FAR RIGHT: Marfiak listens, David McCullough Speaks
creg mathison photo
If there was only one place I could be toward the end of April this year, it was and is, Annapolis, MD attending the annual meeting of the U.S. Naval Institute. USNI, is headed by former warrior and scholar, RADM Tom Marfiak, USN (Ret). The admirals past is one of interesting contradictions. He has so many advanced degrees that you would expect to find him as head of a university, but instead he chose to join USNI in August 1999 as CEO/Publisher. Many of us consider the Naval Institute as a "School of Intellectual Debate" so that his being there is fitting. Marfiak was a former Commander of the National War College, but this is balanced by a surface warfare career after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1966, which started in frigates and included Battle Group Air Warfare Commander for Operation Desert Storm. In that position, he also served as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Bunker Hill Battle Group.
The Naval Institute for those who dont know, is unusual throughout the military since only the Navy allows a forum where any and everyone, male or female, enlisted or ranking officer, can "put on the gloves" in the form of a pen, and battle it out. The challenge is to try to make things different through debating the issues, by offering suggestions to change policies or improve the way they are administered. For me, it was particularly interesting to hear some of the junior officers challenge their seniors to be more courageous leaders. Where, but in a democratic society such as ours, can this take place.
How these types of exchanges are fostered was aptly demonstrated by one of the many interesting panel discussions. The one I most vividly remember was where MGEN Terrence Murray, ACDoS, Manpower and Reserve Affairs and former Director Public Affairs, USMC; RADM Stephen Pietropaoli, the Navys Chief of Information; Norman Polmar author of the "U.S. Navy" column for Proceedings and the Naval Institute's reference books Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet among others; Thomas Ricks who covers the military for the Washington Post and who previously covered the same subject for the Wall Street Journal, and Sherry Sontag, co-author of the widely read "Blindmans Bluff" exchanged points-of-view on the topic, WHAT IS THE PUBLIC'S RIGHT TO KNOW?
Moderator Eugene Fidell, a practicing attorney, and President of the National Institute of Military Justice used all his skills in dealing with a "strong willed group of expert panelists". My hats off to RADM Pietropaoli, a man who really knows his job, and Sherry Sontag for her adamant stand on the public side of the equation. The three other contenders came in a close second. Keep in mind this is only one mans opinion and others might score the results differently.
The other memorable event, in my mind, was during the Banquet when speaker, author David McCullough of PBSs The American Experience told us, in short form, the compelling history of John Adams, the elder's, efforts in laying the foundation for Today's Navy.
At USNI, Marfiak is the perfect leader in the perfect job for a warrior writer. And truly, the institute hums under his guidance with a staff of dedicated professionals performing faultlessly. Where do I want to be next year at the same time? Surely you can guess. Why, because the Naval Institute makes everyone proud to be an American.
The views expressed above are those of FLIGHT LINE's editor and do not necessarily represent those of the U.S. Navy or the U.S. Naval Institute.
USNI Meeting's Agenda CLICK HERE
LEFT: CEO Marfiak; creg mathison photo
State of the Naval Institute Annual Meeting Remarks
Thomas F. Marfiak
25 April 2001
Nearly two years into my tenure as the Publisher and CEO of the Naval Institute, I am more than ever impressed by the fundamental importance of our mission to provide an independent forum for the sea services. When we visited our colleagues at the McCormick Tribune Foundation in Chicago recently, I was struck by a quote in the gracious entrance of the Tribune Building.
"The constitutional right of free speech has been declared to be the same in peace and in war. In peace, too, men may differ widely as to what loyalty to our country demands; and an intolerant majority, swayed by passion or by fear, may be prone in the future, as it has often been in the past, to stamp as disloyal, opinions with which it disagrees." Justice Brandeis
Justice Brandeis understood how fragile is our freedom-and how much care we must take to protect discussion from the stamp of disloyalty in a fearful atmosphere. Having just sworn in a new board of directors, let me say now that you will continue to require courage to do the right job for your services and for your nation.
I would like to bring you up to date on the past years efforts by the Naval Institute staff both to fulfill the daily demands of keeping a busy professional association and publishing house running and to tackle the longer-term challenges of enriching and expanding our open forum.
From his vantage point as Editorial Board Chairman, Admiral Fred Ames will give more detail on the achievements of the Naval Institute Press, the magazines and seminars, but I will give you an overview. We increased the number of books published significantly over 1999 and had an impressive year in subsidiary rights. One of our most successful books, Dog Company Six, about which you will hear more, was the happy result of a breakfast conversation with General Simmons as he attended a Naval Institute seminar. We try hard to cross the departmental lines, to lure authors from Proceedings to write for the Press or serve as panelists, and vice versa. The website has added yet another dimension to our publishing, both in terms of attracting new readers and writers, as well as showcasing the old ones in new ways.
Combat Fleets of the World by Dave Baker-one of our panelists later today-has been the source for some of our most-visited web pages. After the Cole bombing and the Greeneville collision, our crack web team created 3-D line drawings from Dave Bakers book; visitors came in droves from Yahoo, CNN and ABC news, among others. We work hard to link articles and books with the breaking news items-and many of our authors and columnists speak to national media in the clamor following major naval news events.
Continuing an initiative begun last year, four-plus years of Proceedings are now available electronically through the website. The index to the magazine is free, but you must pay to download the individual articles. We are working on a similar arrangement for Naval History. Not only do we make articles easier to find for our members, we are reaching entirely new audiences around the world.
The e-forum is another exciting project. One of our Proceedings editors is now dedicated to enhancing magazine presence on the site and in the e-Forum. At the heart of the electronic forum will be discussion on the magazine articles and letters, but we expect the lines will rapidly blur between the print and online versions. In addition, we expect to see tactical wargames, screen savers, useful knowledge, and coordination with other sites continue to grow. We are fortunate to have some young, active-duty professionals advising and volunteering with developing ideas and text for the revitalized e-Forum and web content.
We are, in fact, working mightily to be prudent yet present in the e-commerce world. Traffic to the website continues to grow dramatically. In February, our site had 1.9 million hits with an average of more than 3,000 visitor sessions per day. The average visitor session length was over 8 minutes. In the year 2000, book sales on the website were up 53% over 1999, and membership income from both renewals and new memberships increased by 72% on the website. Photo sales on the web site were up by more than a third. Return visitors, an important metric, also continued to increase. The trend lines are in the right direction.
As impressive as the growth in the website, in terms of sales and the rapidly growing number of visits, we also are fully committed to publishing old-fashioned pages. Part of what determines how many pages can be published is our advertising income. After many rocky years of defense mergers and downsizing, longtime advertising director Jim Burke scored a sensational win in advertising dollars in 2000.
Naval History experienced a slight re-positioning this year with the addition of an 18-part serialized tale titled The Log of Matthew Roving, a fictional story of a boy who time-travels from present-day Rhode Island back to the Age of Sail. We want to attract younger readers and families. Written by experienced childrens literature writer Don Wallace and illustrated by former National Geographic art director and Cricket magazine illustrator Jan Adkins, the series is proving to be very popular.
We also added the On Our Scope column, where, for the first time, the Naval History editor-in-chief Fred Schultz has the opportunity to take the reader behind the scenes, providing background information that augments the understanding and enjoyment of that particular issue. I would like to add that Fred Schultz is the author of a newly published collection of his interviews over the years with everyone from Jacques Cousteau to David McCullough-whom you will hear speak tonight at our banquet.
Other interviews have come in for some terrific success. In 1998, Oral Historian Paul Stillwell interviewed and brought to the Naval Institute a fascinating retired chief who became a Navy Master Diver AFTER losing his leg. Someone else thought his story unusual-and many of you no doubt saw it as the recent movie Men of Honor, with Cuba Gooding Jr. playing Master Chief Carl Brashear.
While all our work doesnt make it to the big screen, we do take it to the stage. Naval Institute seminars continue to be a Naval Institute bright spot. More than 3,000 people attended and 150 exhibited at our Fifth Warfare Exposition and Symposium in Virginia Beach last October.
Our January San Diego event cosponsored with AFCEA continues to grow--this year 8,700 people attended the three-day event and more than 290 companies exhibited.
In March, we conducted our ninth seminar in Wheaton, Illinois, with the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation--which also cosponsors todays seminar.
Of course, theres todays event--changed from its original two-day affair to a single day. We intended to add a single-day missile defense seminar this June in Washington, DC, but our plans have changed for this year. Beginning next year, we will add the June seminar. We do appreciate the tremendous support for our seminar program by our many sponsors.
All our initiatives, in book publishing, magazines, seminars, and electronic presence, cost money and staff support. The Naval Institute continues in good financial health, in spite of a $1.4 million loss for the year 2000. That loss included a market devaluation of nearly $1.2 million and lower revenue lines across the board, with the exception of advertising and seminars. We also made some major investments in much-needed computer system and hardware upgrades. Some good news included the substantial rental income that began to come in during 2000 as the construction of a branch of a major national bank, BB&T, was finished on our Generals Highway property. For any member interested, copies of the audited financial statements are available at the Membership Table in the foyer.
Significantly, we look in the future to the funds the Naval Institute Foundation can supply. The year 2000 was a year of rebuilding and transformation of the foundation: new board, new staff leadership, new vision. Since the first meeting of the new board last fall, the Foundation has raised over $400,000. New active trustees-led by Stan Arthur and Steve Cohen-- have opened many new doors. Gifts are beginning to flow as a result.
We are working hard to build relationships. In the past six months Kirk McAlexander and I have made: 10 speeches or presentations and 50-60 one-on-one personal calls, in cities across the country: Santa Barbara, Newport Beach, San Diego, Phoenix, Cincinnati, Chicago, Virginia Beach, Boca Raton, New York, and Boston, among others. Your Naval Institute is on the move.
This year, I want particularly to commend to you the entire staff of the Naval Institute. Some have served for more than 30 years! Without their dedicated efforts, working long hours behind the scenes taking orders, shipping and selling books and magazines, paying bills, and helping members and authors, the Naval Institute would not be able to fulfill its mission. Please give them all, those present and those on the job, a round of applause.
We are always mindful that we can do nothing without our members. We are blessed with a large and loyal membership who never hesitate to tell us what you think. Early this year, we sent every member a survey, the first in more than a decade; we were astounded by the response. Nearly a third of you sent back more than 20,000 surveys. We are still analyzing the results, but the course we set for the future will surely be guided by your response. Thanks for your support, so loyally given, to an extraordinary independent forum for the sea services.
(c) Copyright 2001 by the USNI - All Rights Reserved