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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Command at Sea - and at Home

Guilt often overwhelms me when I look through the Naval History shelves of the Library. I must confess, I don’t know all that much about it. In a recent attempt to rectify the situation I picked up Michael A. Palmer’s (Professor of History, East Carolina University) Command at Sea: Naval Command and Control Since the Sixteenth Century.

The text follows naval history through the last 400 years focusing on the interplay of command and control and communication. Palmer argues that “decentralized approaches as exemplified by Nelson are on the whole superior to more centralized systems” and that technological advances in communication, which are used to centralize command, are therefore ineffective if not downright harmful.

According to Palmer, Nelson succeeded because he “chose to rely on the initiative of men who had, he hoped absorbed from him an overall philosophy of battle.” In other words, rather than commanding them every second, he gave them his general philosophy and then trusted his subordinates to take it from there. A very good lesson for all of us.

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