Monday, August 5, 2013


I always find it amusing that the further away from action and consequences I got, the more I was forced to give counsel to the fears of others and provide them with a variety of alternatives to any given decision they might feel compelled to make. As admirals and generals become more and more remote from the actual consequences of any action or inaction, their staffs were belabored to present them with a variety of alternative 'Courses of Action' as the final slide in any decision brief. We did not do this thing in ships in war zones, mobile units in war zones, Middle East Force staff, Naval Forces Central Command staff, Fifth Fleet staff but was it mandatory at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command and Naval Surface Forces Pacific and Navy Expeditionary Combat Command? Oh my yes!
 I think I may best have been described as a Punk staff officer. No amount of entreaty or unseemly begging and grovelling could compel me to compose more than a single course of action for my presentations. "But," they'd agonize, "we must present 3 Courses of Action for the Admiral at the brief." Well they might have to, but not me. Punk. The thing about building a decision brief is that all of the facts are gathered in one place. Each is presented as a bullet and discussed by the presenter. When in possession of all the facts that the briefer has put into the presentation there can really only be two possible courses of action that make any sense. Execute the course presented as optimal or reject the solution and demand something that is more seemly and pleasing to the eye.

Why strain at gnats I would ask. The admiral or general is perfectly capable of directing us to take action based on his understanding of the facts and the situation and really doesn't need to have 3 different wadis to wander down in the fullness of briefing time. He can create his own Rift Valley in a microsecond. I used to watch this in real-time and never saw a general or admiral at a loss for words when standing a briefer on his head and telling him just how much he didn't like the facts or the conclusions of the brief. Why give the guy 2 more things to get upset about?

I regret to say that I did give in when the Chief of Staff or some other great potentate called me and insisted that when I prepare briefs I prepare them by the Rules. So be it, I said, and could be relied upon to always present 3 COAs. Is it my fault if one of them was always:

- Invade Patagonia


Buck said...

- Invade Patagonia

Heh. And the reaction(s) was/were?

HMS Defiant said...

I started doing it while a Program Manager at SPAWAR briefing the Transition Executive Working Groups and Executive Steering Groups for Coastal Warfare. The commodores and type commanders usually got a laugh out of it. I put it in the brief I prepared to give to Admiral Nathman but we never got past the 4th slide (in an hour) so we didn't get to it. I would say it came out of one of my Integrated Process Teams.
It came in handy when I needed office space after I came back from Korea and found our office had moved. The new code didn't tolerate interlopers and kept tossing my stuff until I put a sign on the cube saying it belonged to the Dictator of Patagonia. Nobody ever touched it after that and I had that cube until we changed to OT4 a few months later.

NavyOne said...

Love this. I am heading out to the glorious world of staff duty in FDNF. I will have to remember your advice for COAs. . .

HMS Defiant said...

Best of luck out there in the FDNF. Fair winds and following seas.