Thursday, February 24, 2011

What is the Mission of USNI?

Ask any Staff Weenie or War College graduate - every word in a Mission Statement is critical. Every definition is closely examined. All further actions derive from the Mission Statement.

Professional military people do not make changes lightly. In an unusual move for me - I am not going to expand my comments any more than that. In an open letter last night, Norman Polmar sets out the argument quite well.

Everyone here should know Norman Polmar. That speaks for itself. Read in full and ponder.

I am writing to you--fellow members of the U.S. Naval Institute--to urge that you vote against the proposed change of the USNI mission statement that is being mailed out with the March issue of the Proceedings magazine. The current statement is refined from the original, 1873 mission written at the establishment of the USNI (see below). I believe that USNI members who believe in the principles of our 138-year-old professional organization should strongly object to three words/terms in the proposed change of the mission statement:

(1) "an independent forum advocating" I believe these words are self-contradictory. The USNI has established itself as the leading international naval--and increasingly "defense"--forum because it has not "advocated" anything but has let authors (military and civilian, of all ranks, genders, and even nationalities) express their opinions. "Advocating" a position will unquestionably deter the USNI serving as an independent forum.

(2) "global sea power" What does this mean? The Soviet Union from 1970 (the massive Okean exercise) until 1991 was certainly a "global sea power"--does the USNI advocate a rehabilitation of Russian sea power? Or a buildup of Chinese global sea power? Or Japanese? Or ...? And, does "global sea power" include a strong merchant marine--which we do not have and will not develop in the foreseeable future? Or fishing fleet? Or ....? Again, "global sea power" is ambiguous and misleading.

(3) "economic prosperity" Again, for whom? The world? Then the USNI is encouraging every nation (including Iran, N. Korea, China, etc.) to develop global sea power. Or only for the United States? How does "global sea power" help U.S. posterity--other than the shipbuilding industry?

The proposed new mission statement makes the USNI appear to be a lobbying and "cheerleading" organization for.... I am not quite certain for what or whom. In the years that I have been associated with the Naval Institute (since age 15), I was taught that those roles--lobbying and cheerleading--were the purpose of the Navy League, not the Naval Institute.

The USNI now exists "to provide an independent forum for those who dare to read, think, speak, and write in order to advance the professional, literary, and scientific understanding of sea power and other issues critical to national defense." I believe that mission statement is still valid and germane.

I strongly urge all members to REJECT the proposed change to the USNI mission statement.

All good wishes/Norman

Norman Polmar
If you are a member of USNI - then don't miss that ballot. If you are not a member - then join so you can have a say in this critically important organization. Examine the issue, and vote your conscience.

I have been a member since I was a MIDN. If you know a MIDN - buy them a membership. Do it for a few years. They need it - and USNI needs them.

If you are an active duty or reserve officer and are not a member, shame on you. If you are an active duty or reserve enlisted member, ask your officers why they are not members -- and BZ to you for being one. Ask those in your shop to join as well. It ain't and officer's club.
UPDATE: USNI's CEO, Major General Thomas L. Wilkerson, USMC (Ret.) has a brief post up about the voting. You can do it online as well here.

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