I finish with a challenge especially for the junior officers and enlisted sailors: As professional sea warriors, you are duty-bound to become skilled practitioners in the art of warfare as is possible. Your professional organization is the Naval Institute, and your forum is Proceedings. If you don't belong, then join. If you do belong, then engage. Our country expects nothing less of you. We still have lots of truths to talk about, and your singular opinion counts.
Commander Pierce recently completed a tour as commanding officer of USS Whidbey Island (LSD-41). A member of the Naval Institute Board of Directors from 1994 to 1996, he is now studying at Harvard University.
Admiral William D. Smith, U.S. Navy (Ret.)
The profession of a naval officer traditionally has demanded considerable technical expertise, dating back to the age of sail and the requirement to be a competent navigator. The foundation of a profession based on the sciences provides an independent measure of the competence of its members and encourages objectivity in thought and expression. Ideas are important to keep our Navy in the forefront of emerging technology, operational agility, and in keeping our best people engaged in maximizing the capabilities we have.
The Naval Institute has provided a superb forum for the exchange of these ideas and others less technical. By doing so, it has encouraged the officer corps to discuss—and often question—current wisdom. Such questioning within the Navy at large acts as a catalyst for ship and squadron wardrooms and overtly signals that such discussion and debate is not just welcome but necessary for the ethos of the successful naval officer.
One does not have to become very senior to realize that good ideas are not just the domain of the more mature officer. Competent, focused junior officers are the real source of innovation in most well-run ships and squadrons. The expression of their ideas and opinions is a rich source of grist for the rest of us to chew or reflect upon.
The Naval Institute's encouragement—even insistence—on openness and debate, particularly where policy and dogma are involved, have made it the envy of professional military organizations and journals the world over. If we are to remain the world's preeminent Navy, such openness becomes even more important as new ideas of warfare and supporting technologies emerge.
A nuclear submariner, Admiral Smith retired from the Navy in 1993 after serving as General Colin Powell's permanent representative to NATO in Brussels. He is a senior fellow at the Center for Naval Analyses and is part of a team working to improve the cooperation and understanding between the U.S. and Russian Navies.