Naval History and Heritage Command – Closing the Loop

In previous postings, I commented on troubles at the NHHC that a Navy Inspector General inspection report brought to the attention of high Naval authorities last December. So damaging was the report that it seemed the Director’s resignation would be inevitable. And inevitable it was: RADM Jay DeLoach announced his voluntary resignation from the post late in April, to take effect 15 May.

On the day of his resignation, Navy Times, which broke the story earlier this year, detailed the reasons behind the resignation:

+ chronic underfunding, though under DeLoach, the Command had procured $38 million for fiscal year 2012, a 46% increase from 2011;
+ decaying and moldy records and artifacts because of non-functioning or non-existent environmental controls in much of the Command’s 230,000 sq ft of storage facilities;
+ a huge and growing backlog of uncataloged holdings, due largely to shortage of trained staff;
+ a growing chasm between the Director and the academic and museum communities;
+ an alarming disenfranchisement of the civilian staff of librarians, historians, archivists and curators. The earlier Navy Times article pointed out that DeLoach had appointed two non-historian deputies, thus almost assuring his isolation from the foot soldiers of the command;
+ an advisory panel of eminent naval historians – which had not met since DeLoach took command – had been permitted to expire, thus depriving the Director of seasoned, professional advice.

But now this episode is coming to a close. The Navy has appointed an active duty Line navy captain interim director.

What of the future of NHHC?

It is entirely appropriate that the Director of Naval History be a flag rank Naval officer – probably preferably a line officer. This person will more easily have the ear of high naval and DoD authorities in his or her role as advocate for Naval history. He or she will also be more likely to listen to “operational” navy needs and uses for historical information.

It will be absolutely essential that the new Director name professional historians or archivists as his deputies. I can envision historical, archival and museum assistants at the very least. These people can, if properly vetted, be effective liaisons between the Director and the “operational” civilian staffers who do the daily work.

It’s critically important that the Blue Ribbon Panel of eminent historians – the majority of whom probably should be naval or military historians – be re-established and tasked with assuring that the Director gets regular (annual for certain) and authoritative advice on how best to run his or her extensive and very complicated organization.

The “needs assessment” has been pretty much done: just read the IG’s report. Now it’s time for the new Director, with stout backing from all the way up the chain of command, to roll up sleeves and get to work preserving, protecting, producing and promulgating the Navy’s glorious history. Inasmuch as past is prologue, our future depends on it.

©2012 Thomas L Snyder

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Comments

  • Haywood  On 18 May 2012 at 06:21

    You are spot-on WRT the need to get an active duty flag officer (preferably 2 or 3 star) to lead the NHHC into the future. However, you are wrong or misinformed on a couple of points:

    1. The disestablishment of the SNAS “the panel of eminent naval historians” was a SECNAV-directed evolution. It was not an NHHC function and it is not up to the new director to reestablish it as it is not intended to advise the director of the NHHC, but the SECNAV himself. Having read the IG report and knowing NHHC’s issues in-depth, I can only surmise that that comment in the report was meant to politely poke SECNAV and shouldn’t have been used against NHHC.

    2. Anyone who thinks that the new director should “reenfranchise” the historians and archivists to act as the deputy needs to FOIA the 1998/1999 IG report on the then-NHC. Granted, the historians and archivists at NHHC should not be just cast aside-they have a vital role, but to be blunt-they aren’t trained or equipped to handle even the day to day requirements of the job, especially WRT funding and facilities issues. There already IS a Senior Historian assigned to advise the director. The 1998/1999 report is even more damning than the 2011 report, as it details the EXACT SAME issues WRT condition of the precious collections in their care, with the exception of command climate (and to that end, it notes that the command didn’t have a command climate program AT ALL as it should have). Who was in charge during this report? “Eminent Historian” Bill Dudley, who did very little in the way of fixing problems that had been identified as early as reports dating back to 1971 show and whose stated goal was to “stay below the Navy’s radar screen”. Well, Dudley did just that, as did his successor Tobin. Which brings us to DeLoach…

    Jay DeLoach brought a much needed business sense (vice an academic sense) to the command by bringing an expert in cultural resources to lead one division and a businessman/historian who has been praised by historians such as John Hattendorf in another division- hardly two gentlemen who don’t know what they’re doing. Although not perfect by any means (the very nature of the problems at hand virtually GUARANTEED missteps as the command changed and grew), he brought money, people and SECNAV-level attention to the problems the command faced. Reverting now to the old way of doing business by having an academic lead the organization is exactly the WRONG thing to do in times of declining budgets, given the at least 40 year old nature of NHHC’s problems. The “Blue Ribbon Panel” supposedly endorsed Jay DeLoach’s vision, way ahead and they need to be worked to fruition. DeLoach needs to be given some credit and Jerry Hendrix deserves some breathing space to continue along that path for however long he’ll be there.

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