Dr. Thomas Barnett named Proceedings 'Author of the Year'
By Lt. David Ausiello
Copyright: The Newport Navalog (5 April 2002)
Newport, R.I., April 3, 2002 -- If you are looking for Tom Barnett on a Saturday afternoon this summer, you may not have to look any further than Second Beach. Chances are you will find him there, showing his 7 year-old son, Kevin, the fine art of boogie-boarding. Locating him during the week, however, could prove to be a little more difficult. You could try his office at the Naval War College, where he is a Senior Strategic Researcher in the Decision Strategies Department. Then again, you could look in Washington D.C., where he works as an assistant to Retired Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski in the Office of Force Transformation. If you still haven't been able to track him down, try calling him on one of the two cell phones he keeps firmly attached to his belt. One organization that undoubtedly possesses one of these numbers, is the U.S. Naval Institute. For the past nine years, Tom Barnett has been writing articles for their Annapolis-based magazine, Proceedings, and on April 3rd of this year, he was honored as their 'Author of the Year' for 2001.
Although a contributor to Proceedings for close to a decade, Barnett readily admits that his production for the magazine increased dramatically in 2001.
"I began pitching articles (to the Naval Institute) in February about the post cold war era, and then again last summer after I returned from India's International Fleet Review. By the fall, they were calling me. It's become a relationship where they trust what I write."
In the early part of 2001, Barnett was in the midst of a two-year project centered on security issues in the new globalization era. This endeavor took him up and down the East Coast, but mainly he found himself speaking to audiences at the two centers of security and globalization in America: The Pentagon and The World Trade Center. Ironically, he was scheduled to brief in the Navy's Command Center Sept. 18th, which was completely destroyed exactly one week earlier. On Sept. 25th, Barnett was scheduled to meet with members of Cantor-Fitzgerald for a briefing on the 105th floor of World Trade Center Tower One. Obviously, neither meeting took place as scheduled, and since Sept. 11th, Barnett's focus has gone through a serious transformation.
One of the first calls Barnett received after Sept. 11th was from Proceedings editor, Fred Rainbow.
"We were on deadline on Sept. 11th for the October issue. We decided to make room for some thoughtful reflections on different aspects related to the attacks," said Rainbow. "We called six people, gave them 24 hours to write 1,000 words…Professor Barnett was one of those authors we called and he produced."
Barnett, who worked closely with many members of Cantor-Fitzgerald who perished on Sept. 11th, describes writing about the effects of the attack as a "cathartic" experience.
"Personally, it felt like such an amazing attack on the work that I had been doing. Sept. 11th in general ended the project I was working on because so many lives were lost. The project was kind of shot out from under me."
According to Barnett, a major issue raised by Sept. 11th revolves around the nature of combat in the present day.
"Is it a uni-polar moment and are we just waiting for a great power to rise up in a traditional way, or do we find ourselves going down a dramatically different path where there are those who can accept globalization versus those who can not? It puts the whole context of naval power in a different light. What was a post cold-war era starts to look, all of a sudden, very dramatically like a globalization era," said Barnett.
One of Barnett's current positions is as an assistant to his previous boss, Retired Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski. Cebrowski was appointed by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld this past November to be the Director of Force Transformation for the Department of Defense.
According to Barnett, his relationship with Cebrowski, who retired from the U.S. Navy in October 2001 after serving as the president of the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., got off to an awkward start. Just prior to his arrival at the Naval War College, Barnett authored an article for Proceedings entitled, "The Seven Deadly Sins of Network Centric Warfare." Cebrowski has been called the "father of network-centric warfare" for helping to initiate the concept that has become one of the centerpieces of the Defense Department's transformation planning.
"My article definitely could have been interpreted as being openly critical of Network Centric Warfare. (Adm. Cebrowski's) article was quite historic and sometimes I see mine paired with it as a sort of counter-position. It got the idea started that we were at odds," said Barnett. Cebrowski's article, "Network-Centric Warfare: Its Origin and Future," appeared in the January 1998 issue of Proceedings, and was co-authored by John J. Garstka.
"Proceedings did a lot of good by publishing articles about Network Centric Warfare because it recognized it as a serious, debatable issue…and a healthy debate enabled the best ideas about Network Centric Warfare to rise," continued Barnett.
One of the first projects Barnett and his boss, Cebrowski, were involved with was Y2K. And even though Y2K did not materialize into a catastrophic global event, the results of their research were extremely prophetic.
"We predicted a lot of things about what a negative Y2K situation could be and it is interesting to look at those predictions and see how much of the reality of Sept. 11th and its aftermath we captured," said Barnett.
Barnett describes his position (Assistant for Strategic Futures) within the Department of Defense as one in which he is responsible for helping bring a larger context to the debate of the "direction, content and pace" of transformation.
As for the future of the Navy, Barnett sees the service defining itself less in terms of what we have to do to defeat other naval forces, but more in terms of what our capability to control the seas gives to us.
"No other country is trying to control the ocean anymore, it is ours. So the starting position (of thought) is, because we control the oceans, what can we do?"
According to Barnett, the nature of the transformation is evident in our current war on terrorism because the Navy has been called upon to do "new and unusual things to support operations on land."
For someone who obviously possesses 'Washington Insider' knowledge, Barnett claims life in Newport has given him the "best of both worlds." After spending 14 consecutive years in big cities, the last 8 in the beltway, Barnett was "burned out" and anxious to escape the "allergies of Washington." In Newport, he has found a different pace of life and an opportunity to spend more time with his family. He and his wife Vonne have three children, Emily, 10, Kevin, 7, and Jerome, 2.
Describing himself as a "triple threat," Barnett acknowledges the Naval War College has enabled him to concentrate on three different professional areas. Specifically, in Newport, Barnett has found time to pursue entrepreneurial interests while still concentrating on his main work in both public policy and national security research.
"Just like Harvard, to my great delight, the package exists at the Naval War College to fulfill yourself professionally."
Barnett also said both Rear Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, President of the Naval War College Rempt, and Rear Adm. Barbara McGann, Provost of the Naval War College, have kept the organization extremely relevant and have enabled the staff to come to Newport and be really ambitious.
In comparing life in Newport to his previous assignments, Barnett offered, "There is a great appreciation here, like anywhere, for delivering content on time. However, if at 4 o'clock on a Wednesday afternoon in July, I have had enough for the day, you can find me on the beach boogie-boarding with my son."
As for being named 'Author of the Year,' Barnett is extremely grateful to the U.S. Naval Institute, and he indicated his relationship with Proceedings will continue.
"There are a lot of big issues on the table now, and it's a fun time to be writing."
A link to Barnett's Proceedings articles can be found at the following website: www.nwc.navy.mil/newrulesets.