Wednesday, March 2, 2011

US Naval Institute: The Genesis of Hostile Takeover

On July 13-14 last year, the Board of Directors of the Naval Institute (USNI) and the Board of Directors of the Naval Institute Foundation (NIF) met for a Strategic Planning Meeting to discuss the future of the Institute. Below are the minutes of that meeting.

Board Jul10 Strategic Planning Meeting

As the minutes make clear, I was not in the room. I can only surmise then from the meeting minutes what took place by assuming that these minutes were accepted and in good order at a later date. I also note that Mr. Mark Johnson and Dr. J.P. London were also not present at this Board of Directors meeting.

Note Agenda Item 3:

ITEM 3-1: ESTABLISH THE CENTER FOR SEA POWER STUDIES: The Board requested the CEO prepare the necessary Pro Forma, action plan, Case Statement and NIF pamphlet for potential donors as quickly as possible with a goal of raising the neededfunds and opening the Center set for 1 January 2011.

ITEM 3-2: SUPPORTING INITATIVES: The Board requested the CEO work with theChairman and Director Morgan to prepare appropriate announcements of the new initiativewith the logic that drives the decision for publishing in Proceedings, online, and in a series of email announcements leading up to the 137th Annual Meeting. The Board approved reaching out to a commercial advertising/marketing agency for assistance as needed within our funding capability.

The Board also requested more work be done identifying target audiences, key messages, and ways to access interested parties.
Note Action Item 4:
In a historic step, the Board unanimously agreed to eliminate the Preamble to the current USNI Constitution & By-Laws and amend the USNI Mission to read:

THE UNITED STATES NAVAL INSTITUTE IS AN INDEPENDENT FORUM ADVOCATING THE NECESSITY OF GLOBAL SEA POWER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY AND ECONOMIC PROSPERITY.

This decision will be presented to the Members in the Winter 2010 annual ballot.
The minutes of the Board of Directors meeting suggest to me that these actions were linked, and that the first action is what necessitated the second action.

As I understood it, the Theodore Roosevelt Center was the idea that came from the initiative to develop a Center for Seapower Studies. As I understood it the Theodore Roosevelt Center would become a new but distinct function of the Institute and operate as a Think Tank that focused on issues related to seapower, and would not in any way influence existing heritage, history, and publication operations of the Institute. Below are some of the documents related to the development of the Theodore Roosevelt Center for Seapower Studies.

TR Center Assumptions

TR Center Case Statement

However, something happened along the way, because myself and most people never heard of the Theodore Roosevelt Center for Seapower Studies, or never heard much more than the existence of an idea. The facts get murky at this point, and no one from the Board of Directors or the US Naval Institute has been able to honestly clarify these matters in public.

As I understand the chain of events piecing together the facts as they are known, the Board of Directors ultimately decided for some reason, probably funding, that the Theodore Roosevelt Center was not an option, and instead decided to simply add that capacity to the existing operations of the Naval Institute. As I have been told the story, General Wilkerson and a minority of members on the Board of Directors objected, but the outcome of that objection was General Wilkerson being fired as CEO and the minority losing the debate.

As these are the facts as they are known to me, and because the Board of Directors has intentionally not revealed any information regarding their intentions, engaged publicly in any way regarding these activities, and the United States Naval Institute has yet to formally even send out a public notification of a proposed mission statement change by email to all members - we are left to draw our own conclusions.

So based on the facts as I know them, I am left with the impression that if you want to know where the US Naval Institute is heading with this mission statement change, simply read the documents related to the Theodore Roosevelt Center. If you don't believe the Board of Directors intend to make the US Naval Institute like the TR Center, then explain some other why General Wilkerson was fired. There really isn't any other conclusion to draw based on the facts as they are known, although I will gladly entertain opinions if they also provide additional facts.

I am left with the conclusion that the 137 year old Independent Forum and today's members are currently observing a hostile takeover by three Morgan Stanley Wall Street money men and three retired Vice Admirals.

Mr. Stephen M. Waters, The Honorable Robert C. McCormack, Mr. Donald P. Brennan, VADM John G. Morgan, Jr., USN (Ret), VADM Nancy E. Brown, USN (Ret), and VADM Norman W. Ray, USN (Ret) have pulled a Board Room two step for mil-money and power in the name of advocacy, and in that process they will casually discard the priceless value that exists with the credibility of a truly Open and Independent Forum in the United States national security debate - as if that idealism of independence holds no value in today's charged political climate.

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