…and dissent become heterodoxy?

As noted previously, the USNI Board of Directors is asking the membership to approve a new mission statement that changes “the Mission of the Naval Institute to ‘advocating the necessity of global seapower.’” because “The Board believes that the United States must support and maintain a strong, global naval capability and that a proper role for the Institute is to be a proactive advocate for that goal.” In essence, turning what had been a professional forum for the wide-ranging discussion of matters of naval import into another lobbying organization. And if a subject or discussion is “not on message” it won’t surface or see the light of day. So, whether the Board believes it or not, the net effect will be to further stifle discussion and tamp down membership. Why? Because when an organization takes it upon itself to “advocate” a particular view to external agencies and personalities it must, perforce, demand a “unified front” from it’s membership to give the appearance of organizational assent. To do otherwise limits the effectiveness of the “message.” As is wont to happen, organizational behavior will cull dissenters with contrarian views and voices — either through benign neglect or active malice. And who wants to belong to an organization that acts like a Service or Joint staff?

Pardon my lack of enthusiasm — I’ve been down this road before. “You’re either with us or against us” “Support the (fill-in-the-blank) policy or sit down and shut up.” Far-fetched? I think not. If we become an advocate for one particular point of view, viz. “global seapower” there must be a set of definitions that follow – otherwise it is just another meaningless slogan in a sea of banality. Exhibit A — “A Global Force for Good.” Once that step is taken, the die is cast. To depart from the approved doxology will be heretical and the advocate anathema. To be sure, it wouldn’t happen overnight, but the trajectory is there. Just the exercise of determining what constitutes ‘global seapower’ will be enough to start the slide. Once the parsing is finished and the debris swept away – what happens when a new Administration comes to town and ‘global seapower’ is no longer in vogue? Anyone remember “effects-based results”? How about “virtual presence”? Those all had lasting presence, eh?

Sometime back, while serving out my first Joint Penance Tour in the 5-sided wind tunnel, my partner in crime from the Junior Service was bemoaning the fact that the “Association” that purported to be “The” professional forum for his Service wasn’t syncing with his concerns (nor with that of several important communities) leaving him and many others marginalized. For all intents and purposes it had become the mouthpiece for the Service Chief, hewing to the Party Line. After one especially long tirade, he summed up his feelings by saying how much he admired the Institute in general, and Proceedings in particular because of the range of topics discussed and written about and the fact that informed dissent was encouraged and supported. How far we as an organization have moved from that datum is for another post on another day. Suffice for this day is the concern for our future persona and raison d’etre that this proposal portends.

And again I ask that you vote “no.”

UPDATE:

VADM Dunn (Ret) weighs in with a “No” as well and the advocates of this motion identified (see the comments section):

I have a rock-solid source, verified by a second source of equal inside knowledge, that this is the list of Board members who pushed the mission change onto the ballot and pushed Tom Wilkerson out the door:

Waters
McCormack
Brennan
Brown
Morgan
Ray

These are BoD members *not* to vote for if you oppose the mission change initiative.

6 Comments

  1. I would like to associate myself with the Steeljaw Scribe’s remarks. Well said, Skipper.

  2. Thanks Pinch — from what I understand backchannel, this is just the opening round in a much larger campaign over the future of the Institute. Keep your powder dry and stack the ammo…
    w/r, SJS

  3. (notes list of names for later use)

    I wonder if they’re still paying journalists ten times more per article than active duty writers.

    • Chap

      I talked to someone today who says that those practices are no longer done. If true–good.

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