The Navy is big business, and business has valuable lessons for our Navy.
The business of the Navy is ships," said Alfred Thayer Mahan a hundred years ago. Today, we would add, "and aircraft, submarines, computers, complex weapon systems, and more." To make this growing statement complete, we also should tack to the end a paraphrase of President Calvin Coolidge: "and the other business of the Navy ... is business."
Big business. Our Navy's $115-billion budget would put it in the top ranks of Fortune 500 corporations. But though we know our ships well, our knowledge of the current management art is limited and even a bit naive, a protected view from behind barriers of culture and funding mechanisms that shield Navy people from business realities that inform the private sector every day.
From a distance, the Navy and big business look alike:
* Both have missions and cultures, ethics and rules.
* Both have product lines and back-office functions.
* Both must exert control across the seas and draw work from global assets.
* Both are concerned with the quality of their output.
* Both are always resource constrained.