(SEE PAGE 689, WHOLE NO. 151, VOL. 40, No. 3, MAY-JUNE, 1914)
ASSISTANT NAVAL CONSTRUCTOR J. E. OTTERSON, U. S. Navy.—In venturing a discussion of Lieut. Commander Thomas A. Kearney's paper on "The Military-Industrial Organization of the Navy," I do so as a "student of industrial organization" who has found that "the navy of the United States affords an excellent and profitable field of study."
I hope that in this venture I may not be classed among "those who fanatically worship at the shrine of the goddess of peace, or the more utilitarian few who would clutter the decks of fighting ships with the goods and samples of our manufactured or commercial products." If in the course of this discussion, I should advocate "the creation of an exclusive and specialized naval industrial corps, be it military, semi-military, or wholly civil, holding life tenure of office, and charged only with the management of industries that may vanish over night," I hope that it may not be charged by those "naturally and properly suspicious that motives purely selfish may be behind these demands for change."
While I am not able to agree with the author in all that he says, or to find his arguments entirely logical, yet I must concur in many of his beautiful sentiments and hope occasionally to find myself "stimulated by the highest ideals."
I would not be remiss in expressing my appreciation of the military point of view and cannot do better in expressing my own sentiments than to quote the author's eulogy of the military man:
"The military man is essentially a leader, exercising his leadership when ‘responsibilities are terrifying and the greatest resource of soul is required to make decisions.' He is a student of men in every sense of their being, a leader stimulated by the highest ideals, attaining to greatness and success through the men he leads, satisfied only when he knows his work has been well done, asking no greater reward than the gratitude of his fellowmen."
In fact, I find that this conception of the military man permeates civil as well as military circles and, as I have long since separated myself from any claim to military distinction, I hope to escape the accusation of immodestly drawing these remarks to myself, but on the other hand, I trust that modesty will not make me unmindful of the merits and high ideals of other branches of the service.
The author desires to have accepted "as axiomatic, that the navy as an entity exists primarily, and is at all times a military organization." He focuses "the spotlight upon the fact that navy yards and shore stations exist for the fleet." He wishes "no denial of the military purpose of the navy, individually or in the aggregate." "Drills, exercises, evolutions, target practices, war-games, repairs, and overhaul, have but one avowed and recognized purpose: the training and preparation for war." "Navy yards exist, even as does the fleet, for war." "Navy yards are not eleemosynary institutions wherein men may attain to life-long sinecures. They are the military-industrial stations where vessels belonging to the military branch of the government may be constructed, repaired, and fitted out for the performance of their military purposes." "Navy yards and all that they contain are but one link in the chain of readiness, or near readiness, that permeates the entire navy."
In all of this I am pleased to agree most heartily with the author, and I am surprised to read his statement that "unfortunately, the American people are not a maritime race, else it would be easier to bring home the force of this argument." There seems to me no room for argument on these points. It amounts merely to saying "The purpose of the navy is military." No one need dispute this purpose.
But surely, as to the manner of attaining this purpose, authorities may differ without being charged with "motives purely selfish."
For example, it appeals to me that the navy yards can best fulfill their military purpose if they are industrially efficient and I believe that the first step necessary to industrial efficiency lies in the appointment of industrial managers and the placing of the yards upon an industrial basis. This is not separating or divorcing the yards from the navy, or opposing them to the great military purpose of the navy; it is merely giving them an opportunity to attain to the efficiency necessary to cause them to best serve their purpose.
The navy yards are military only in the sense that their industrial efficiency is necessary to the military efficiency of the navy as a whole.
The author states that "the commandant, in his dual capacity of military and industrial senior, is the general manager of the manufacturing department—the department to which are assigned the shops, manufacturing and repair facilities of the yard." I do not fail to appreciate the frankness of his admission that "it is this dual capacity that, perhaps, puzzles the outside observer."
The author quotes Professor E. D. Jones on analogy and makes a plea for "strictness of analogy" objecting to the substitution of "men for cells, and the nation for the human body," for the mere purpose of emphasizing group specialization. He later cites "an illuminating example in the industrial organization of our railroads" that to my mind is in no sense analogous to the naval situation, or at least wholly lacking in its presentation that strictness which the author so much desires.
To quote the author, "engines, cars and equipment are purchased in the open market subject to inspection, but what road throughout the length and breadth of the land is dependent upon outside plants for the repair, overhaul and upkeep of its roadbed or equipment? The repair stations, roundhouses and division shops are to our railroads what navy yards are to our ships. We do not for a second question the propriety of a railroad managing its own shop. Why then should we have the temerity to question naval management of things essentially naval?"
I am unaware that anyone has seriously questioned naval management but I do know that there are many who seriously question military management of naval industrial affairs.
In order to make the railroad situation analogous to the naval situation, one must imagine the brakemen, conductors, and locomotive engineers in charge of the railroad "repair stations, roundhouses, and division shops." I believe that the propriety of such management of the railroad shops might well be questioned, although the railroad would still be "managing its own shops."
I may perhaps be pardoned a further quotation from the author's paper as it seems to me he both makes and answers his arguments. We learn that the war game "presupposes that the man in the conning tower has officers and men under him capable of making the big ships and the little ships go where he wills to take them. The uninitiated may ask what constitutes this ability to make the ships go to the place where the admiral would take them. Briefly, we may answer, the knowledge of navigation, tactics, electricity, steam engineering, mechanics, seamanship, and the leadership of men. It is the ability to pick the trail across the many waters, to avoid shoals and hazards, to keep the day's reckoning. It is the ability to produce and use both electricity and steam in the various mechanical appliances to be found on board a 30,000 ton battleship or a 1000 ton high-speed destroyer; to operate, maintain, and repair dynamos and generators, main engines, turbines, auxiliaries and boilers; to handle the ship in fair weather and in storm; to organize a crew, taken from the city and farm, into a happy, industrious, capable unit, to feed them, work them, drill them, .educate them, yea, mother them, so that when the day comes you can fight them to the everlasting glory of the United States and of the flag under which they serve."
Truly, any man is to be congratulated with such a broad field of splendid opportunities open to him. In view of the contentions of the author, I may be pardoned my surprise at not finding an adequate reference to the duties and qualifications of an industrial manager. The omission means much, to my mind, and I believe that it was wholly involuntary and unconscious on the part of the author and further, that the average line officer in summing up the qualifications which constitute his "ability to make the ships go to the place where the admiral would take them," would just naturally fail to mention his knowledge of the relative merits of day work, piece-work, premium, and bonus systems of pay, of the progress of syndicalism, of the practice of sabotage, of trade unionism, of the I. W. W., of the politics of time study, of the merits of scientific management, of the effects of industrial fatigue, of workmen's compensation acts, of industrial accidents, and vocational diseases, of the psychology of management, of shop buildings, of shop layouts, of direct drive, of belt drive, of all these and more.
And furthermore, to include such qualifications in those necessary "to make the ships go to the place where the admiral would take them" would make the whole thing absurd. And yet these things are not absurd to the industrial manager but are vital and are part of the problem of efficiently handling the work of constructing and repairing our ships. It is work essentially industrial in its composition even though performed for a strictly military purpose.
The author states the purpose of the present navy yard system to be as follows:
(a) To secure the earliest practicable beginning of work.
(b) To prevent an undesirable accumulation of material in shops.
(c) To properly follow up work.
(d) To secure best machine tool results and fix standards.
These purposes are all industrial.
I would state more broadly that the object of any navy yard system is to build up the industrial efficiency necessary to the fulfilment of their military purpose.
I hope that I may not be considered as wholly lacking in sympathy for the military point of view if I should venture that under proper industrial management our navy yards may assist greatly in the solution of the great social, political, economic, and labor problems that confront this great country and find expression in labor strikes and I. W. W. demonstrations. Surely this is a broad field that at best would surely prove distracting to the military man.
I note the author's inability to picture a semi-military corps and his objections to the hyphenating process, and yet it seems no more absurd or difficult of conception than the author's hyphenated Military-Industrial Organization of the Navy.
In thus venturing to join a "sporadic outbreak of criticism against the existing order of things," I am happy in the thought that the author regards me as not wholly un-American and perhaps "broadly human." I would not be accused of the "quiescent contentment" that is the antithesis of progress and efficiency.