Friday, January 16, 2015

Navy Strategy Subspecialty and the Curse of Competence with Competing Requirements"

Navy Strategy Poster, from

The Navy released some further explanation of their Strategy Subspecialty:

If you remember, I noticed the addition over a month ago, and asked

4. Naval Strategy subspecialties are a start, but are they going to be required? Paid more? Used as intended? The Navy needs to get serious about subspecialties and employ people with that specialty in a place where they can use their knowledge.

I'm not a professor, but I was curious, so I found the curriculum at Naval Postgraduate School that would get you the 2301 Subspecialty.  You can view it here.

In the end, we expect these people to do the following:

Conduct Research: Assemble information from the full range of data sources to understand international political, economic, and military issues.

Analyze Problems: Frame issues as research questions; logically combine evidence and theory to analyze and explain international political, economic, and military developments; and formulate innovative solutions to strategic problems.

Communicate Information: Clearly summarize large quantities of information and persuasively present positions and courses of action using a broad range of verbal and written communications formats, including short oral arguments, visual briefs, policy memos, position papers, and comprehensive student theses.

International and Comparative Politics: Understand international relations theories, including realist, liberal, and cultural paradigms; the conditions and world views that shape state interactions in the international system; the history of modern nationalism and the state system; and the roles of domestic politics, non-state actors, and transnational social movements in shaping international politics.

International Economy: Understand the economic factors that shape the international security environment, including the economic dimensions of national security policy and the ways in which economic policies and interests affect military strategy and force structure.

International and Military History: Grasp the principal causes of war in the modern era, and understand the political, technological, economic, and other influences that have governed its conduct; understand the social, political, economic, and cultural forces that have contributed to periods of stable peace; and analyze relations between states, including negotiations of peace settlements, military alliances, arms limitation agreements, economic arrangements, and human rights accords.

U.S. National Security Policy: Demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of US national security policy, military history, and defense, military, and naval strategy.

International Environment: Assess the international strategic environment, have knowledge of politico-military affairs, and understand the inner workings of the highest levels of government. Draw policy-relevant conclusions and formulate actionable recommendations.

Strategic plans and policy: Demonstrate ability to write strategic-to-operational-level vision and guidance documents calculated to relate the ends of policy to the ways and means of strategic action. Understand the relationship of DIME elements to naval power and joint and maritime strategy. Differentiate and define Service, COCOM, and Naval Component Command roles at the national and theater levels.

Strategic Theory and Concepts: Demonstrate ability to evolve concepts and strategy to employ forces at the national and theater levels. Understand how joint and maritime forces may influence the future global security environment. Develop strategic- and theater-level concepts of operations based on higher-level policies and strategies.

Coalitions and Alliance Politics: Analyze the principal alliances and international organizations that shape the current security environment, including their role in U.S. national strategy, coalition building, and military missions from peace operations to major wars.

Regional Security: Understand the basic security dynamics of at least two major world regions.

Joint Professional Military Education: Satisfactory completion of JPME Phase I.

Since the NAVADMIN does say they want both the education and the billet assignment, there is some hope that these officers will be used for strategy and not just regular staff work.  The Navy will be its own worst enemy on this though, due to the "Curse of Competence with Competing Requirements."  I've now seen this so often that I think it must be a military thing in general.  The problem has a few parts:

1. People have varying levels of competence at all ranks.  Some people are natural self-starters and work hard, others are just putting in time until retirement.

2. Commanders get pinged by their bosses.  If an incompetent person is not working to standard, the commander will get bogged down in one area.

3. Since we don't fire people, the commander will almost always reassign competent people, regardless of what they are supposed to be doing, to fill the gap and get the requirement filled.

So Navy Strategy guys and girls can do all this training, but if they become the senior watch officer because the boss needs someone competent there, then this whole construct, like many before, will fall apart.  The way to fix this is actually punish poor performers, not by giving them 'P' FITREPs, but by documenting poor performance and eventually pushing them out of Naval Service if they don't improve.  The best example of this would be George C. Marshall during WW2.