Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I was surprised by these comments by Dr. Martin Cook at Naval War College

From a Navy News article:

"Professionals from all fields must maintain their level of knowledge and development to preserve their social trust", said Cook.

"When you go to a doctor, you expect them to be reading medical journals; when you go to a lawyer, you expect them to be keeping current on the state of their profession," said Cook.

"The same is expected from military leaders."

"For most Navy people this is a relatively new concept, they don't really think of themselves in these terms. They use the term professional, but that usually means that they are competent," he added.

During her remarks, RADM Peg Klein underscored Cook's point.
Dr. Cook must be thinking about some other Navy.  I don't believe the Sailors I served with thought that "professional" meant you were merely competent.  I must be missing his context. I don't know many in the Navy who believe that they don't have to keep current on the state of their profession. Dr. Cook may need to get back out to the Fleet.


Jim said...

The reality is probably somewhere between these two opinions.

While"[getting] back to the fleet" wouldn't hurt any of us, I can only assume Dr. Cook's opinion results from his interaction with NWC students who have come from the fleet. Neither Dr. Cook nor Admiral Klein offered any evidence to support their argument. What's the rate of professional reading? Has it increased or decreased? Does the rate vary widely from that in the other professions Dr. Cook mentioned? And what are Naval professionals reading? Navy Times and All Hands don't count. Are they reading titles from the CNO Professional Reading Program or other leadership, management, and strategy books, journals, or magazines?

Neither speaker, in the quoted text, made a convincing argument to support their respective opinion.

Christopher Nelson said...

Jim is spot on.

Anonymous said...


The ills being visited upon military higher education is not limited to NWC. Ricks has a good article about the downhill slide of NDU, as well.

Just a short quote: "Things changed. The great folks jumped or were pushed out of the backdoor of the bus; they starved the hedgehogs to death; and they built, as General Tony Zinni would say, a huge "self-licking ice cream cone" at NDU Headquarters."

I think today's leaders of these organizations are just 'phoning it in'.

The article about NDU Failures said...

You can read the article by clicking on the link above.

Christopher Nelson said...

Anonymous, I didn't get the connection between your statement about the "ills visited upon military higher education..." and the quoted text.

There is, however, an interesting debate about the future of the NWC and what kind of academic institution we want it to be. To that, I'd point anyone to Professor Johnson-Freese's comments on the recent IG report on the NWC. (And if you have the time, read the highlights of the IG report).

After that, I'd then recommend reading Captain Pat Molenda's article in Proceedings, titled, "Time for the Next Revolution." These are good starting points, not that I agree with either opinion, but they are informative and well written.

So...there are a lot of voices out there. But as a recent NWC grad and soon to be MAWS grad, I can only speak for myself and say that it was great experience. I learned a lot.

To the quotes, and to expand upon Jim's comments...first, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has repeatedly raised concerns about the military getting back to the "profession of arms" -- being professionals. Here he is in a statement this year:

Military personnel are serious about studying the profession, the general said. "When we first started down this path there wasn't active resistance that we should, after 20 years, take a good hard look at our profession," he added. "But there was an undertone of 'It's really not broke, so let's not fix it.' There wasn't universal acknowledgement that it was time to look at it.

"So perhaps I would suggest that there wasn't universal acknowledgement that it was time to relook what it means to be a professional," he continued. "I would say we've overcome that."

If I had any advice to give to a junior officer/sailor (or senior officer/sailor for that matter), I'd ask them to define "profession" for me, and then go and read Chpt 1. of Huntington's "The Solider and the State" and then let's have a discussion...