canter (SMWDC), provides tactical training to officers aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during a Group Sail training unit exercise (GRUSL) with the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier strike Group (TRCSG). (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Bill M. Sanders/Released)

Sea Control 142 – The Blue Economy and Ocean Clusters with Kate Walsh

By Matthew Merighi 

Join us for the latest episode of Sea Control for a conversation with Professor Kate Walsh of the U.S. Naval War College about the Blue Economy, ocean clusters, and their relevance for maritime security. It’s a conversation about innovation, organization, and competition between the U.S. and China.

Download Sea Control 142 – Blue Economy and Ocean Clusters with Kate Walsh

For additional information on this topic, take a look at the following links:

The Ocean Economy in 2030 (OECD)

Center for the Blue Economy (Middlebury Institute of Monterey)

CMSI Workshop on U.S. and Chinese Perspectives on the Blue Economy (U.S. Naval War College)

Vision for Maritime Cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative

A transcript of the interview between Professor Walsh (KW) and Matthew Merighi (MM) is below. The transcript has been edited for clarity. The views in this interview do not reflect those of the U.S. Naval War College, Navy, Department of Defense, or Federal Government.

MM: As is Sea Control tradition, please introduce yourself.

KW: I teach at the U.S. Naval War College as an Associate Professor of National Security Affairs. I teach officers and others policy analysis, which is basically policy decision-making in the U.S. and how it works or doesn’t work in some cases. I am also an affiliate with the China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) where I do research on China.

I came to the Naval War College as a former think tanker and consultant in Washington, DC. In 1997, I was offered a project in the Commerce Department to look at China and issues of technology transfer. That’s where I started on a different area of research focusing on science, technology, and innovation in China. I’ve stuck with it since then. In 2013 or thereabouts, I started to find references to the Blue Economy in that research. I started asking around what the was and didn’t get any good answers. I found since then that this idea is one which China and others are developing.

MM: Let’s dive into the idea of the Blue Economy. I’ve noticed that there’s a general lack of awareness on what the Blue Economy is. Tell us more about what it is, what industries are involved, and how is it relevant to your maritime work.

KW: One of the challenges is the different terminology whether you call it the Blue Economy, Ocean Economy, or Marine Economy. The definitions are not set yet so it’s hard for the U.S. and China to know what the other is talking about.

It’s organized around clusters where industries, such as fishing and shipbuilding, ones which deal with marine issues, are clustered together in a coastal area. It follows on earlier research done in the 1990s on innovation clusters in Silicon Valley. The ocean clusters build on that original research because it’s not just about innovation but also conservation. There’s the industry, innovation, and conservation aspects in ocean clusters. Some of the industries involved include oil and gas, shipbuilding, fishing, fisheries, conservation NGOs, government departments including navies and coast guards, and anyone having to do with anything wet or ocean or coastal or water. But the terminology differs in different areas.

MM: You mentioned different time periods. From your research, how long has this ocean cluster concept been around? Is it new or is it new branding for an existing trend?

KW: I’m still investigating this as I know you and others are as well. My best understanding is that they build on earlier research but focusing on an area which doesn’t get a lot of attention. My sense is that the cluster concept only goes back to about the late 2000s or 2010. Iv’e been focusing mostly on China’s Blue Economy concept which dates to a policy from Hu Jintao in 2010. China’s concept was built on earlier work in Europe and the U.S., so dating it is difficult. It’s definitely still new, which is what makes the terminology so difficult. That terminology is a real world problem. Just recently I was at an event and these definitional issues were raised because it hasn’t really been decided what they mean even in the U.S. It’s a new field in early days, which is exciting.

MM: Have you discovered why the Blue Economy is going unnoticed? A lot of our listeners are likely already literate in ocean issues but why is the broader academic enterprise ignoring this area?

KW: I don’t have the definitive answer but my sense is that a lot of the actors and interest is there but that the cluster idea is new. What I’m seeing regionally in Rhode Island is people saying they already have the parts that go into clusters: the academics, industries, and entrepreneurs. What they don’t have is an approach to network and connect these different players in a way that is beneficial to all of them.

There’s a natural resistance with some of these actors, such as ocean researchers and fishermen who are in competition with each other over use of water resources nearby. It takes work to overcome these differences; they don’t happen organically most of the time. I think there’s an interest, as globalization is progressing, to connect people together in ways which promotes cooperation, new ideas, and new opportunities. When I look at China, it’s first Special Economic Zone (SEZ), which in itself was a cluster, dates back to 1979. The focus on the ocean and adding of blue conservation in a way that serves everyone’s interest in the long term is the new part. The ocean is already under threat due to climate change and overfishing which I think has increased the focus on the ocean as an area of study.

MM: You mentioned geopolitical entities of various sizes ranging from China to Rhode Island. Clearly the cluster concept is happening in a lot of different places. Which areas, whether its counties, cities, or regions, have the most dynamic ocean cluster systems?

KW: I started my research with China and I would put them high on the list because they’ve been thinking about this for almost a decade now. Other countries are looking to China for their expertise, including countries in Africa. China is a big player there not only because of their size but because of their interest in this issue for such a long period of time. Under Xi Jinping, it’s been enhanced. Also of course the U.S.

We have a very different approach from China but the idea is not new here; in San Diego, L.A., and Monterey, they’ve been studying this idea for a while. San Diego is particularly strong. They have a virtual network of companies called The Maritime Alliance to foster and collaborate on opportunities. They’re providing a lot of advice to other countries now in Europe and elsewhere. Europe is the birthplace of the Blue Economy concept, so a number of countries there are pursuing this in their own way. Iceland comes up quite a lot and is prominent, along with other Scandinavian countries. Ireland has a Blue Economy effort underway. There are other countries in Asia beyond China, particularly in Small Island Developing States. It’s a global enterprise and the attraction is universal. I think this will be a growing area of study. In the U.S., there’s a number of different pockets: Maine, parts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Alaska, among others.

MM: You mentioned different approaches in these different clusters. You said the U.S. and China models have the largest different. What is the biggest difference between them?

KW: I alluded to China’s system, which is top-down like most of their innovation programs. The plan comes from Beijing and trickles down to the province and local level. It’s the same with the Blue Economy. In the U.S. it tends to be more organic, more locally driven. Many of them start because something was already happening and there was a clear opportunity for more. It comes from an opportunity to be entrepreneurial and seeing that the actors are there. All that’s missing is the coordination and collaboration. It just takes one person to start that.

For example, in San Diego, The Maritime Alliance started when its founder, Michael Jones, started talking to people and trying to get people connected. In Rhode Island, there’s an effort to develop a cluster with an international linkage between a local city with a sister city relationship in China. At the end the day, it’s all about global networking.

MM: What is the most pressing or relevant aspect of the cluster model for maritime security and national security?

KW: Building on the idea of global networking, this is a cooperative opportunity, but also a competition in terms of who does this better. Because global population is increasing and food and energy are depleting, the ocean is being looked at as more of a resource but one which is very unexplored. There’s competition to be the one who exploits the resources more effectively. I use the term exploit very carefully here to mean “understand what opportunities the ocean provides.”

One of the differences between the U.S. and China I’ve found is how they look at the ocean. Americans see the ocean as tourism, as recreation, and beach-going as well as industry. In China, it’s very different because they had a land-based mentality for a long time. They look at the ocean as an extension of the land. Conservation is the last priority. It is a part of their model but it’s not a priority; the priority is industry and innovation. There’s opportunity for cooperation but there’s going to be competition. And whoever competes better is going to have an economic advantage.

On the science and technology side, this is part of the consideration when evaluating the South China Sea or Arctic or Antarctica. What comes back is about Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), mineral rights, and economic rights with these zones. Part of the Blue Economy efforts have to do with planning who will be able to use which parts of the ocean and who can’t. Of course, in the Asia-Pacific much of this is under dispute. There’s a lot of uncertainty in that relationship and that has to do with the nature of the ocean itself. The ocean connects us whether we like it or not. And if countries start to fight over ocean spaces, this could become more a conflict driver than cooperation driver. On the positive side, we’re involved with a number of Track 2 discussions with our Chinese colleagues. I think we have similar goals but different approaches to developing the the Blue Economy, especially for disputed EEZs.

MM: For those who are interested in ocean clusters, what are the short and long term trends to see how this concept develops?

KW: I’m going to be a bit parochial with my interest in China. One of the things I’ve seen that is important to the U.S. government and U.S. Navy is China’s plans for the Maritime Silk Road. Xi Jinping announced in 2013 a new One Belt, One Road plan; a very ambitious plan to connect China to parts of the old Silk Road on both land and sea. The maritime part of that plan includes the Blue Economy and ocean clusters along the way. If you look at the map, there are dots along the route where China hopes to develop the maritime road. There’s an action plan that came out March 2015 that has considerable detail. These includes developing ocean clusters, SEZs, and Blue Economy zones along this route. It takes China’s model and develops them overseas.

There’s a question as to whether or not the U.S. and its allies, partners, and friends will be able to be a part of this effort as collaborators and investors. China just recently announced a new maritime vision which is even more ambitious than the original plan. That’s important because it puts Xi Jinping’s stamp on what was originally Hu Jintao’s concept. This new maritime vision has a number of different initiatives which have the word blue attached to them: Blue partnerships, Blue carbon efforts, and Blue conservation efforts. The Blue Economy idea will be a carrot to other countries along the Maritime Silk Road. I don’t see anything in competition with this coming from the U.S., so it’s something to keep an eye on.

It seems to me that these zones and cluster are to be driven by Chinese investment, developed by Chinese infrastructure, using Chinese telecommunications, possibly with Chinese labor, all along the Chinese cluster model. This is not necessarily bad but it opens questions on how much the U.S. and its allies could be able to be involved. This is going to be somewhat of a race to see who can exploit these opportunities in a way that doesn’t undermine conservation. The ocean is a lot of ungoverned space with a lot of unknowns. We’ll have to work hard to make sure that, if it is a competition, that it’s a benign economic and industrial competition.

MM: What things would you recommend to learn more about the Blue Economy and ocean clusters? Beyond that, are there any other interesting things you’re reading now?

KW: There’s a great study by the OECD from 2016 which looks at the Blue Economy through 2030. It’s quite long but it is a good introduction and those with a strategic mind will find its future orientation useful. Those interested in the economic aspect, the Center for Blue Economy at the Middlebury Institute in Monterey, has a journal which is worth looking at. They’re trying to come up with economic metrics to measure what the Blue Economy is and how much it contributes to GDP.

Those interested in the China question, CMSI held a workshop in late 2014 addressing U.S. and Chinese perspectives on the Blue Economy to understand the similarities and differences. The Center for American Progress, a think tank in DC, has done a number of studies on the Blue Economy and U.S.-Chinese issues. They’ll be coming out with a report soon from a June dialogue which focused on the Blue Economy, fisheries, and the Arctic.

Those interested in the Maritime Silk Road should read the maritime vision white paper which China put out on 20 June to get a sense of how they promoting new blue partnerships not just domestically but in the entire region. In terms of other things, because I teach policy analysis, I picked up John Farrell’s new Nixon biography. I’m also just starting The Beautiful Country by John Pomfret.

Kathleen (Kate) Walsh is an Associate Professor of National Security Affairs in the National Security Affairs Department at the US Naval War College (NWC), where she teaches Policy Analysis. She is an affiliate of the China Maritime Studies Institute  and participates in NWC’s Asia Pacific Studies Group

Matthew Merighi is the Senior Producer of Sea Control and Assistant Director of Fletcher’s Maritime Studies Program.