U.S. Naval Institute 2011 Member Ballot

2011 Member Ballot


April 18, 2011

A Statement from John F. Lehman, Honorary Chairman of the U.S. Naval Institute Board of Directors

April 15, 2011

Dear Members of the Board:

The U.S. Naval Institute is one of the great intellectual organizations in this country. I joined as an undergraduate at St. Joseph's University and later became a Life Member. Over the years I have fully participated in USNI as an author, as a speaker, and as a donor.

I have been a fan of the Naval Institute for my entire career—with the exception of six short years when I served as Secretary of the Navy during the Reagan Administration. Somehow, the Institute seemed to get off track during that period. I began to read articles in Proceedings by mere lieutenants who disagreed with me. Shocking! But after I left government in 1987, the Institute returned to its grand tradition of truth and wisdom. Despite that experience—or maybe because of it—I feel deeply that this unique "Independent Forum" must remain open to participants of all ranks and stations. Listening to your critics is smart—even when it hurts.

It was therefore dismaying to read in the April issue of Proceedings, that this "Independent Forum" that plays such a vital role in the national security dialogue is now in jeopardy with a proposal to include "advocacy" in the Mission Statement. We all share a common goal—to takethe Institute to a brighter future as a stronger entity. Our challenge is how to get there and, in my view, changing the Mission Statement in the way proposed will not do that. There is a very compelling case that we are headed in the right direction now with two strong years of financial and operational performance highlighted in the 2010 Letter to Members.

It may be time for the Board to step back, reengage with our members, and build a strategic plan that we can all embrace. I concur with the views expressed by our 23rd CNO and former USNI President, Admiral Carl Trost, "USNI cannot be an Independent Forum and also be an advocate…There is no such thing as an independent advocate."


John F. Lehman


March 18, 2011

Board of Directors Member Ballot Update

The ballot sent to members for the April 2011 Annual meeting included a vote on changing the U.S. Naval Institute's mission statement. In a special meeting on March 17, the Institute's Board of Directors agreed unanimously to delay any change in the Institute's mission statement whatever the outcome of the balloting. The Directors agreed that a wide-ranging and fully open debate led by the membership will provide the guidance needed to shape any change, if necessary. Directors and staff are now considering options for engaging the membership in this discussion, and will have further information available shortly.


March 10, 2011

Dear Members and Friends of the United States Naval Institute:

We are delighted by the current dialogue regarding the Mission Statement for the Institute cited below:

“The U.S. Naval Institute is an independent forum advocating the necessity of global seapower for national security and economic prosperity.”

The Board’s work regarding this Statement began in late 2009 and culminated in unanimous Board approvals at our meetings in July and October 2010 and again, with one dissent, in February 2011. The Board voted so because it believes that the Institute needs to gain financial stability and to be as relevant as possible to the Sea Services, to our members, to our donors, to our employees, and to the Nation itself, especially in these difficult times. We think it is possible both to be an independent forum which speaks “truth to power” and to advocate the importance of seapower.

You will recall that economic events of 2008-2009 were difficult for the Institute. Advertising revenues declined, donations shrank, and our endowment lost almost a third of its value. The Institute, led by our senior management team, became cash break-even in 2009 due to dramatic cost controls that remain in effect today. However, the reality is that print media business lines are not growing. The Naval Institute Foundation has enjoyed increases in major donor support and both corporate and foundation sponsorships in the last two years. But, there is no guarantee that these increases will continue, nor that past operational deficits will not reappear.

Of equal (if not greater) concern is that our membership, like many other nonprofit military associations, has declined significantly in the last two decades. These demographics speak directly to the relevance challenge that the Institute is facing and must be reversed if we are to survive. Our membership decline has provided another imperative for the Board to revitalize our mission statement. We must be relevant both to our traditional supporters and to prospective new ones.

The Board’s Mission Committee, led by VADM John Morgan, and including VADM Nancy Brown, VADM Norman Ray, and Mr. Donald Brennan, undertook to ask how the Institute can be most effective at a time when our military budgets will decline due to the United States’ federal deficits, just as external threats are increasing around the world. The Board agreed with the Mission Committee that the Sea Services are critical to our national defense, to American foreign policy and to protect maritime commerce and hence our economy.

We also believe that by proactively addressing the new national security environment, we will enhance our capability to attract members, donors and supporters and, specifically, increase our relevance to Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen. Finally, and most importantly, we found we could accomplish these changes without threatening the defining concept of the Institute, our independent forum, where our members can voice their views.

Under our revised mission statement, you will see an independent forum where we seek differing views and encourage tough examination of the issues, with both sides advocated. You will continue to see articles, books, conferences and an online experience that not only meet the traditionally high standards of USNI content, but which also will bring increased relevance to the world we confront now and the one we will confront tomorrow. In short, you will continue to see the Naval Institute as a thought leader in the national security arena.

The Preamble in the Constitution remains unchanged:

“The United States Naval Institute is a voluntary, private, nonprofit association formed in 1873 for the advancement of professional, literary, and scientific knowledge in the naval and maritime services, and the advancement of the knowledge of sea power.”

And, equally importantly, that Section 1 of Article XV of our Constitution (Limitations), continues verbatim:

“Notwithstanding any other provision in the Constitution and By-Laws, the Institute’s objectives are limited to and shall include only charitable, scientific, literary and educational purposes within the meaning of those terms as used in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code or the corresponding section of any future federal tax code, and all references to the objectives of the Institute shall be construed to include such limitation. The Institute shall not, except to an insubstantial degree, engage in any activities or exercise any powers that are not in furtherance of the objectives of the Institute as so limited.”

The Institute must still operate within these proven constraints. You will not see our Naval Institute as a “shill” for any service or program, a lobby to the Congress, or a house for one-track thinking, as some might worry. We know you would not wish or allow us to do so.

The Board’s intent in proposing that we revise the Mission Statement is to take the first important step in a strategic plan that will move the Institute to a stronger, more relevant future with increased financial stability. The Nation and the Sea Services need a vibrant, relevant Naval Institute to confront 21st century challenges – we must not go quietly into the night. The Board will work to keep us relevant, and we hope you will as well. We respectfully ask for your support and we look forward to continuing these efforts with you.


Stephen M. Waters

Chairman of the Board


Thomas L. Wilkerson

Major General, USMC (Ret)

Chief Executive Officer


March 15, 2011

USNI Board Minority Report

Don’t Mess with the Naval Institute’s “DNA”!

Dear Members and Friends of the United States Naval Institute:

We the undersigned Directors of the Naval Institute write to ask that you vote against the revised Mission Statement for the Institute cited below:

“The U.S. Naval Institute is an independent forum advocating the necessity of global seapower for national security and economic prosperity.”

We emphatically disagree with their imperfectly crafted solution. The reasons are quite simple.  The majority has not made the case that changing the mission statement and including the word “advocating” will somehow magically increase our relevance, grow our membership, and make us more economically viable. 

In fact, we gain absolutely nothing from a word change to “Advocacy,” that justifies diminishing our image and heritage as the “independent forum” of America’s sea services.  This is USNI’s brand.  It is USNI’s uniqueness.  This is USNI’s “DNA.”  

Further, with this proposed change the Board has created its own version of the “perfect storm.” USNI members are expressing outrage not only at the proposed mission, but also at the Board’s cavalier approach to engaging the membership on the change.

In an effort to gather more information on the impact of the proposed change, Director Dr. J.P.  London conducted an extensive survey, contacting former CNO’s, former SECNAV’s, 16 retired four star naval officers and other distinguished naval officers seeking their views.  NONE supported the explicit “Advocacy” role for USNI, saying “lobby-look-alike” was not needed. All, however, strongly supported USNI taking on a more assertive “LEADERSHIP” role in framing the coming policy and budgetary debates – post Iraq/Afghanistan—about American seapower, maritime policy and sea service matters. 

We do agree with the majority that the Institute faces two large challenges in this first decade of the 21st century – how to increase the relevance and the financial stability of the Institute.  Again, unlike the majority, we believe the Institute is answering these challenges. In both 2009 and 2010 USNI delivered impressive financial and operational performances (see the 2010 Annual State of the Institute Letter to Members).

We see unmistakable signs of vigorous, exciting opportunities on the horizon. Strong, relevant and timely content in our conferences is delivering growth from exhibit sales and attendance; a fully developed eBook program is adding sales to readers using Kindle, iPads and every other conceivable electronic reader. The USNI Blog, launched less than two years ago is the world’s leading forum of its kind in the naval blogosphere.  The prospects for continued growth in the midyears is very strong.

We believe continuing on course with exceptional leadership both in the USNI staff and on the Board itself is the right near term strategy to increase relevance, grow the membership, and gain a stronger financial position.

We also believe it is high time to conduct a major strategic review process to determine where we want to be in 5 and 10 years and then developing well defined strategy for how to get there, not by just changing the wording to the mission statement.  We will answer the questions, “where do we put our focus and investment in new growth initiatives – in other words figuring out “where do we play” and “how do we win.”  That only comes through a cogent strategy and focused execution – and, by keeping the membership engaged in the process.   

Finally, while the Chairman suggests the USNI will still remain an independent forum, perception is reality and branding matters.  Adding the word “Advocacy” will clearly have an adverse effect on the USNI’s brand and reputation as an independent forum.  In too many ways, they are polar opposite terms.

How can USNI be an “Advocate,” yet concurrently promote an “Independent/Intellectual Forum?” It can’t.  An “Independent Forum” is where differing views that challenge the  conventional wisdom are shared and debated.  It’s where dialogue brings new ideas and adds value.  Advocacy, by definition, is the need to suppress or ignore dissenting views.  The “Independent Forum” lives to seek these competing views. 

The Majority’s revised Mission Statement is ill-conceived, will not fix either the relevance nor the finance issue and places the entire 137 years effort by generations of members of this unique professional association at risk, for no perceived gain.

The Board is on the cusp of making an irretrievable error and we respectfully ask that you join us and vote DISAPPROVING the new Mission Statement.



Dr. J. P. London                                                        

Mark W. Johnson

B.J. Penn 


March 3, 2011

A Statement from The U.S. Naval Institute Editorial Board: USNI independence – not USNI independence and advocacy

The United States Naval Institute rarely has contentious ballots. We, the USNI Editorial Board, the USNI membership, and others, have now experienced one of those rare instances. It is rare, because of the uncharacteristic lack of open debate concerning the historic motion to propose a change in the USNI mission statement. This motion has the potential to change the character of the institution: its exceptional standing among naval strategists throughout the world, its financial future, and the inevitable second and third order consequences unforeseen at the beginning of such a strategic change in direction. Freedom of thought and expression has been a central tenet of the Naval Institute itself and why, in part, we are witnessing the current passionate and vocal opposition to changing USNI’s mission statement. We welcome this discussion.

As the Editorial Board of the U.S. Naval Institute, we have a responsibility in as objective a manner as possible to review submissions for articles and provide advice to the Institute editors. We recognize that every submission is important and try to provide guidance on those articles that meet the standards of Proceedings, regardless of how controversial they may be, since it is that quality that most often stirs debate, gives pause to readers to think and, we hope, to respond in future issues. We also strive to promote the Institute’s role to provide an independent defense forum with articles representing all sides of the issues. Proceedings provides a vital and, we believe, a unique opportunity for well-articulated dialogue and encourage experienced writers to share their knowledge and newer writers to enter the arena of debate and share their own unique vision for the future of our sea services and, more broadly, our national security.

Therefore, we, the USNI Editorial Board, are submitting this letter to express our desire that the United States Naval Institute remain an independent forum – as it has since 1873. We strongly recommend that the reasons behind the mission statement change be provided to the membership through any USNI forum whether that is through Proceedings, the USNI blog, the USNI website and/or directly to the members via an email. As important as topic this is, an open, respectful debate regarding the benefits and challenges of such a change would help all members make an informed decision whether they vote “yea” or “nay.”

We understand that there are compelling reasons both for and against changing the mission statement. What we do not understand is why the membership has not been able to hear, debate, and decide collectively what the outcome should be for such a historic determination. As the noted author Norman Polmar wrote in a recent letter, one of his objections to the change was that the phrase “an independent forum advocating” is self-contradictory. We agree. Individuals may advocate certain points in their articles, but the independence of the Naval Institute allows for those views to be heard.

The opposition to the mission statement change has been argued by such noted individuals as former U.S. Naval Institute Chief Executive Officer Rear Admiral Tom Marfiak, USN (Ret), USNI award-winning author CAPT Victor Addison USN (Ret), Member of the U.S. Naval Institute Board of Directors Dr. Jack London, and Vice Admiral Bob Dunn, USN (Ret).

The independence of the Institute is paramount; without that openness, the Institute risks simply becoming an organ of whatever entity, whatever program, is deemed permissible by only a few, whomever those may be. It would be difficult to find a member or an author who is not a proponent of U.S. sea power, but we must remain open to those who define it differently or who might disagree with it. If we do not, then we remain stagnant in our thoughts, and in the 21st century with all its traditional, non-traditional and unforeseen challenges, that is a concept we can ill afford.

We wish to state for the record that we, the Editorial Board, vote “no” to the proposed mission statement change.

Editorial Board Members


March 2, 2011

The U.S. Naval Institute 2011 Member Ballot included with the April Naval History magazine is invalid,

as it does not include an historic change to the Mission of the Naval Institute that has been recommended by the Board of Directors. If you voted using this ballot, it will not be counted.

The Member Ballot included with the March issue of Proceedings is correct in that it includes the proposed change to the USNI mission statement. Please vote/re-vote using this ballot.

Alternately, you may vote online. To do so, you will need to use your Member Number to log in, if you need to locate this number, please call our Member Service Department 800.233.8764 or email [email protected].

Members who only receive Naval History magazine will receive a revised ballot in the mail, which is mailing the week of 1 March.

We apologize for any confusion and thank you for your continued support.


Thomas L. Wilkerson
Major General, USMC (Ret.)
Chief Executive Officer

February 25, 2011

For all Members of the Naval Institute,

In the 2011 annual ballot the Board of Directors has recommended an historic change to the Mission of the Naval Institute to "advocating the necessity of global seapower."  The Board believes that the United States must support and maintain a strong, global naval capability and that a proper role for the Institute is to be a proactive advocate for that goal. 

This is an important initiative from our Board of Directors; one that deserves your full attention as a member.

The full ballot will appear in the March Proceedings, and is now online here, together with a more comprehensive justification for the new Mission Statement.

In keeping faith with the 137 year tradition of our professional association as the "Independent Forum of the Sea Services" I encourage members to engage on this important initiative.  

Share your views, and cast your ballot NLT April 11, 2011.

Thomas L. Wilkerson
Major General, USMC (Ret.)
Chief Executive Officer


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