To my mind, James Stavridis is a national treasure. A retired four-star Admiral, Stavridis originally graduated from Annapolis and after 37 years rose to be Supreme Commander of NATO. He’s now chairman of the board of the U.S. Naval Institute and dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts. In his writing and public appearances, Stavridis comes across as an experienced, plain-spoken patriot who knows what he’s talking about. In this story for Bloomberg, below, Stavridis writes about what the Navy needs to do in the aftermath of the collisions of two destroyers, the USS McCain and USS Fitzgerald (above) with merchant ships, resulting in the deaths of 17 sailors.
Here are two quotes that make his basic points:
“The Navy’s failures in the forward-deployed ships are centered in a culture of ‘shut up and do the job’ in the surface fleet. Growing up as a junior officer in that world, I saw again and again the refusal to balance sufficient rest with on-deck watch standing in order to accomplish the mission: admirable in concept, foolish in execution.”
“Basic blocking and tackling are the heart of real-world operations. Even in this increasingly high-tech, artificial-intelligence and cyber driven world, humans will continue to make difficult operational decisions. There is no easy way to substitute for basic experience – it takes five years of ship handling to have five years of ship handling experience. We can use simulators more creatively and aggressively, but the heart of such skills comes the good old-fashioned way: spending time performing hard tasks under demanding instructors who challenge the apprentice again and again until he or she masters the art.”