On the weekend of April 6, 2018, midshipmen from the Boston NROTC Battalion had the opportunity to attend the third annual Yale Leadership Conference in New Haven, Connecticut. The conference focused on examples of leadership in the context of global affairs and a rapidly changing technological environment.
Following opening remarks, The Honorable Susan Gordon, Principal Deputy Director of Intelligence, addressed the crowd of midshipmen and cadets from around the country. Deputy Director Gordon spoke of the importance of culture in accomplishing long-term goals, and her four leadership pillars: expertise, will to succeed, humility, and kindness. Director Gordon stressed some critical shifts in intelligence including Russia as a counter-terrorism fighter, the Chinese military changing due to the movement of technology and globalism, and North Korean nuclear armament and cyber warfare capabilities.
The midshipmen and cadets then attended interagency interfacing talks by either William F. Sweeney or Cynthia Miller. Mr. Sweeney is the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI New York Field Office and previously served in the U.S. Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer after participating in NROTC at Villanova University. He relayed the critical missions of the FBI which include protection from attack, counterterrorism, and corruption as well as some of the challenges of technology including online terror recruitment, counterintelligence and cyber intrusion.
The final event of the day was a panel presented by the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google from 2001 to 2011, and chair of the Department of Defense Innovation Advisory Board was joined by Dr. Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State and NSA Advisor under President Richard Nixon and President Gerald Ford.
Mr. Schmidt first outlined hypothetical examples of positive and negative uses of artificial intelligence and Dr. Henry Kissinger offered his reflections. Kissinger, who penned Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, which evaluated the relationship of technology and strategy in the nuclear age, gave a perspective on the current state of affairs. Kissinger asserted that “AI is much more complicated than nuclear arms control.” And that in the Cold War, “we had good estimates of Russia’s capabilities. With cyber weapons, it’s different. Not every country admits to using them.” Schmidt and Kissinger also spoke of the ethical consequences of artificial intelligence and answered questions ranging from the Russian cyber influence campaign leading up to the 2016 U.S. election, “killer robots,” and China’s national plan for artificial intelligence.
The second panel of the evening addressed cybersecurity leadership and strategy from the perspective of the Department of Defense. The Honorable Ashton Carter, former Secretary of Defense, said that strategy and dialogue are uniquely difficult when it comes to dealing with Russia. He shared his belief that “Putin’s goal is to thwart U.S. interests, [and] it’s hard to build bridges when that is the goal.” Secretary Carter also stressed the consequences of a more global technology base, rather than a US-dominated tech creation base, as well as modern technology and social media’s growth separate from the public purpose and the implications.
The night concluded with a social event where midshipmen and cadets in attendance were given the opportunity to bond.
The second day of the conference opened with skill seminars which allowed Midshipmen to explore a range of topics in smaller groups led by Yale faculty members and guest speakers. The workshops all sought to impart a base of knowledge to questions they could face during their service or broader questions about the outlook of national security. Topics included Conscience and Duty Conflict, Nuclear Deterrence and the Return of Great Power Competition, Corruption and Stability, and Current Issues in Military Justice.
The final panel of the day addressed US Naval power in the South China Sea. Dr. Isaac Kardon, an assistant professor at the Naval War College and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, led the panel. He gave background history on the South China Sea, the Chinese legal plan for the Nine-Dash line, and why China values sovereignty over large parts of the sea as a measure to seek control over adjacent seas, prevent access to Chinese coast and assert dominance after the “century of humiliation.” Dr. Kardon presented the basics of US action which will include an increase in FONOPs (freedom of navigation operations) under President Trump but professed his worry that the United States, despite the rhetoric, has not made the Chinese advancements enough of a priority.
RADM Dodgen, current Deputy Commander of U.S. 7th Fleet joined Dr. Kardon on the panel and described operational tempo in the South China sea being underway 50% more than the rest of the fleet. Admiral Dodgen stressed the importance of maintaining relationships with his people as well as with other countries and how the actions of enlisted sailors and junior officers can have an impact on those relationships. He concluded with his lessons on leadership including valuing everyone, building loyalty, becoming teammates, staying humble, continually learning, keeping poise, anticipating problems, removing negativity, and being a winner.
MIDN Barry (4/c Boston College), MIDN Dorchuck (4/c MIT), MIDN Ramirez (1/c Harvard), MIDN Bayer (4/c Harvard), MIDN Herrington (4/c Harvard), MIDN Braunegg and MIDN Carroll (4/c Tufts) were imparted with unique wisdom and profound questions to reflect on about leadership in a rapidly changing world with complex threats. The Yale Leadership conference is an outstanding opportunity for Midshipmen to expand their network of future officers, and explore the challenges of high-level leadership as future officers and on the global stage.
Written by MIDN 4/C Carroll