Changing US Naval Institute Mission Statement

Hopefully, many of you are US Naval Institute members. The board is recommending changes to the organization’s mission statement. Members will get a chance to vote on the changes.

Reservations about the proposed changes are not so much about what they add, as what they seem to exclude.

There are discussions of the proposal here and here.

What is it all about? An open letter from world famous naval columnist, author, and theorist Norman Polmar:


I am writing to you–fellow members of the U.S. Naval Institute–to urge that you vote against the proposed change of the USNI mission statement that is being mailed out with the March issue of the Proceedings magazine. The current statement is refined from the original, 1873 mission written at the establishment of the USNI (see below). I believe that USNI members who believe in the principles of our 138-year-old professional organization should strongly object to three words/terms in the proposed change of the mission statement:

(1) “an independent forum advocating” I believe these words are self-contradictory. The USNI has established itself as the leading international naval–and increasingly “defense”–forum because it has not “advocated” anything but has let authors (military and civilian, of all ranks, genders, and even nationalities) express their opinions. “Advocating” a position will unquestionably deter the USNI serving as an independent forum.

(2) “global sea power” What does this mean? The Soviet Union from 1970 (the massive Okean exercise) until 1991 was certainly a “global sea power”–does the USNI advocate a rehabilitation of Russian sea power? Or a buildup of Chinese global sea power? Or Japanese? Or …? And, does “global sea power” include a strong merchant marine–which we do not have and will not develop in the foreseeable future? Or fishing fleet? Or ….? Again, “global sea power” is ambiguous and misleading.

(3) “economic prosperity” Again, for whom? The world? Then the USNI is encouraging every nation (including Iran, N. Korea, China, etc.) to develop global sea power. Or only for the United States? How does “global sea power” help U.S. posterity–other than the shipbuilding industry?

The proposed new mission statement makes the USNI appear to be a lobbying and “cheerleading” organization for…. I am not quite certain for what or whom. In the years that I have been associated with the Naval Institute (since age 15), I was taught that those roles–lobbying and cheerleading–were the purpose of the Navy League, not the Naval Institute.

The USNI now exists “to provide an independent forum for those who dare to read, think, speak, and write in order to advance the professional, literary, and scientific understanding of sea power and other issues critical to national defense.” I believe that mission statement is still valid and germane.

I strongly urge all members to REJECT the proposed change to the USNI mission statement.

All good wishes/Norman

Norman Polmar

1 thought on “Changing US Naval Institute Mission Statement

  1. For me, the words, “for those who dare to read, think, speak, and write” are the keys. This advocates the audacity that is needed to keep people from lapsing into mediocrity and complacency.

    I contend that the Coast Guard lacks a wider range of people who do dare. Taking risks has been the hallmark of the Coast Guard since 1791 when the first cutter sailed.

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