Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Next Secretary of the Navy Will Be...

There are many rumors circulating regarding who the next SECNAV might be. Colin Clark over at DODBUZZ suggested this week that one name on the list is Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Penn.). I wouldn't bet on it. Joe is certainly qualified, as a former admiral he has the knowledge foundation and experience to fill the position, but he comes with one small and one large problem that pretty much insures he won't be the guy.

The small problem is that he was fired by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen on Mike's first day as CNO. I've been critical of Admiral Mullen in the past, his record as CNO was mixed in my opinion, really good in a lot of areas, but in the most visible area, Naval shipbuilding, his watch did not go well. Luckily it didn't prevent him from becoming CJCS, because in that role he has been nothing short of fantastic. Some men find themselves in the right place at the right time, and the nation currently has that with Mike Mullen as CJCS. His place as CJCS is more important to the country than Joe's as SECNAV, and make no mistake, a Sestak appointment would create a lot of unneeded political drama for the new administration.

But that is just a small issue, one that can potentially be overcome between the two men. The real challenge facing Rep. Sestak is that he still appears to hold the Navy in contempt, a grudge that appears outwardly obvious to observers and the Navy doesn't like him right back for it. It comes out every time the Navy sits down in front of Congress. Rep Sestak makes the HASC Seapower and Expeditionary Forces subcommittee look very good because he is smart and well informed, but I listen and watch as many of these hearings as I can, and one thing comes out clear. Joe show no respect to anyone in the Navy in public, and until he changes that perception he would not be an effective Secretary of the Navy regardless of his qualifications.

I've been hearing another name though, and for awhile I simply didn't believe it, until I heard it three times again over the last few days and also noted Springboard highlighting he is serving on the Obama Transition Team National Defense Working Group.

There is a rather strong rumor going around both inside the Navy and inside the Pentagon that the next Secretary of the Navy could be Bob Work of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Studies. If that is true, Barack Obama might be Brilliant! While that might include the intelligent and wise aspect of brilliant, I'm actually referring to the pour Guinness beer from the tap, stand up and hoist the pint while screaming BRILLIANT type of Brilliant!

Could this really happen? Judging by the serious quality of picks we have seen so far from the Obama transition team, yes.

Bob Work brings just about everything one would ever want for a new administration looking for change, and a Navy that needs a healthy dose of change.

He has plenty of experience in front of Congress, both the Pentagon and the Navy is very familiar with him, and I personally like that he was never in the Navy... he is a retired Marine Corps artillery colonel. He was also Military Assistant and Senior Aide to the Honorable Richard J. Danzig, 71st Secretary of the Navy. LA Times is reporting Richard Danzig is the leading candidate to replace Gordon England as #2 behind Gates. Bob Work is currently an analyst for CSBA and Adjunct Professor at George Washington University, where he teaches defense analysis and roles and missions of the armed forces.

He is well written on just about every subject we discuss here regularly, one could take his work on Sea Basing (PDF), LCS (PDF), Surface Combatants (PDF), Fleet Constitution (PDF), Technology (PDF), and Strategy (PDF)... bundle it all together and publish it, and you would have one of the most interesting books on modern naval warfare strategic thinking available on the market. Bob Work is the "go to guy" for just about everyone in the press who follows the Navy, because he is one of the few willing to put his opinion, good or bad, on the record. He has a clear vision, hard to guess what he thinks when he writes his reports and publishes them online.

Most importantly, Bob is true strategic thinker who is excellent in debate. I talk a lot about evangelists on the blog, and when I think of who the evangelist of the US Navy is today, the first name that pops into my mind is Bob Work.

I don't know if Bob wants the job, but he would be a brilliant choice. A lot of people have disagreed with Bob, and I've traded email with Bob in debate several times in disagreement, but I also think that will help him as SECNAV. Why? Because even people who debate and disagree with Bob appreciate his sound strategic approach to complicated issues. His work looks towards solutions and ideas, and doesn't focus on problems.

I do not have inside information, just hearing the same rumors as everyone else. It is interesting how this is set up, there are two names out there, one the Navy would hate and one the Navy would really like. Now, what is the reaction when the administration picks the one the Navy wants? I only hope Bob wants the job, and Joe learns to not hold a grudge.

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