By George Lammons, NAVIDFOR Public Affairs
STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. (NNS) -- Cross-detailing may be new to Naval Oceanography, but it has been a practice of the Information Dominance Corps (IDC) since inception in 2009 in order to provide cross-discipline exposure to IDC officers and integration of the IDC.
"It is cross pollination within the communities within the IDC," said Vice Adm. Ted Branch, deputy chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance and chief of Naval Intelligence. "People come to a situation with different perspectives; it's good for the officer who goes in, and it's better for the command to get the benefit of a fresh perspective,"
Branch has been the implementer of much of the IDC development, including the establishment of Navy Information Dominance Force (NAVIDFOR) type command late last year. He said that cross detailing was part of the plan for the Information Dominance Corps from the beginning and is necessary in order to broaden the experience of leaders and to integrate the IDC to ensure Information Dominance persists and succeeds as a Navy warfare area.
Rear Adm. Matthew J. Kohler, NAVIDFOR commander, said that cross detailing is a way to develop an important IDC capability.
"Our Navy needs Information Dominance leaders that have proven experience across all of its specialty areas, and cross detailing is a deliberate way for that to happen - but not the only way," he said. "Information Dominance professionals have and should continue to constantly look for opportunities to gain cross-IDC experience within each assignment. Cross detailing has been in place for many years in the IDC to include highly valued milestone and command positions and has proven to be a successful model for delivering the leaders our Navy needs."
The practice follows one common in the Navy's aviation community that has air wing commanders assigned to command platforms different than their aviation platform community of origin.
So far that IDC integration has seen the establishment of enlisted and officer warfare qualifications, officer assignments to commands outside their communities and establishment of the new type command - NAVIDFOR.
So when a senior oceanography officer takes command of an intelligence command this year and a senior intelligence officer takes command of an oceanography command - both firsts for the Navy's oceanography community, it will be just another step in the integration of the IDC.
The IDC is composed of information professional officers (IP), information warfare (IW) officers, intelligence officers (INTEL), oceanography officers (METOC), space cadre, aerographers mates (AG), cryptologic technicians (CT), intelligence specialists (IS), information technicians (IT) and Navy civilians.
Capt. Stephanie Keck, the Information Dominance (ID) and Foreign Area Officer Assignments Division director and Information Warfare detailer, said the IDC leadership wants its officers to be exposed to all of the ID disciplines so the officers will understand capabilities and missions of the other parts of the IDC and consequently have a greater impact on operations.
She said that IDC officers have been cross-detailed for years. Although the emphasis is on O-6 commanding officers, intelligence, information professional and information warfare O-4s and O-5s have been cross-detailed as commanding officers, executive officers and other jobs.
"In the early years, we had a list of billets across pay-grades but quickly realized that was not going to be the most effective method to achieve the goal. Today, cross-detailing is focused at the more senior paygrades where the officers have had the opportunity to build the technical foundation in their designator but does occur in lower paygrades to a lesser degree. Cross-detailing of O-6 commands allows the officers to use their designator and leadership skills in an untraditional environment," she said.
The Information Dominance Corps Reserve Command (IDCRC) mirrors the active component in its attitude to cross-detailing - which it calls cross-slating - just as it does in command structure O-6 commanding officer/leadership positions and O-5 staff positions that do not require community-specific expertise are the focus of current cross-detailing efforts.
"Like the active component, the reserve component needs its IDC officers to expand their capabilities and experience beyond their community expertise," said Rear Adm. Daniel MacDonnell, who serves both as commander, IDCRC and NAVIDFOR Reserve Deputy Commander. "We trust that senior officers are experts in their designators. Now they must build on that expertise and demonstrate IDC cross-functional leadership. Cross-slating is crucial both for the development of our community and the individual, and we are excited to build on the promise of our initial successes."
Detailers say they are careful when cross-detailing commanding officers and that the process includes consultations with the community admirals to ensure the right officer is assigned.
"The concern is that we don't break anything," said Capt. Sheryl Richardson, intelligence officer detailer.
MacDonnell said that on the reserve side, the practice has already become a career-enhancer for officers.
"Successful tours in IDC leadership billets are very quickly becoming a requirement for continued professional growth and promotion," he said. "At the senior level, competitive IDC fitness reports will become the key differentiator in determining who shines brighter than the rest of the group."
The cross-detailing/cross-slating plan has not been without critics. In the November 2014 edition of Proceedings Magazine, Cmdr. Henry Stephenson, an intelligence officer, argued that the practice will dilute the professional expertise of the ID officer communities and the quality of ID support to the fleet. Others fear a loss of command and other career opportunities, and some fear that cross-detailed commanding officers will damage a command's effectiveness.
Said Richardson, the intelligence detailer: "There's definitely some angst."
But Branch says that those fears are overblown.
"We are not trying to get one designator here," he said. "We want to maintain some breadth of knowledge with a depth of expertise. We are absolutely not going to homogenize the (ID) community. We're definitely not trying to get a general officer."
Keck said current cross detailing includes fewer than 1 percent of O-4s, 1- to 5 percent of O-5s and only up to 9 percent of O-6s, IDC-wide.
MacDonnell said that for the reserve side, he wants to ensure officers have sufficient experience in their own specialties.
"At this time, we believe that our junior officers and enlisted must hone and refine their unique community expertise before they look for cross-slating opportunities," he said.
Nevertheless, the ID leadership is taking pains to ensure the practice doesn't hurt mission readiness or command effectiveness beyond the care they take cross-detailing commanding officers.
"Nobody is asking the CO to be an analyst in any of these [cross-detailed] jobs, said Richardson, the intelligence detailer.
The rest of the cross-detailing/cross-slating initiative, like much of the IDC remains a work in progress.
Captains in the particular communities will continue to promote to what has always been the community flag then change designator to an ID flag designator when they put on their star. All ID admiral billets starting at one-star will have an ID flag designator - 1860.
"I think it will evolve as the Navy evolves and the ID evolves," Branch said.