LTC. Matt Morgan, USMC and Director of Public Affairs at US Marine Corps Forces Command, rolls up his sleeves and takes the highest ranking member of the US Armed Forces to task in a take-down guest post at Mountainrunner:
….Unfortunately, the reason for this gap can be laid at the feet of a few members of the Chairman’s own personal staff. Over the past few years, Adm. Mullen’s Public Affairs Office has systematically refused to take part in DoD’s various attempts to develop its integration processes or other Joint Staff and DoD efforts to coordinate organizational communication. As such, select members of the office appear ignorant to the efforts of other professionals across the U.S. military. They have failed to be the good listeners they claim to hold in such high esteem, and have consequently produced what reads like a condescending lecture from the Chairman.
Let us all be clear as to what this is really about. This is a turf war, and the authors have committed the ultimate sin of a staff officer: They have used their boss’ visage to advance their agenda, and in the process drawn an unfair portrait of a senior leader blind to the most progressive thinkers in his organization.
The authors are quick to undermine the term Strategic Communication, writing that the Chairman doesn’t care for it because, “We get too hung up on that word, strategic.” I don’t know who the “we” is in this case, but I can assure the Chairman that this is only true among those afflicted by what I call the “Type A” misunderstanding; that is, those who cannot get beyond the most literal comprehension of the word strategic. Oh, yes, a few of these types are out there. But when it comes to military leadership, anyone who has ever used the now-cliché term strategic corporal has at least a basic understanding of the notion that tactical actions can affect communication – for better or worse – at the strategic level.
The stated thesis of the essay, however, is belied by its conclusion:
Strategic communication should be an enabling function that guides and informs our decisions and not an organization unto itself. Rather than trying to capture all communication activity underneath it, we should use it to describe the process by which we integrate and coordinate.
Ah, there it is. The fear of subordination revealed.
Ouch! Read the rest here.
If in fact, CJCS ADM Michael Mullen did not write his editorial, as LTC. Morgan asserts, I will have to retract my earlier praise. “Leadership” is not lending your name out to your staff to play el supremo. It’s fine for a busy man to lay out an outline of positions to an aide and then edit the aide’s draft; Eisenhower and Reagan, both excellent speechwriters, stopped writing their own speeches once they became POTUS. But saying “Here…do my thinking for me”, is not ok. It’s weak.
Assuming that Admiral Mullen did write his editorial, then the exchange with LTC. Morgan is what a healthy, intellectually open, adaptive organization should encourage and reward. Ideas matter, not rank.