Thursday, February 24, 2011

United States Naval Institute: An Open Letter From Norman Polmar

The following letter is being circulated and is for members of the United States Naval Institute. I can guarantee that I intend to discuss this topic quite a bit over the next month.

All,

I am writing to you--fellow members of the U.S. Naval Institute--to urge that you vote against the proposed change of the USNI mission statement that is being mailed out with the March issue of the Proceedings magazine. The current statement is refined from the original, 1873 mission written at the establishment of the USNI (see below). I believe that USNI members who believe in the principles of our 138-year-old professional organization should strongly object to three words/terms in the proposed change of the mission statement:

(1) "an independent forum advocating" I believe these words are self-contradictory. The USNI has established itself as the leading international naval--and increasingly "defense"--forum because it has not "advocated" anything but has let authors (military and civilian, of all ranks, genders, and even nationalities) express their opinions. "Advocating" a position will unquestionably deter the USNI serving as an independent forum.

(2) "global sea power" What does this mean? The Soviet Union from 1970 (the massive Okean exercise) until 1991 was certainly a "global sea power"--does the USNI advocate a rehabilitation of Russian sea power? Or a buildup of Chinese global sea power? Or Japanese? Or ...? And, does "global sea power" include a strong merchant marine--which we do not have and will not develop in the foreseeable future? Or fishing fleet? Or ....? Again, "global sea power" is ambiguous and misleading.

(3) "economic prosperity" Again, for whom? The world? Then the USNI is encouraging every nation (including Iran, N. Korea, China, etc.) to develop global sea power. Or only for the United States? How does "global sea power" help U.S. prosperity--other than the shipbuilding industry?

The proposed new mission statement makes the USNI appear to be a lobbying and "cheerleading" organization for.... I am not quite certain for what or whom. In the years that I have been associated with the Naval Institute (since age 15), I was taught that those roles--lobbying and cheerleading--were the purpose of the Navy League, not the Naval Institute.

The USNI now exists "to provide an independent forum for those who dare to read, think, speak, and write in order to advance the professional, literary, and scientific understanding of sea power and other issues critical to national defense." I believe that mission statement is still valid and germane.

I strongly urge all members to REJECT the proposed change to the USNI mission statement.

All good wishes/Norman
I stand with Norman Polmar, and strongly believe that information and education on the issue will overwhelmingly lead to a rejection of the proposed change to the USNI mission statement. I encourage all members of the United States Naval Institute to forward a copy of this letter, and all other information about this proposed change to every USNI member you know; via email, Facebook, Twitter, and with every other communication tool you prefer.

The mission statement of USNI is Acticle I, Section II of the Constitution and By-Laws and is available from this link to USNI members. The existing mission statement:
ARTICLE I Name and Mission

Section 2. The Mission of the Institute is “to provide an independent forum for those who dare to read, think, speak, and write in order to advance the professional, literary, and scientific understanding of sea power and other issues critical to national defense.”
The proposed change would be:
The Mission of the Institute is “to be an Independent Forum advocating the necessity of global sea power for national security and economic prosperity.”
In discussing this issue with many of you over the last week, several of you have commented that we already have a Navy League. I agree, The Navy League is a great organization that some on the Board of Directors apparently want USNI to compete against. The Navy League mission statement is:
The Navy League of the United States is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating our citizens about the importance of sea power to U.S. national security and supporting the men and women of the sea services and their families.
Some folks on the Board of Directors are trying to pull a fast one here hoping no one is paying attention. I will be doing everything I can to insure every member in my network is aware of the choice represented in this vote. My goal is two fold:
  • Help campaign for members to reject this proposal.
  • Help get out the vote so that this becomes the largest vote in the 138 year history of the United States Naval Institute.
As I intend to outline in detail over the next month, I believe the United States Naval Institute has been steadily moving forward over the last few years and is poised to do amazing things towards the objective of the existing mission statement, but apparently before the organization takes that step; the members of USNI will have to burn this bad idea to the ground before launching boldly from those ashes. I cannot stress enough how shortsighted I see this proposal at this time by the Board of Directors, because the appropriate analogy as I see it is to suggest this is like fumbling the football on the 5 yard line on first down after driving all the way down the field, and just as you are about to score after being down at halftime.

According to the Constitution and By-Laws of the United States Naval Institute, to amend:
ARTICLE XVI Amendments to Constitution and By-Laws

Section 1. Proposed amendments to or changes in the Constitution and By-Laws must first be approved by the Board of Directors. Then, they shall be circulated to the members entitled to vote at least thirty days before the date the change becomes effective, if approved. Each such member in good standing shall be furnished a ballot on which to record his or her vote, and no amendment to or change in the Constitution and By-Laws shall be made without the favorable vote of two-thirds of the members voting.
I shall have many things to say on this topic over the next month. If any member who has previously been published by the United States Naval Institute (book, Proceedings, blog) wishes to write an open letter of your own to the United States Naval Institute Board of Directors on this topic, I will happily publish that letter on this blog and make sure your letter gets broadly circulated through my network of hundreds of USNI members who over the past week have volunteered to help get the word out regarding this issue.

For those who might want to be heard on this topic, I encourage you to email the USNI Board of Directors with your thoughts regarding the new mission statement proposal.

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