Winner—Arleigh Burke Essay Contest
Linked by high-tech communications systems, commanding officers never again will be alone at sea. They are at the tip of a spear whose aim is now influenced by thousands of well-intentioned but largely invisible hands that act from hundreds of nodes on a worldwide network.
In the U.S. Navy of the 20th century, we were accustomed to being alone at sea. In the middle of a vast ocean, our vision reached only to the edge of the radar or sonar screen; long-distance communications crawled through noisy and intermittent high-frequency radios and painfully slow data links; and commanding officers were charged with making independent decisions, for there were few, if any, avenues to receive real-time direction from seniors. This empowerment to act alone was a unique feature of naval service, a point of pride that distinguished us as different—perhaps even more capable and responsible—than our sister services.