The Best Defense

Comment from an NDU insider: MG Martin is a good guy but in over his head

Below is note I got this morning from an NDU insider.

Speaking of notes, I've had many from outraged NDU faculty members (and others) unhappy with the broad Guamanian brush I used to describe them yesterday. I apologize for that. I should have been clearer that I was talking about some, not everyone. In addition to the entrenched mediocrities, there are some great faculty members, too. I guess I am just sad to see a once-great institution tarnished, losing enough lustre to threaten its accreditation, and now facing what appears to be a crisis in leadership or morale, or both.

Anyway, here is the note.

I can say from firsthand knowledge that the problems you describe are accurate, but only scratching the surface. General Martin is a truly friendly and unbelievably enthusiastic individual ... but those traits are overshadowed by his admittedly horrid personal time management abilities and nearly utter disregard for his senior staff's time, a frustrating inability to prioritize effort, inconsistent focus and vision, paralyzing personal indecisiveness, and a shocking level of paranoia over many on his staff (to the point that he often referred to some as "The NDU Taliban").

His actions were often characterized as an ADHD child on a sugar-jag, or a Mr. Magoo in uniform by some at the top echelons of the NDU's colleges. And then there were the pettiness and ethical grey areas from the general that has tarnished the reputation of the NDUP in the eyes of those who work with him on a daily basis.

Good folks opted to leave rather than work under the unstable an unpredictable leadership coming from the NDUP and his Exec. Others have just hunkered down to wait out the current administration. The staff alienation was palpable. Some of his senior staff have gone so far as to cynically comment that the J7 must have brought general Martin to the NDU as a "fall guy" during this difficult transition time in the university's history, knowing that he would set a new and lower leadership bar for his successor to build from in the future. BG Martin is not a toxic leader in the traditionally abusive or amoral manner of many other officers, but the leadership he delivers is poisoning the NDU nonetheless.

This note represents the views of the writer, and are not necessarily those of the Defense Department or the U.S. government.


The Best Defense

Why the plans to change NDU worry me

By Janet Breslin-Smith
Best Defense guest columnist

The issue here is the growth of NDU as a mass of new centers, institutions, et cetera. With each new president of NDU, there is a new initiative, a new center, a new mission. Over the decades of this growth, the original idea, formulated by Dwight Eisenhower and Hap Arnold, tends to get lost. 

War College is a face-to-face, intensive course focused on presenting dilemmas to senior military, diplomatic, intelligence community, and other national security officials. Ask any graduate and they will attest to the quality of the experience.

This assertion about NDU, that it must be "one university," is a concept that baffles me. I now sit on a board of a university in New England, and there is no talk about making the graduate school of education the same core as the school of business or engineering. Harvard would not combine the Kennedy School with its Medical School. Where did this idea come from?

I am familiar with core programs, online education, and traditional settings. National War College is unique, with the other war colleges, in making an interagency student body grapple with national security challenges. Centralizing the selection of faculty, the curriculum, and decisions on programs is a mistake. There should be autonomy, and those decisions should reside with the college. The "one university" idea only seems to enhance the centralization of headquarters, management by those not in the classroom and not involved in the program. 

Again, this is an old story. More stars trump fewer stars. Cost-saving arguments cloud the growth of NDU. This is a normal bureaucratic phenomenon. But to me -- a person not on the faculty, not trying to protect a job -- I feel I can say that the college and NDU need more oversight. Active involvement by the new Ike Skelton, whoever that might be.

I can make a longer argument for better strategy, more content and area studies at the school, but those really are decisions for the leadership and faculty of the individual schools to make. Not a centralized command structure that, according to Tom's article, does not allow for debate.

I am worried. The idea, the concept, for the college cannot be delivered online, homogenized, or determined by those not involved in teaching and evaluating. My two cents.

Dr. Breslin-Smith was a member of NDU's faculty for 15 years, and was the first female to chair one of its departments. She is the co-author, with Clifford Krieger, of The National War College: A History of Strategic Thinking in Peace and War. She recently returned from four years in Saudi Arabia, where her husband was the U.S. ambassador.