Friday, December 11, 2009
turn any of my former Navy chief petty officers loose
You have a point. When I was driving ships I was told that the difference between the Navy and the Army was that a Navy Captain can do anything until he gets in trouble. Messages sent up the chain of command were usually prefaced with UNODIR for Unless Otherwise Directed. They idea was called Command by Negation. You keep the boss informed but unless he has a good reason he gives you rope and lets you run. When on the Bridge and you have the Con you can move around within reason. It is a big ocean and unless you are keeping station in a rigid formation you get to drive around. I was told that in the Army everything demands the approval of all other effected parties for doing anything. The last time an army officer can tell the troops he commands to get up and join him on a 20 mile hike is at the CAPT (O-3) Company Commander level. Even there you needed to inform a few people but for most I gathered there was a junior officer's freedom. Naval junior officers probably had less autonomy than the Army example in that they couldn't take their troops, called a division, off the ship on a whim.
That Navy tradition of empowering the local Commander means that in combat you expect to make a decision. That may explain why the SEAL Commander gave the weapons free order when the Master of the Maersk merchant ship was held by pirates. One theory is that the current Court Martial for 3 SEALs accused of giving an al-Qaeda thug a fat lip is the senior brass punishing the Navy to bring it in line with current centralized procedures.
The traditional lore I heard from Army JOs was that the first thing you do in combat is shoot the radio, or at least give it to the Corpsman and make yourself unavailable. You won't be able to get air support if you need it but the rear echelon won't be able to micromanage you either.
From Yes Minister- The Writing on the Wall:
Bernard Wooley: What about a publicity campaign Minister, you know
ADMINISTRATION SAVES THE NATION, RED TAPE IS FUN,
full pages ads in ... in. Just an idea.
James Hacker MP: Red tape is fun?
Bernard Wooley: Well what about RED TAPE HOLDS THE NATION
The president replied. “Me? You don’t need me. I can’t command a ship or fly a plane. You have people who know how to do that. Let them do their jobs. I’m going on with the bakery tour and the speech I am to give.”
The change is that now the public has been taught what is "presidential" by watching The West Wing and expects a leader to demonstrate he is in control by acting like the most obnoxious kid (I know because I was that kid) in a Junior High Social Studies class. If Bill Clinton or Barack Obama were hustled into the back room they couldn't just say "Yes" because that would be bad television in the video running in their own minds. If it happened on TV, or with a wannabe on TV POTUS, it would be written so that they would turn to the 4 star General and the Head of the CIA, who would be traveling along with the President for no good reason, and he would say "Now hold on here and wait just a second. Aren't you forgetting that the Italians are liable to turn these terrorists lose if we make the plane land in Italy? What is the Plan B that involves having Harrison Ford jump onto their plane in mid air and force them all to parachute into the middle of the 6th Fleet?" At which point all the Generals and super talent would look like 6 year olds caught in the cookie jar and blurt out "You really are the smartest person in the room Mr President."
People are still going on about Bush (43) praising the head of FEMA after Katrina. The principle for real leaders trying to build an organization is to follow a few simple rules;
1) Hire the right people
2) Praise in public
3) Correct in private
4) Fire them if they don't produce.
Reagan and Bush both learned that getting item (1) right is hard. So they fired people. Reagan assumed he had the right people giving him advice. If he didn't then that moment in the back of the bakery was the wrong time to find out. Bush assumed he had the right guy in FEMA. When he learned he didn't he got rid of the man. It is understandable that Obama hired a few duds. It is not understandable that he hired so many. It is inexcusable that he hasn't started firing them en masse by now.