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NPS Alumnus Pens America’s National Strategic Narrative

Article By: Amanda D. Stein

If you ask NPS alumnus Capt. Wayne Porter, Special Assistant for Strategic Synchronization to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, interdependence is not a weakness but a strength. And in his recently published paper, “A National Strategic Narrative,” which he co-authored with Marine Corps Col. Mark Mykleby, Porter looks to frame the United States’ primary interests, both current and future, to help create a contextual narrative to guide U.S. policy for the future.

“I think the nation is ready to re-seize our own destiny,” Porter explained. “To recognize who we are as Americans and our leadership role in a complex strategic environment. We tried to write the narrative as a non-partisan call for unity. And I think it appeals to a lot of people right now.”

Porter explained the purpose and idea behind the narrative in a Secretary of the Navy Guest Lecture to NPS students, staff and faculty, July 26. The document has been well-received in both the public and private sectors since it was published through the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars last year.

“This narrative advocates for America to pursue her enduring interests of prosperity and security through a strategy of sustainability that is built upon the solid foundation of our national values,” wrote Porter and Mykleby. “Our domestic and foreign policies will reflect unity and effort, coherency and constancy of purpose.”

Porter explained that it was a chance lunch meeting with former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen that gave him the opportunity to suggest the country lacked a “grand strategy.” Although mentioned in passing, the idea stuck with Porter, and he was encouraged to at least take a shot at drafting a document that reflected the nation’s direction. As Porter explained, “We came to the realization that it really wasn’t a grand strategy that was needed. It was a story. A strategic context.”

He enlisted the help of a fellow “non-linear thinker,” in Mykleby, and they drafted the 11-page document in August 2009. Over the next several months they discussed its concepts with a variety of think tanks and academics along the Beltway and elsewhere, but the narrative never made it to the one person they had most hoped would see it – the President of the United States.

“We wrote it originally because we thought perhaps we could get the President to issue it by fiat,” explained Porter, with a chuckle. “We’ve never had a written narrative in the country, as far as I know. We thought it would be interesting if the President could just issue this as a touchstone document, as a vision not only to help Americans understand who we are and where we are going in this century, but other people in the world to be able to look and say, ‘Now I think I know where it is they are.’”

NPS alumnus Capt. Wayne Porter talks with Graduate School of Business and Public Policy student Lt. Jonathan Cirillo and Cebrowski Institute Research Assistant Michelle Shevin about their work in alternative energy resources following Porter’s SGL, July 26.

Despite their inability to get it to the President, they knew the paper had tremendous potential. Several months after completing the narrative, Mykleby and Porter received permission to publish the paper – with appropriate disclaimers – through the Wilson Center, and to let the document gain its own momentum through the power of the age of information.

“And so our sense was that if we could get this to kind of spread virally in a positive way, socialize it if you will, it could open a dialogue among Americans,” he noted. “We are hoping that this can be a call for unity to bring parties and people together, so that they can find the momentum to take us in the positive direction the country really needs to go.”  

Capt. Wayne Porter spoke with NPS students, staff and faculty about his recently published document, titled “A National Strategic Narrative,” which he described as a “strategic context” for the United States.

Porter noted that the document is particularly valuable for the demographics represented at NPS – young men and women who are not only leaders, but “thought leaders,” for the military and the country. He suggested that the future of the U.S. should be focused more on opportunity, and less on risk and threat.

“Basically it’s a document that’s based on opportunity and hope. America’s enduring interests revolve around prosperity and security,” explained Porter. “Those two things are wholly interdependent. You can’t have one in the absence of the other. And yet our pursuit of prosperity and security is both constrained and empowered by the values that characterize us as Americans.

“So what we’re suggesting in the narrative is that we need to recognize hope and opportunity as a strength of America,” he continued. “I think reinvigorating the competitiveness that drove us to be great as a nation, and that spirit of innovation, is what young Americans are striving for. That’s what they are looking for as their generational mark on where the country is going.”

A dual-degree graduate of NPS, Porter recalled his days as a student, and encouraged current students to be both leaders in action and in thought. With over 20 years in the Navy, he understands the demands of the job, as well as the fresh new ideas that can come from young officers.

“I have a huge amount of faith in this generation because I have kids who are this generation,” he said.  “I know you are full of energy, you are full of imagination, and you are fearless. And that is exactly the attitude you’ve got to take as you go forward in your career. Just remember that you are here because you are supporting and defending the constitution of the United States – for us AND our posterity.”

Posted August 4, 2011

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