Guest post tonight folks from CDR Turk; read, think, write – debate. See also the Navy Times article, our work is far from over. Keep the faith
The revolt of the USNI members against the ballot initiative to change the mission statement of the Institute has had an effect. It is interesting to note the language that the Board has chosen to describe the actions moving forward with regard to the mission change because it leaves the door open for the future approval of the mission change in the event that the ballot initiative outcome is positive in support of the mission change. In the event that the mission change initiative does not receive the 2/3 positive support of all election participants and in accordance with the by-laws, it also opens the door to continue the debate and in fact strongly insinuates that this debate will take place regardless of the election outcome.
Up to this point, the strong opposition to the mission change has been spearheaded by a few active members who cared enough to state their opinions, rally the opposition, and keep the message of opposition on the forefront of their online presence. Special credit should be give to CDR Salamander (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), Steeljaw Scribe (here, here, here, and here), Galrahn (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and, here), and the Editorial Board of Proceedings Magazine (here). These voices of opposition are not the only evidence of a largely online insurrection against the proposed mission change, but the primary material represented above as well as the cacophony of comments raised in response to these posts is a fairly representative cross section of the voices coming out against the proposed mission change.
In answer to these voices of protest, the USNI Board of Directors offered this relatively weak justification for their proposed action. The rationale represented by the Board of Directors’ defense of their position apparently failed to argue strongly enough to sway the opposed electorate. I suspect that their announcement of postponing any action with regard to changing the mission, regardless of the ballot results, was driven by early online voting returns that they were seeing.
Unfortunately for the group opposed to the mission change, this public announcement has had what I believe is the desired effect. The voices opposed to changing the mission statement have fallen silent over the last week or ten days. Although the opposition to the mission change realized early success based on their online insurrection, it is very dangerous to assume that this initial battle represents the last engagement in the war for the soul of USNI.
The election is still open, the paper ballots have yet to be counted, and it remains conceivable that the proposed mission change may still yet garner the required 2/3 of the voting participants’ approval to pass. In spite of the decision of the Board of Directors to delay any immediate action on changing the mission statement, it is unclear what the final results may be if the Board does carry the election. While delayed, if the measure carries, it would be unprecedented in light of the USNI By-laws for the result of the election to be set aside to allow a transparent debate to take place. This is especially troubling given the fact that USNI has already issued membership cards that carry the language of the PROPOSED mission change. I suspect that if the ballot measure carries, then the transparent debate alluded to in the Board of Directors announcement will devolve into a slick marketing exercise to placate the vocal opposition. The battle is won, but the war is far from over.
For every vote opposed to the mission change, the Board must generate two votes in favor of the change to carry the election. Defeating the proposed mission change at the ballot box must remain the primary short term focus of the opposition.
In advocating for the mission change, the Board of Directors cited decreasing membership in general with particular concern focused on new memberships in the junior rank structure. While the Board has yet to produce the data backing up this claim, it would be short sighted of the opposition to this mission change to ignore the very real possibility that this is an ongoing and potentially crippling problem plaguing USNI. I bring this up because it is my impression that younger generations of potential USNI members have in fact begun to question the value of USNI as an organization. I find it credible that they are voting with their wallets, and the membership rolls and financial stability of USNI are in danger. If the proposed mission change is truly an attempt reinvigorate new membership for USNI, I believe this is akin to polishing a cannon ball. At the end of the day, all you have is a shiny cannon ball when what you really need is a rifled shell.
Reinvigorating the membership of USNI and attracting new members should be pursued, but that can be done (and done more effectively in my opinion) within the construct of the current mission statement. Writing, thinking, speaking, and even blogging truth to power in order to advance the understanding and professionalism of Naval forces should be a clarion call to the X, Y, and Millennial generations who inherently thirst for flatter organizations, more personal interaction, and wide ranging and open discussions. There are a number of initiatives that USNI can pursue toward this end, and none of them involve stifling discussion for the dubious purpose of advocacy.
As an organization, USNI has matured, and the perception of younger generations is that it has become part of the establishment. It has wandered from its roots of being a safe haven for ideas to be tested and written communication skills can be honed. Changing to a mission of advocacy for Naval power will more firmly entrench the perception of an organization that is fully behind the establishment that younger generations demonstrate an organic skepticism toward. The way forward is for the current leadership to engage in a free and transparent discussion about how to reinvigorate USNI. The development of the USNI blog is a good first step, but further action is required and some time must be allotted for a livelier and financially secure organization to emerge.
I urge you all to keep up the good fight against the proposed USNI mission change through all upright and transparent means that you have, and begin to plan winning this part of the campaign and developing ideas for reinvigoration USNI that retain the character of the Institute without reinventing the organization into something that will stifle conversation and debate.
CDR Turk sends.