Article By: MC1 Leonardo Carrillo
Adm. Samuel J. Locklear, III, Commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe and Africa, kicks off an NPS Center for Executive Education (CEE) Strategic Communication Workshop in Naples, Italy.
An ongoing program at the Naval Postgraduate School’s (NPS) Center for Executive Education (CEE) is having a far-reaching influence on Navy senior leader development. In the program’s latest installment, CEE held a Strategic Communication Workshop (SCW) for flag officers and other senior leaders at Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa, U.S. 6th Fleet Headquarters (CNE-C6F) in Naples, Italy – at their request.
The workshop, headed by NPS Associate Professor and Strategic Communication (SC) program manager Dr. Gail Thomas, presented basic SC principles to workshop participants, as well as best practices and challenges of SC relevant to the recent operation in Libya, Operation Odyssey Dawn.
Attending the workshop were senior leaders of CNE-C6F, including NAVEUR Commander Adm. Samuel Locklear, III, who presented examples of SC concepts and explained how SC played an important role in Operation Odyssey Dawn. “We should see SC not only as alignment and synchronization,” Locklear noted during the workshop. “SC should also be coupled with assessment and feedback to measure how we’ve done in an engagement or operation and adjust to improve."
Also participating in the workshop was Vice Adm. Harry Harris, Jr., Commander, Sixth Fleet, who led the Joint Force Maritime Component Command of Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn. Harris reasserted the importance of SC in his concluding remarks.
According to Thomas, “the SC workshops have become increasingly popular because of the important role that communication is playing in a world that has become more connected … Commands desire to be more strategic and less reactive in their communication.
“When you have an event like Libya, where things are happening very fast, one of the challenges is getting clear guidance,” said Thomas. “If you have a strategic communication process in place, the different parts of the government can work together more effectively to achieve the desired effects.”
SC includes a wide variety of tools and processes that play different and critical roles in achieving a planned effect on a tactical or operational level.
“It’s not just about good communication or knowing how to communicate,” said Thomas. “It’s about alignment, assessment and adaptation.”
Strategic communication has become increasingly important over the past few years. When Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, released the 2011 Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) Special Areas of Emphasis (SAEs), SC was a component of this.
Recognizing this importance, CEE created the dedicated Strategic Communication Workshop (SCW) in partnership with the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication. The SCW is part of the center’s continuum of executive education courses and programs for senior leaders. It is intended to help leaders – senior officers and civilians – gain a more systematic approach to the process of strategic communication planning, execution and assessment.
The workshop is generally delivered in the CEE spaces on the NPS campus, and typically spans three days. The CEE is, however, able to tailor the workshop to the specific mission requirements of a command. Consequently, the workshop is requested and delivered at multiple locations around the world.
“What I wanted to do with this program was to bring basic communication principles and cutting-edge communication research to pressing strategic issues,” said Thomas. “I take my academic communication expertise, and I integrate it with the workshop experiences I’ve had over the past years. This is what makes this a very unique program. CEE has been instrumental in bringing senior Navy leaders who want assistance in solving important problems.”
Thomas adds that the SCW is constantly evolving, adapting to changes in the field. To date, they have worked with over 150 commands from all over the world, and Thomas notes that every one of them adds more value to participants’ experiences – and to the workshop itself as well.
“We learn as much from them as they learn from us,” said Thomas. “Then we take what we’ve learned and improve the program.”