Each of these down cycles and turbulent periods posed their own unique set of challenges to our Navy, but they provide us with lessons that we can apply to our own situation today. I want to share with you some of the important lessons I learned during those times that I believe apply to everyone in the Fleet today, regardless of where you are in the chain-of-command or your community warfare specialty.
First, this is our reality and we must accept it. This whitewater and all the churn that comes with it is not going away anytime soon. The world is not going to settle down so we can take a “training time-out” and figure out how we’re going to deal with our new fiscal and operational environment. And we don’t have the option (nor do we want it!) of simply packing up and walking away when the times are tough. Now is the time to be thinking about how we’re going to adapt to an increasingly austere future in an increasingly volatile world. If we continue to operate under the “business as usual” mindset, we will fail. I can assure you that whatever our future looks like, it will not simply be business as usual.
Second, we must make the tough decisions that the times demand of us and own the consequences of those decisions. Fewer resources brings competing priorities. I wrote here over two years ago that in an environment with declining resources, there are things that we inevitably will not be able to do (ref: do less, but not less well). While our overall operational demand shows no sign of slowing down, fiscal discipline demands that we prioritize requirements and make the reuired decisions about how we will meet our missions. This area is not one in which we can simply stick our heads in the sand and hope for the best. Hope is never an acceptable strategy in our line of work. Hoping for a result means you’ve lost control of the situation or your ability to influence the outcome. We live with the consequences of our decisions, not our hopes.
Third, take ownership of your responsibilities. If you see a problem, be part of the solution. I talked earlier this year about BMC Pici and how he and his team took ownership of Corrosion Control on USS WINSTON S. CHURCHILL. BMC Pici had engaged the entire ship and created an environment in which every member of the crew was responsible for some aspect of corrosion control and prevention, just like every member of the crew is expected to have fundamental DC skills. And when given the opportunity, he took a chance and told me he needed paint floats because there weren’t any available (a problem RADM Dave Thomas and I promptly fixed). BMC Pici took ownership of his responsibilities and did what he felt he needed to do in order to ensure his team had the tools they needed to do their jobs – just like I want every Sailor in the Fleet to take ownership of their program, division, department, and command.
Finally, don’t lose sight of why we’re here. My job and commitment to our Sailors is to give them the tools, training and time they need to deploy confident in their ability to carry out their assigned missions. If you work at Fleet Forces, then your job should contribute in some way to this mission (i.e. providing Forces ready for tasking). We’ve reached a point where we all need to take a hard look at the many tasks we do each day and ask ourselves how it contributes to our mission. And we need to make the decisions (see previous paragraph) to stop spending resources on endless churn that has no clear benefit to our Sailors or our mission. We’re here to ensure our Sailors have what they need to get the job done. Period.
Many of the challenges we face every day are not exclusive to rank. Whether you’re a Flag Officer commanding a strike group or a Fire Controlman manning a weapons console in a DDG, your feedback on how we address our challenges is important. That’s why I’ve maintained this blog and fostered an open discussion up and down the chain-of-command for the three years I’ve been in command of Fleet Forces. At the end of the day, the onus is on us to take ownership of the Fleet and ensure we remain the Ready, Responsive, and Relevant force our nation needs. All the best, JCHjr