Navy Admirals: Effectiveness, Not Efficiency, Is the Hallmark
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
WASHINGTON — Efficiency is necessary, but effectiveness reigns supreme as the measure of a successful Navy, a pair of active and naval retired officers said.
“The hallmark of our military force has always been not its efficiency but its effectiveness,” retired Vice Adm. Phillip Balisle, former commander, Naval Sea Systems Command, and author of a report on ship readiness known as the Balisle Report, said Feb. 14 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “We created a group of standards that established what was effective, and those standards became our Bible. We never hesitated in what was right or wrong. We had to reach that goal.”
Balisle said the old standard was for a ship never to get underway with a major piece of equipment inoperative.
“The goal was to go CASREP [casualty report]-free,” he said. “When the budget gets tight, people start to make well-meaning discussions about, ‘maybe we need to go good for what we’re going to be doing. When we start talking efficiency, we’re moving that standard down that continuum of effectiveness toward efficiency. When that target starts to change, you’re sending messages to all your Sailors, and they are trying to figure out what we’re trying to achieve today. It becomes difficult to sort out what that goal really is.”
Balisle said the Navy must protect its cultural standards at all costs.
Vice Adm. Richard A. Brown, the new commander, Naval Surface Forces/commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, agreed that effectiveness can fall victim to efficiency, and that the commanding officer of a ship is the key to maintaining the standards that lead to effectiveness.
“We’ve become so efficient [that] we’ve lost flexibility in the force,” Brown said. “There is a trade-off between efficiency and effectiveness — what I’ll also call flexibility — and perhaps we’ve lost some of that flexibility over a number of years as we became very, very efficient. But we had to become efficient in the face of nine years of continuing resolutions and downward trends in the budgets.”
Brown said, “there is a difference between ‘must do and can do.’ There are things in the U.S. Navy that we must do. That’s the reason why the U.S. Navy exists. The question that we need to start asking is, ’should we do what we’ve just been asked to do?
“The answer has to be, ‘if it’s a must-do, then, yes, we should go do it.’ If it’s not a must-do, and if we’re going to sacrifice safety or standards or use up our readiness to go do that, then perhaps there is a different answer.