Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ancient History Drudged Up Yet Again - "Repurposed" for today

Following the Chief of Naval Operations' lead in repurposing  previous work, I am  repurposing  this letter I sent to RADM Singer in 2005.

10 February 2005


As I read more and more about "deep change", I believe that the detailing process is one of those areas where the community can make a radical change in the way our officer human capital is assigned. This is not in any way meant to impugn any of our current or past detailers.

I believe each of our assignments could have specific skill sets assigned to them which allow those involved in the detailing process to make more informed decisions about which officer is detailed to which job. (This process would allow us to match existing skills to requirements as well as put an individual in a job where they could demonstrate growth of additional skills). One might argue that we have been doing this but we really haven't. Using myself as an example, I was told that I was the "perfect" fit for Captain Arbogast's job in OSD transformation and the perfect fit for the Joint Staff J6K Information Assurance job. The only real qualifications I had for either of these jobs was that I met the prerequisite prior sea duty and post-command requirements - without any expressed attendant skills gained in those jobs. The defining factor was my PRD. I was not a good fit for either job. (Some might argue I'm not a good fit for any O-6 job.)

In the past we have assigned officers to jobs largely based on PRD, previous assignments and desires of the individual. If we were to identify the specific skills of each assignment objectively, I believe we would be better able to match individuals to jobs.

I've been told by several of our officers that the detailer has told them that they can't go to a senior sea duty job because they don't have experience in a junior sea duty job. I was told this myself in 1995 before going to C7F as the CRC/Assistant Fleet Cryptologist (I was a flyer and not suited for sea duty). This is plain wrong. In fact, with consideration given to "deep change", officers with prior sea duty may be exactly the wrong individual to send to sea in the senior sea duty jobs. There are some excellent officers with limited (or no) sea duty who possess exactly the skills we want (I believe) in those officers you will send to sea in the senior sea duty assignments (integrity and real understanding of our cryptologic capabilities and the limitations of IO). Prior PCS afloat and Direct Support (DIRSUP) officers don't necessarily develop the skills we need for the officers assigned afloat in the future. We need new thinking in this area.

As you look at areas to consider for "deep change", I think detailing should be near the top of the list as this is key to our Human Capital Strategy (HCS).

Captain Mike Lambert, USN
Staff Director, Office of the Secretary of Defense
Detainee Task Force
3A750 703-697-0967


Justin Rogers ENS, USN (1170) said...

I like what you have to offer in the beginning of your post, but I can't get on board with your second to last paragraph. The Navy SHOULD continue to challenge its leaders with billets where they can "demonstrate growth of additional skills", as was mentioned. I think the Navy is doing a bit of that, but it can certainly do a much more productive job at ensuring it has the right balance for the future. This non-traditional detailing is occurring predominantly at the senior level (ie, Card as the N2/N6, Haney as soon to be PACFLT, and Ferguson as VCNO, and of course some others) with hardly any at all besides that (except for the occasional IDC cross billet moves). As that RAND study mentioned, our Navy will need leaders that possess many unique and often wide-range of abilities for the future as the world gets taller and flatter.

The second to last paragraph is where I disagree. The saltiness factor is missing here! If the individual wanted to go to sea as a LCDR, CDR, CAPT, they should have had their bino's/ball cap/coffee cup ready on day one! Yes, it’s all about leadership and part of that is integrity, but another part of that is having the competence to lead Sailors in this environment. If one hasn't demonstrated this in the past, I think we would be taking on unnecessary risk to detail them for sea duty later on. The same goes for the Submarine Force. We typically do not put people with low tech ratings as Engineering Department Heads on our boats. That would just be too risky and would keep the right people out of the right billet.

A solution would be to take it back to the genesis of a career in addition to fundamentally changing how we’re doing business. Significantly increase IDC accessions coming to the table already with a warfare pin (previously 1120’s, 1110’s, etc.). Like increasing it to 40-60%. The IDC itself should also make it policy that Ensigns and if not as an Ensign, as a Lieutenant, get out there as a Direct Support Officer or whatever the equivalent is and get that operational time under their belts (for the accessions coming from alternative backgrounds). In order to help the IDC accomplish something like this, the big URL communities need to lay off of our inflammatory rhetoric (the saltiness factor as I say!!) and get over our pride, take some safe risk, and either give up some of our people or allow some IDC’s to be permanently integrated into ship’s crews (I don’t mean command at sea, just part of the crew, max one or two divo’s). There was a proposal out there to integrate some IP officers on board subs recently, but that probably and sadly got shot down. Back in the 90’s I know of a then LCDR (now Flag select!!, eouhh rahh) Mike Smith who drafted a policy to get Submarine officers working in the Engine room of an Aircraft Carrier. So I know this stuff is out there already. What all this is doing is getting rid of overlap, and then using the freed up Human Capital to give to other communities and to cover several mission areas with one person. This is all at the junior level. As people move into the mid-grade/senior level areas, they are now driving their original community forward. One rebuttal to this is that I can see posed is the fact that many line guys can already do possess core IDC skill sets, like a knowledge of intell matters and comms related issues. My problem with that mentality is you then create a force with too few people with lots of expertise and too many people with little expertise. Some will say we just don’t have the numbers or the money to do this (especially in this fiscal climate!). I tell them to look at Belisarius (Justinian's man) who went on to do extraordinary things with so little -- and of course our own Farragut, “DAMN the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

Mark Hofer said...

The main problem with requiring specific experience for certain jobs, as I see it, is career determinism. If you have to have tour X as a JO to get job Y as a LCDR or CDR, your later career may be determined by a (potentially poor) choice you made years before.

Anonymous said...

Captain Lambert,

My goodness, how the Navy has advanced, when I was a Sailor most of us, Officers included, would listen to our seniors and heed their advice. Now the Navy has Ensigns that evidently are born with the garnered knowledge of Commodores. Like Belisarius (Justinian's man) I fail to see the wisdom of his approach toward senior’s advice (without even uttering “with all due respect, sir”).

Very Respectfully,

Justin Rogers ENS, USN (1170) said...

In his letter, Captain Lambert was not providing advice. He was writing to a senior officer making an observation and RECOMMENDING a course change. (Juniors recommend, Seniors suggest)

In my comment, I took time to point out positives, negatives, and lastly (but ALWAYS most importantly), I suggested a solution based on my negative feedback.

Yes, my proposed solution is far-fetched. The basis of my argument is grounded in fact (public, found on the internet); it is not based on my perception of myself that I have garnered the knowledge of commodores. Let me simplify and further explain.

Of the Navy's roughly 20 IDC Flag Officers, roughly half of those are wearing a URL pin of some kind, with IW almost across the board. IW's accessions from lateral transfer/re-designation boards can't be greater than roughly 25% (this, of course does not include pipeline attrites). With these two facts in mind, I relate the problem that Captain Lambert highlighted to this disconnect. My solution lies in changing the accession model and supplementing it with a mindset change that you SHOULD get to sea ASAP in your early career.

I would like to think
that if I wanted to leave the Submarine Force at roughly 5 years but wanted to stay in the Navy, I could do that in a lat transfer/redes board. When I was a Mid at the Academy, I was told by an 1830 LCDR that most lat transfers don't have a shot at even making LCDR because they will miss paramount career milestones. And with this letter to RADM Singer, it sounds like the IDC/IW may not appreciate sea time. That's bad!

Justin Rogers ENS, USN (1170) said...

Woww!!! What an idiot I am. The second paragraph of my last comment should have a verb like "proposed" in there rather than "suggested". That was an unintended mistake, and I apologize. My fault.

Anonymous said...

WOW! I like brevity - a noun.

We need a BLUF before venturing into the Ensign's contributions.

Jack Napier said...


Your tone and comments appear to demonstrate your true belief that the Navy is composed of a caste system (e.g. URL communities being the top dogs with the RL communities as second-class citizens, and Staff Corps farther down still?).  If this is truly your belief, then you are already on the wrong path in my opinion.

The contributions of my "community" are not subservient to yours.  In fact, without the IDC, you would not be able to focus on being a professional, top-notch submariner.  As one example, you wouldn't have the requisite a priori knowledge to determine the optimal TTP for firing a torpedo without us (i.e. how long to remain below a certain layer before popping up to acquire the target).

I appreciate your enthusiasm and encourage you to continue to converse, but please stop believing in the URL master race propaganda.

V/r, JN

Justin Rogers ENS, USN (1170) said...

Haha! Thanks for your contributions on this one because I certainly don't know much about what I'm talking about in reference to the IW detailing process, etc etc (so if I came across as a URL know-it-all, that was not my intention).

If the Navy is going to meet the challenges of tomorrow, I believe it has a culture problem to work through.

Anonymous said...

Jack Napier,

One of the problems in being stationed on a FBM Submarine is that Nuc’s aboard that same Boat are convinced that they are the most important members of the crew. I do not know how it is today, but during the Cold War the Commanding Officer, the Executive Officer and the Navigator had to be nuclear engineers and their background made them think that the reactor was the most important thing on the boat. And since they had been trained to think nuc thoughts that is what filled their mind for the largest part.

I wrote the following paragraph some time back and it is already posted on this blog, and I will post it again at the risk of being repetitive.

“Prior to entering our patrol area on the USS Tecumseh the CO would always give a pre-patrol pep talk to the Officers and Chiefs of the Tecumseh. He started out by saying that the primary mission of this patrol was reactor safety and then he went on to talk more about other Nuc Stuff when he was finished with his talk he asked if there were any questions. I stood up as COB and said Captain I had some understanding that the primary mission of any FBM Submarine was to be the effective deterrent to nuclear war, and I heard nothing to motivate the Sailors on the front end of the Boat that provide that deterrent. We Weaponeers make up over half of the crew of the Tecumseh and I feel we are important to address. Everybody in the wardroom appeared to be in shock except the Captain and the Executive Officer, and I thought to myself, why did I say that? Captain Vogt who was a fair Skipper said “COB you are correct and I am sorry that I left the Weapons Department and other Departments out of this briefing”, he then went on to say some words about Weapons Personnel, Cooks and even A Gangers and IC Electricians. When he finished I thought the group in the wardroom was going to start clapping, but they held off.”

This was posted around the last part of June 2011.

Very Respectfully,

Justin Rogers ENS, USN (1170) said...

I believe we are wildly off topic, but for professional development sake, I will continue. All officers on our boats today are Nukes, along with the vast majority of enlisted. Sometimes it can be agitating how much time and energy and emphasis we put on one aspect of the boat; the alternatives though could be catastrophic. A poorly maintained reactor could equal mishaps/incidents that damage the credibility of our Navy around the world (all Aircraft Carriers and Submarines are powered by nuclear energy) at a time when we need these platforms more than ever. From what I understand, COCOMs can't get enough Submarines to fulfill what they want to do in their AOR. Hooyah Nuke Navy!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Ens Rogers,

I hardly need your professional development advice but if you are going to give out all this advice you should get it all correct; You said, all officers on our boats are Nucs. Is the Supply Officer a Nuc? The vast majority of enlisted are Nucs you said, there are about the same number of enlisted in the weapons department as there are Nucs on an FBM Submarine. We have also a number of others, Radiomen, Mess Specialists, Mess Cooks, ships office personnel, A-Gang Personnel and IC Electricians. If that tea kettle was scramed, which was often just for drills, we could still maintain way. But if a torpedo or a missile were to malfunction that could also be catastrophic.

I would like to inquire Ens Rogers as to how many boats have served on and when did you first qualify on Submarines?

Very Respectfully,

Justin Rogers ENS, USN (1170) said...

To answer your questions: Zero and not yet.

My argument is not changed nor is it invalidated. If we shot ourselves, only we would care. If we released radioactive material, we would care and so would others!

The Supply Officer is not a Nuc, yes my mistake, but is only 1 out of like 13-15 other nucs...not a huge percentage by any means.

Thank you though Master Chief (deductive reasoning tells me you're a Master Chief either active or retired) for the enlisted composure of our boats...I am not very smart in this area, but I should be.

Anonymous said...

Ens. Rogers,

I appreciate the honesty about your Navy experience. But one thing you might consider is the warheads on those Trident missiles contain more radioactive material than the Reactor, and if a major accident occurs that could spread that radiation, and the world could suffer.

Your welcome Ens Rogers, I am a retired Master Chief Fire Control Technician, Submarine Qualified. I was COB for 6 patrols on an FBM Submarine. But I was a Cruiser Destroyer Sailor when SUBLANT required some leadership on the Boats and I was thrown into training Boat Sailors and filling Submarine billets for the next 15 years. There was a lot I did not know at the start of that 15 years, but I worked hard at learning what I had to learn about equipment, leadership and operating principals of the Submarine and Her Missile Launching Weapons Systems. I never stopped learning because warfare, Boats and Sailors are continuously changing and one must keep up or all could be lost.

There is a recommendation that I would like to submit to you, you do not have to say you are sorry or that you are weak in any area, which are things you have stated on this blog. Be certain that your words do not come back to bite you by researching and being more certain of what you are writing. There are a lot of retired Sailors that read and contribute to this blog and they have considerable experience in most Navy matters. They can be your friend if you consistently are credible, but they do not mind being a little harsh when they believe it is required.

Your input can have a great deal of value if you make it so.

Very Respectfully,
E. A. Hughes, FTCM(SS)
US Navy (Retired)

Justin Rogers ENS, USN (1170) said...

Thank you Master Chief for the meaningful advice!