Back from this year’s meeting with some goods and a few others. First off, I want to thank again everyone for your votes and support for my candidacy to the USNI Board of Directors. Alas, I did not make it and while a bit disappointed (my one “other” here), I am encouraged with the cohort who have been elected. Moreover, after listening to CEO VADM(ret) Pete Daly’s “State of the Institute” speech I am very much encouraged at the direction and future of the Institute compared to this time last year. To begin, most importantly, the mission remains unchanged – to be 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.” Building on that mission is the new vision of being the preeminent thought leader in seapower. Why is that critical? It accomplishes three functions — building professionalism among the Sea Services’ members, enabling access to our history and informing (not influencing – a subtle but important point especially for a non-profit like USNI) the public on the vital role seapower plays in the daily course of this nation and our allies. The latter is an important point as we come off a decade of large commitments of the national treasure in manpower and material, to land wars in Central Asia. The maritime narrative, save for the opening days/weeks of conflict, has, perforce, been muted and secondary to that required for the support of those efforts. In combination with concern, and (one hopes eventual) discourse and decision over the national debt and priorities, having an organization that can serve as a “go to” source for information and education in naval matters, one that is not beholden to industry or advocacy group, and can serve as an honest point of reference for seapower writ large will become increasingly important. And there you will find the Naval Institute – at least that is the vision of current leadership and the gist of the Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan summary, by the way, is available and may be read here. Again, another item in the “good” column. Focus especially on the strategic objectives and I think you will find that may of the concerns and recommendations raised here and in several other locations last year are being addressed. Bu the proof is in the doing and therein lie challenges and opportunities.
Foremost among these, as VADM Daly point out, is membership. Mere numbers are not enough if, frankly, your membership is graying by the day. While somewhere in the 46-47,000 range, an overwhelming number of members are like myself – retired, but still very much engaged and interested in all matters naval and maritime. Yet the long-term survival and ability to thrive is very much dependent on the intake of a much younger cohort and where USNI in particular is concerned, one drawn from across the ranks and within the lifelines; officer and enlisted alike. That is the dynamic of today’s sea services and a reflection of the mission areas we are engaged. A number of initiatives were mentioned, including the gifting of student memberships (keep an eye on this, more details are coming and I am fully onboard), advisory panels that include and are focused on junior officers, enlisted and the larger membership all of whom have POVs that are vital and necessary in the long term viability of the Institute and arrive from a different locus than that of the sole, flag-member panel (which too has a place). Expect to see more membership meetings held in association with other naval/maritime related fora, especially in fleet concentration areas. For example, this May 15th will be the next membership meeting held in conjunction with the 2012 Joint Warfighting Conference and Exposition in Virginia Beach. And the Annual membership meetings, beginning with this year’s, will change in tenor and content — today’s, for example, included a post-lunch session with VADM Harwood, deputy CENTCOM and hosted by Mr. David Hartman (of GMA among other things).
In sum there’s a lot of good going on, but it is all for naught without an engaged membership – by which I mean more than just reading your monthly issue of Proceedings. This is our Institute and as stockholders by dint of our membership and naval service, now or in the past, it behooves us to take interest and ramp up our participation in all aspects of the organization. The CEO, USNI staff, Board of Directors and Editorial Board all are engaged and have their work cut out for them – and we too can take a round turn and lend a hand.