The Best Defense


By "Soldier's Diary"

Best Defense department of domestic violence and national security

Yesterday, Tom commented: "But generally I am avoiding the subject of the Newtown slaughter because it just enrages and saddens me."

My thought was, that is exactly why we need to discuss this. We should be disgusted, we should be enraged, we should be saddened, but we must turn those emotions to the debate. What happened in Newtown, what happened in Oregon, what happened in Colorado, what happened in Columbine, has as much to do with national security as what is happening in Pakistan. You have seen the numbers of people killed over the past decade due to gun violence in America, and yes, anytime our citizens are being killed it's a matter of national security, but I have a little bit of a different outlook on the impacts to our national security as we move forward.

In a global economy of vastly increased mobility and interdependence, our own prosperity and leader­ship depends increasingly on our ability to provide our citizens with the education that they need to succeed, while attracting the premier human capital for our workforce...America's long-term leader­ship depends on educating and producing future scientists and innovators. We will invest more in STEM education so students can learn to think critically in science, math, engineering, and technology; improve the quality of math and science teaching so American students are no longer outperformed by those in other nations.

The above quote comes directly out of our 2011 National Security Strategy. Investment in our future is key to advancing the prosperity of our nation. How the U.S. government will move forward in its allocation of resources, to include money and people, will be an outcome of this tragic event. The spate of shootings over the past few years has now grown to the point that politicians will do something. What that something is may vary, at the federal level it may be stricter gun control laws, at the local level it may be additional security at schools and other places where you find large gatherings of otherwise defenseless people (malls, movie theaters, and schools, for example).

Federal, state and local officials will have a series of stark decisions to make. Hire security guards or hire teachers. Invest in security cameras or purchase new books. You want to arm teachers? Wonderful, purchase them all guns, ammo, and send them to a week of training on how to handle the weapons. Personally, I would rather they purchase new supplies for our teachers and students, then spend a week at a teaching seminar.

As we move forward we can use the model followed after 9/11, and turn on the fire hose of money to increase security in our schools based on the 1 percent doctrine. Our children deserve the best education and the right to attend school without the fear of being gunned down by an evil madman, but how those two objectives are achieved must be balanced vis-à-vis our financial resources. We all see what travel at our airports has become, how antiquated our immigration policies have become, and the brain-drain that has infected our nation. Once we get past the necessary gun control debate, all citizens will need to stay engaged to assure that our nation properly prioritizes its resources for the security of the nation.

"Soldier's Diary" is an active duty soldier with multiple combat tours over the past 11 years and is a longtime follower of The Best Defense. The views expressed are his own.


The Best Defense

Follow the yellow brick road

By Capt. John Byron, USN (Ret.)

Best Defense department of maritime affairs

When I was a baby-duck ensign in my first ship, the Gun Boss, a grizzled lieutenant commander, offered me these words of wisdom on career success in my new profession as a Navy line officer:

Be a successful shipboard department head as a lieutenant, a successful executive officer as a lieutenant commander, and a successful commanding officer as a commander...and you will make captain.

In this succinct capture of the traditional road to senior rank, my friend outlined the essence of two parallel pathways an officer must follow, ticking off the gates to pass through in assignments and in progression up the ranks. Within the Navy, this surface-navy description also holds true for submariners and aviators, and there are comparable paths to be followed for staff corps and restricted line.

Running alongside these two there's a third path as well, of professional gates peculiar to the warfare or staff specialty. A submariner, for example, needs graduate sub school, nuclear power school, and prototype; qualify as a diving officer, an engineer of the watch, and an officer of the deck; qualify in submarines and earn his (and now her -- wow, three of them) dolphins; pass the two-day engineer's exam at Navy Nuclear Reactors; complete submarine command quals; get through Prospective Executive Officer and Prospective Commanding Officer schools; and not screw up at Nuclear Power PCO School ("Charm School").

These three paths made up of parallel and intertwined assignment, promotion, and professional gates define career success for Navy line officers.

Point One: The rest of the Navy and the other military services have comparable three-thread career paths with their own gates that officers must go through to reach full success. There are many nuances, some individual exceptions, more or less flexibility, but in general there's a pattern here that's pretty much unwavering and unavoidable.

Point Two: This is highly competitive at each gate on each of the three pathways; the services have far fewer loaves and fishes than there are people in the crowd.

Point Three: If you miss a gate, you're probably screwed.

Point Four (and the reason for writing this): Command is just one of the gates. Which is to say that command, highly visible and properly viewed as perhaps the most important job an officer can hold, is but one of a series of steps and stops in which success is mandatory and failure may occur. So yes, command is important...but the individual's performance and a service's ability to train, educate, and evaluate its people are measured at myriad points continuously throughout a career.

Point Five: If a military service or one of its specialties fails to demand accountability against proper standards at every one of these gates, well, shame on them for failing the nation. Pretty much the point of Tom's book, that.