Monday, February 25, 2008

A Strategy That Fails To Convince

Effective transformation requires that organizations address four specific considerations: the geostrategic setting (the context for transformation), the ends (the purpose of the organization), the ways (the methods that the organization uses to achieve those ends), and the means (the resources used to accomplish the ways). This approach of “context, ends, ways, means” provides a holistic, coherent approach to transforming an organization; without it, an organization does not truly transform.

The context provides the purpose for undergoing transformation. It could be the geostrategic setting or perhaps an emerging technology or method that demands dramatic, innovative change. For the United States, the context of the geostrategic setting changed dramatically in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent downfall of the Soviet Union. Today we still grapple with the impact of those changes—and the world keeps changing while we contemplate the end of the Cold War. Regardless of whether one believes that the world is shaped according to the “core” and the “gap,” as does Barnett, or by a “clash of civilizations,” as does Samuel Huntington, or the myriad other ways of depicting the world, we do not have a bipolar world on the edge of a superpower confrontation—at least not today. Since the world has changed dramatically, the military must do so as well or become irrelevant.

Organizations generally don’t have the luxury of setting the strategic context, but they do have a choice in their reaction to contextual change. Once the context is determined, three approaches—one of which is transformation—address the changing needs of large, complex organizations (similar to changes in the business world). The approaches, which deal with the ends (purpose or product), ways (methods), or means (technology and resources), include transforming the organization’s purpose (focusing on ends), reengineering its methods (focusing on ways), or downsizing or “rightsizing” its technology and resources (focusing on means).
Military Transformation: Ends, Ways, and Means, Dr. Jack D. Kem, Colonel, USA, Retired

In the time of Rumsfeld, the use of the word transformation was often substituted for the word strategy, as they were seen interchangeable by those who believed in transformation. The new Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower failed to mention the word transformation, even once, highlighting a way ahead that substitutes strategy for transformation, as it should be. However, in evaluation of the Navy's maritime strategy we observe it is incomplete, as it only truly forms part of a strategy. The Maritime Strategists within the Navy attempt to reject this criticism, which we continue to find strange as I have recently observed they admit as much themselves.

From the release of the Maritime Strategy we observed an overwhelming rejection of it. First it was the blogosphere led by CDR Salamander, he did what needed to be done, used the proverbial scissors that cut away the fat and left only the substance. CDR called it 6-6-3, and the name stuck. The Navy then took their strategy on the road, a "Conversation With the Country" they call it, and to describe the reception to date as lukewarm is to be polite.

On this road show the 3 services introduce the strategy, explain it, and find few believers among the audience. In introduction of these conversations the presenter begins by highlighting the Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower is but only 1/3 of the total strategy, with the classified NSP and CONOP (NOC) forming a trilogy that makes up the whole of the Maritime Strategy. This follows a predictable pattern the Navy should have been prepared for.

When the Maritime Strategy was introduced to the internet masses, it was quickly labeled an incomplete strategy, and naturally the Navy didn't like it. This process was repeated with Congress who called it a "really slick brochure". The Navy has since introduced their document as only 1/3 of the strategy in its conversations in person which has also been received less than favorably, after which we observe the Navy defending themselves because no one believes in their work as a strategy. Among the few impressed by the strategy is Kaplan, who calls it a “strategy of elegant decline". Ouch.

We believe it is time to look at the Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower for what it is, an incomplete strategy that consists of a "Strategy of the Ends" (purpose or product), a "Strategy of the Ways" (methods), with a "set of priorities" as guidance for executing the strategy. We believe this is accurate, because as everyone, particularly Congress, has observed the Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower is absent a "Strategy of the Means", a strategy that outlines a fleet; and that is one of several problems that reduces the value of the document as a strategy.

Building upon the outline of the Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower we observe the "Strategy of the Ends" to include six purposes; Limit regional conflict with forward deployed, decisive maritime power; Deter major power war; Win our Nation's wars; Contribute to homeland defense in depth; Foster and sustain cooperative relationships with more international partners; and Prevent or contain local disruptions before they impact the global system as explained. We observe these ends to be excellent within the context of strategy, but alone they do not constitute a strategy.

We then observe the "Strategy of the Ways" to be six methods; Forward Presence; Deterrence; Sea Control; Power Projection; Maritime Security; and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response as explained. Again, we observe these to be excellent methods to be applied in the pursuit of a comprehensive strategy, but alone they do not constitute a strategy.

Finally we observe the three guiding priorities to be Improve Integration and Interoperability, Enhance Awareness, and Prepare our People as explained. We support the Navy in identifying the priorities that will help execute the maritime strategy, but it is important to point out, alone, or in combination with the ends and means above, this does not constitute a strategy.

Within this context we observe the Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower to be an incomplete strategy, one that leaves a reader looking for a Strategy of the Means. The people, like Congress, want to discuss that aspect of a maritime strategy, and most importantly, they want that aspect of the new maritime strategy to match the ends and ways as laid out as 6-6-3.

Does the 313-Ship Plan do that? Are there any defenders of the 313-ship plan who believe it aligns itself with the strategy produced? If the Navy polled an audience that question at one of these "Conversations with the Country", what percentage of the audience would believe the 313-ship plan aligns itself with the strategy? I'd bet money the percentage would be very low, because the community of this blog is a good sample of those who would make up that audience and supporters for the 313-ship plan are few indeed.

We suggest few believe that the 313-ship plan for the future constitution of the fleet aligns with the Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower. We believe the defenders of the 313-ship plan do it solely for the sake of preventing further shipbuilding inflation. We believe the desire by the Navy to bring stability to the shipbuilding industry is driving the process for retaining annual shipbuilding orders under the 313-ship plan, and yet it is the lack of orders for more ships within the 313-ship plan that is reducing the shipbuilding capacity of the nation. We also note the annual shipbuilding plan changes in Congress anyway, so the Navy desire for stability appears to be a false hope.

Many who want to connect with the strategy saw the focused, directed, stated 1986 Maritime Strategy as the American way, because it stated and confronted the challenges facing our nation. Many have asked how the Navy can so clearly define the ends (purpose) and ways (method) if they can't even clearly and specifically define the challenges (name thy evil). In that way, it is often noted that the lack of clear definition for challenges gives the Navy flexibility to shape the “means” any way they see fit. As long as the Navy can define the threats and challenges in secret or on demand, the Navy can define the means in public any way they want without defending their position based on strategy.

In this way, it is easy for the Navy to say the 313-ship plan meets the challenges of the Maritime Strategy. It is why we will soon have the DDG-1000 ready for action to meet the challenges of the 21st century, you know, the challenges that aren't identified in the Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower.

As a stockholder in the Navy, I believe it is time the Navy starts talking about the “Strategy of the Means” that aligns itself with the Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower in a way stockholders, also known as taxpayers, can believe in. In a few weeks the Navy will to sit down in front of Congress and talk about the Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, and we do not expect that process to go well for the Navy.

Congress has expectations of the Navy, they desire a “Strategy of the Means” to define the requirements of the Navy shaped in strategy that guides Congress in the process to fund new ships. Because the “Strategy of the Means” is absent in the Maritime Strategy, the ends and ways as represented by 6-6-3 will mean little to Congress, and has meant little to date. There is a division of labor here, and the Navy is going to have to step up if it wants to sell its strategy. Until the Navy produces a “Strategy of the Means,” Congress will not be interested in the ends and ways outlined in the Navy's maritime strategy, which allows Congress to do its own thing with shipbuilding money again, as should be expected when there us no public intellectual basis they are beholden to by the stockholders (voters).

Over the coming days and weeks we intend to explore the Maritime Strategy further, and utilize Julian Corbett’s chapter on the Theory of the Means in terms of fleet constitution to reinforce why a “Strategy of the Means” needs to be produced to tackle the challenges of the 21st century. We outright reject that strategies for fleets need to be classified, it argues in the face of over 200 years of open government. One would imagine with all the DoD emphasis of "Sea Enterprise" and application of business practices, the Navy would have learned about business communication strategies for stockholders. The stockholders need to believe they are getting a return on investment if the business is it to retain the investment. The Navy's stockholders are taxpayers, also known as voters, and as things stand today, taxpayers do not have the information necessary to advocate for further investment in a time of competing interests for national defense investments.

Some might say I'm being harsh; the crew thinks so. I plead guilty, however I am also aware of some very well written intellectual contributions soon to be released in the open source which raises excellent questions of the new Maritime Strategy, so this discussion isn't going away, in fact it will soon get much louder, and much smarter.

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