Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Charge of command

By Capt. John Byron, USN (Ret.) Best Defense office of nautical affairs Admiral Gary Roughhead, outgoing Chief of Naval Operations, last month issued a memorandum to current and prospective Navy commanding officers reminding them of their traditional and statutory duty in command. He implemented this with a directive that COs and PCOs meet with their ...

history.navy.mil
history.navy.mil
history.navy.mil

By Capt. John Byron, USN (Ret.)
Best Defense office of nautical affairs

Admiral Gary Roughhead, outgoing Chief of Naval Operations, last month issued a memorandum to current and prospective Navy commanding officers reminding them of their traditional and statutory duty in command. He implemented this with a directive that COs and PCOs meet with their ISIC (Immediate Superior In Command) to discuss the topic and leave behind a copy of the memo with their signature on it.

Some (I'm one) see this as an example of what Ernie King called "orders to follow orders," a pernicious practice that substitutes for more effective leadership. I also see frustration stemming from Roughhead's otherwise fine tour as CNO being tainted by the recent series of command screwups in the Fleet (which, BTW, he has no direct authority over). 

By Capt. John Byron, USN (Ret.)
Best Defense office of nautical affairs

Admiral Gary Roughhead, outgoing Chief of Naval Operations, last month issued a memorandum to current and prospective Navy commanding officers reminding them of their traditional and statutory duty in command. He implemented this with a directive that COs and PCOs meet with their ISIC (Immediate Superior In Command) to discuss the topic and leave behind a copy of the memo with their signature on it.

Some (I’m one) see this as an example of what Ernie King called "orders to follow orders," a pernicious practice that substitutes for more effective leadership. I also see frustration stemming from Roughhead’s otherwise fine tour as CNO being tainted by the recent series of command screwups in the Fleet (which, BTW, he has no direct authority over). 

Some serving officers think this aimed more at members of the flag-officer community as reminder of their duty to make things turn out right. And many welcome this as a useful comment on why command at sea is so distinct, seeing this a useful tool in training PCOs in the pipeline.

Useful? Silly? Redundant? Effective? Your thoughts?

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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