Monday, January 21, 2013

What you look for in an O-6

Well, at least what the Navy looks for. The selection board guidance is here:

The only group that has a detailed list is URL, which lists the following:

1. Financial Resource Management
2. Operational Analysis
3. Joint Experience
4. Acquisition Corps
5. Navy Operational Planner
6. Political Military/Strategists
7. Integrated Air and Missile Defense
8. Naval Special Warfare Experience
9. Shore Installation Management
10. Cyber Operations and Planning
11. Language, Regional Expertise, and Cultural Experience
12. Nuclear Weapons Technical Expertise
13. Education and Training
14. Expeditionary Warfare and Confronting Irregular Challenges
15. Recruiting Leadership
16. Targeting
17. Human Intelligence
18. Space Cadre
19. Astronaut Consideration

I think it's quite telling that two of the top four have nothing to do with warfighting and everything to do with management of money. With tight times ahead, the Navy seems more focused on selecting captains that can manage budgets then ones that can fight wars. Sadly, history is repeating itself here. Before World War II, we selected submarine COs because they were cautious and didn't make too many waves. During  WW2 started, we ended up relieving almost 25% of them because they were not aggressive enough on missions. The statistics speak for themselves: while 725,000 tons of merchant shipping were sunk in 1942 (despite a full year of operations and over 5.8 million tons of Japanese shipping moving around the Pacific), by 1944 submarines sank 2.7 million tons.

The other telling piece of the convening order is that almost all other communities have nothing listed. I think this is rather dangerous territory that leads to group think, because when you give no guidance, your people simply make up their own guidance, and in the case of a selection board, will likely select based on what has worked in the past, not necessarily what will work in the future.

I'll use Information Warfare as an example. If I had to write the guidance, I'd put the following in:

- Cyber Operations
- Cyber Planning
- National/Tactical Integration
- Language, Regional and Cultural Expertise
- Information Technologies Implementation
- Distance Education

To me, this list looks to the future. You want leaders that have Cyber experience, both in making it work (operations) and in the back-end piece to enable it (planning). In a fiscally constrained environment, integrating all of our intelligence pieces together is important. For a community that has a lot of linguists, having LREC experience helps you lead those people in their unique environment.

The last two are constant problems I see. We are terrible at integrating new technology into common processes like workflow, and especially into training. I can't count the number of officers that are unable to setup a VTC, do a database pull, use a Microsoft Outlook calendar, or sometimes even configure a web browser. We don't need those people in Information Warfare. We need leaders that can do all of those, because they will push their people to implement smart solutions.

Why do we still route things in paper folders? Why do we still have printed PQS signature pages? Why do we not embrace the digital age and reap the benefits because of it? Simple. We don't promote officers in the ranks that do that, because we don't look for it on promotion boards. As a CDR that reads this blog is fond of saying, "We promote pieces of paper." If there is no direction for promotion boards to look for desirous traits to change our future, then we will simply get more of the past.