The Darwinian Moment: A Narrative for Adaptation
The Naval Postgraduate School's Captain Wayne Porter presents the first Wrigley Lecture Series of the 2012-2013 academic year. He discusses his piece, "A National Strategic Narrative," co-authored with Colonel Mark Mykleby. The narrative argues for a need of a sustainability context when protecting our nation's prosperity and security. It is now time to move the nation from a Cold War strategy of containment to a strategy of sustainability designed to address our enduring interests in a dynamic environment.Related Events: The Darwinian Moment: A Narrative for Adaptation
Sander van der Leeuw: My name is Sander van der Leeuw, I'm the Dean of the School of Sustainability, and I'm here to sort of give a few notifications before our speaker, who I only met last night, but an absolutely fascinating dialogue, is going to be introduced by Jim Elser, who will tell you how they met which apparently is a story in itself. Let me sort of very quickly say a few things, first about this particular lecture series.
It is the Wrigley Lecture Series on Sustainability which is funded through the support of Julie Ann Wrigley and which brings, that is at least our aim and I think we have succeeded certainly this time and in many other times, world-renowned thinkers from academia, business and government to ASU, to engage the community in dialogues to address sustainability challenges. These visiting scholars also help stimulate our efforts in sustainability research and education in order to ensure that these programs meet the needs in a changing world.
After all, we are all about creating sustainability for 2020, 2030, and 2040 and beyond. Wrigley speakers, it should be noted, are chosen by a committee of faculty members, students and staff members, so it is quite an honor to be selected. Now, I am a bit embarrassed to be saying all this because the next lecture I am giving, and this is why any of this applies to me, but I have been slated to this introduction, so I'll just do it.
Now, my own lecture will be at the Tempe Center for the Arts, and I'll be about complex systems theory, sustainability and innovation, and then we have two lectures for next semester that I really want to draw your attention to. First of all, Sunita Narain is the Director General of the Center for Science and Environments, publisher of Down To Earth Magazine, and was recently named one of the world's 100 public intellectuals. She will speak on environmentalism of the poor versus environmentalism of the rich.
Then later in the term, and I don't know the exact dates, but the author and science historian Naomi Oreskes from UC San Diego who was named the Climate Change Communicator of the Year, is going to be talking here about who is responsible for climate change. She has written an absolutely fascinating book called Merchants of Doubt, that if you haven't read it, I can recommend. It reads and is a detective story, but it's all about certain people who try and thwart the road of science.
Then finally, it is my pleasure to welcome distinguished sustainability scientist Jim Elser to the stage. Jim is a Regent's Professor of ecology, evolution and environmental sciences in the School of Life Sciences, but he is also the Associate Dean for that school, and he will introduce our honored guest. Jim, over to you.
Jim Elser: Thank you Sander, thank you everyone for coming out to this lecture today. It's a great pleasure to be here and have a chance to introduce today's speaker, Captain Wayne Porter. He's here today because of an elevator speech, so we train our students to be able to give an elevator speech about their work. Actually, it wasn't an elevator speech, it was a shuttle train speech, so I introduced myself to Wayne after I sat next to him on a flight from Phoenix to Atlanta, and I couldn't help but notice looking over that he was reading a bunch of papers with the word, "sustainability" in them.
On the train to get the luggage, I started, we struck up a conversation and had a very intense discussion about sustainability and phosphorous and food security, and other sorts of things, and by the time we reached luggage claim we agreed to share a cab to downtown Atlanta, and then we had more conversation, and eventually that led to e-mails and .PDFs were exchange, and then we made a date. [Laughter]
We made a date, and he agreed to come to give the Wrigley lecture, and so that's how we got to today. Let me introduce you to him, and it's hard to think of a more appropriate speaker to come to ASU for the Wrigley series than Wayne Porter.
Captain Wayne Porter was born in California, and he has an undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California which is a problem for me as a Sun Devil and as a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, but in any case we're going to move on, beyond that, now. He has two Masters degrees, one in computer science and one in C4I systems technology from the Naval Post-Graduate School in Monterey, California.
His tours are broad, and include Europe, the Balkans, Japan, and most recently Bahrain, where he served as U.S. Navy Central Command Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence. In Washington, Captain Porter has twice served as Special Assistant for Strategy on the staff of Admiral Mike Mullen, first when Mullen was Chief of Naval Operations and from 2008 to 2011, when Admiral Mullen was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Captain Porter co-authored the National Strategic Narrative with Colonel Mykleby, while working for the Chairman, and this work was subsequently published by the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, and this will serve as the center of Captain Porter's talk today.
Captain Porter has now been assigned by the Secretary of Defense to establish a chair for systemic strategy and complexity at the Naval Post-Graduate School where he's now pursuing a Ph.D. His dissertation research applies system dynamics modeling to a sustainability project he has helped create. The project is called the Steinbeck Cluster, and it involves developing a manufacturing base in precision agriculture and aquaculture in central coastal California, and it's really, really quite an exciting thing. I've been learning about it.
Captain Porter's civilian awards include the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for his work on the National Strategic Narrative, and his military awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, three Legions of Merit and the NATO Meritorious Service Award.
When we were talking, Captain Porter was especially proud of his Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and so I learned some more about that, and this was established by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations to pay homage to the immigrant experience in America. I think I can see why he's proud of this one, if you look at the list of past honorees and recipients of this medal. It's Mohammed Ali, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Henry Kissinger, Joe DiMaggio, Bob Hope, Brooke Shields, Don Shula, Frankie Valli and Quincy Jones. Quincy Jones, I mean, that is really cool, so that's an impressive list that anyone would love to be listed alongside, that's really quite amazing.
We're lucky to have Captain Porter here today. In our interactions I've learned one very important thing about him. He doesn't mess around. He's a big thinker, he is a big doer in the true sense of the New American University, and he has a suitably-sized goal. His goal is to shift the fundamental national security strategy of the United States of America and in doing so ensure a safe and sustainable planet for future generations, and so all I can say is, please tell us how, right now.
Captain Porter: I wanted to begin by saying that I don't watch a lot of television, other than sports, I watch sports. I've become really kind of intrigued and disturbed by this phenomenon of reality TV. There's apparently one of these reality TV shows that's been running for two years or so, it's got an incredible budget, the production budget is expected to be something like $5.8 billion dollars when it's done. Talk about values, here. It's building to an audience participatory climax, so I decided to watch a couple of episodes of this, recently. I was really distressed on the one hand and found it—I found it distressing on the one hand, and comical on the other. I don't know, maybe some of you in the room may have seen it; it's called The Amazing Presidential Race. [Laughter] It's about to culminate in a couple weeks, here.
The reason I'm bringing that up is that it's impossible for us not to have experienced this, lived through this, without recognizing that our nation is really at an inflection point in history, right now. We're facing an increasingly uncertain and—we're facing an uncertain and complex strategic environment that is characterized increasingly by the interdependence of markets and people, peoples and cultures, and ideologies, but also by the increasing global competition for finite resources, chief among them being food and developable soil to sustain the growth of the food, water, and sources of energy.
Well, this inflection point in history, it clearly transcends politics. It's a much greater issue than that, but it also occurs to me that civilizationally we are in the midst of probably the greatest ethical shift for civilization since the Age of the Enlightenment, which was also referred to as the Age of Certainty.
This shift that we're undergoing, that we've been experiencing for a couple of decades now, is pretty euphemistically referred to as either the Information Age, or as Joshua Ramo puts it, the Age of Uncertainty, which I will come back to, because whether you want me to or not I'm going to cover about 380 years of science and philosophy and politics in the next 40 minutes or so.
So, the reason I'm bringing this up is that I think even more than being at an inflection point in our national history, we are finding ourselves truthfully at a Darwinian moment in time where civilization is recognizing that in the next 40 years there's going to be something like 9 billion people on the planet with a finite set of resources, and the three largest countries in the world emulating a model of economic growth that was developed in the United States primarily in the 1950s when we were little mindful of the finite nature of resources or the expected population explosion. This all makes for a very interesting future for mankind actually, and it's come to a point where we need to recognize that we need to adapt if we're going to evolve. I was gratified to hear that Jim teaches evolution, because I'm a huge fan of Charles Darwin and Origin of Species.
What Darwin asserts is that truthfully, we only evolve as species through the strength derived from competition, and I'm going to come back to that because right now what we need to do is basically, we need to recognize that the model of growth that we have developed, which is heavily dependent on fossil fuels and easily transportable liquid petroleum, is not only becoming increasingly difficult to maintain, it's probably killing us in the process.
I won't go into, although I'm happy to answer questions about anthropogenic affect on the atmosphere, but I think it's much bigger than that. I mean, I think it's the fact that we need to develop a new model of growth as we go forward civilizationally.
A pretty somber way to start this talk, but I wanted to give you something to think about, and I'll come back to that. In 2009, while I was working for the Chairman, I had written a paper. It had to do with complexity theory, and a specific application, and Admiral Mullen shared it with Secretary Gates, who was Secretary of Defense at the time, and I got invited to have a private lunch with Secretary Gates. It's not something that happens to me every day. In fact, it was the first and last time it would ever happen, but be that as it may, I can honestly attest to having worked for Admiral Mullen for something like seven years of the last ten or so.
He is a really smart man, and he's smart enough to know that you never let me go have lunch alone with the Secretary of Defense, so he joined me. Admiral Mullen sat across the table and Secretary Gates sat next to me, and he kind of Socratically walked me through this paper I had written and at the end of the conversation—and I won't go into the details on it, but at the end of the conversation I said, "Sir, I only wrote the paper to illustrate what a derivative strategy would look like if we had a national strategy."
Admiral Mullen laughed nervously and—but he said, "I think what Wayne's trying to say is, sir, is that we don't have a grand strategy," and he said, "I tend to agree with him," so Secretary Gates, who's an incredible, incredibly intelligent man with an unbelievable depth of experience, it was a pleasure talking to him—but he said, "Well, what'd you have in mind?"
I said, "I don't know sir, maybe something a little more focused on opportunity and a little less focused on threat and risk?" He said, "Well it's an interesting idea," and we talked for a second and then he went back to this other paper and we finished lunch and I left. When Admiral Mullen and I walked out of the office, Admiral Mullen basically said, "You just go write a grand strategy and give it to me, and I'll give it to Secretary Gates." I said, "Aye-aye," which is what we do in the Navy, and I went down to my office and the other thing we always do in the Navy when we find ourselves in a situation like that, is we call a Marine. [Laughter]
The first thing I did literally was I called a friend of mine, Colonel Mark Mykleby, he goes by, "Puck." That's a little too loud I think, we're going to deafen people, so just a tad too loud—there you go. Anyway, his call sign is "Puck," he was the Captain of the Naval Academy Hockey Team, not a fan of Shakespeare, that's—although he probably is. Puck had been working on about a year-and-a-half academic deep dive for Admiral Olsen at Special Operations Command in Tampa, trying to develop a new strategy for Special Operations, but Puck had taken this on as an academic deep dive into global trends.
We were familiar with each other's work, it was almost exactly the same kinds of things I was looking at that I was trying to promote with Admiral Mullen, so I called Puck and I said, hey, how would you like to come up and write a new national strategy with me? He says, you know, sure, so I said—he said, "How long do you think it'll take?" I said, "I don't know, a couple weeks," so I got him orders because I worked for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and when you do that you can get orders for people pretty easily actually, and it was the same way I got my office.
I had this office on the E-ring. I'm a Captain, I had an office on the E-ring, three doors down from Admiral Mullen for two years. It was unbelievable. I had a wide-screen TV, all kinds of satellite feeds for news, I had a view of the Potomac Tidal Basin, the Washington Monument, the Capitol, it was unbelievable. In the two years I was in that office, we had a plaque made for it that because you have to have a plaque on your office in the E-ring. It said, "Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Strategic Synchronization," it was a brass plaque, and we did it because no one knew what it meant and no one ever bothered us. No one ever came into our office. [Laughter]
In the two years I was there, I can honestly tell you I don't think Admiral Mullen ever knew I had that office, and it was incredible.
So, Puck comes up to D.C. and we get—you know, barricade ourselves into the office and try to figure out how do you get your hands around creating a new national strategy. Where do you start?
The interesting thing about Puck is that he and I are kind of, I hate to say this about a Marine, it really kind of makes me gag to say this, but we're actually like left and right halves of the same brain. I was telling Dr. van der Leeuw last night, we've actually done a touring experiment where he can go in one room and I can go in another, you can have two different people ask us similar questions and we'll respond in the same way. It's frightening, believe me. He sent me an e-mail two hours ago that said, "Don't screw this up." [Laughter]
Anyway, we probably started at the same place all of you would start, which was 1648, so we started with the Signing of the Treaty of Westphalia which was the conclusion of the 30 Years War in Europe. It was signed by members of the Holy Roman Empire. There were no Chinese or Islamists or Asians or any other European minorities at the time, it was pretty much solidly the Holy Roman Empire, and that document has really served as a basis for our international understanding of sovereignty and intrusion of sovereignty in nations, ever since. Even China, theoretically, ascribes to the Peace of Westphalia, Treaty of Westphalia.
We thought, how weird is that, because this is the way we think and you're going to—as I talk for the next 40 minutes you'll start to realize we're out there, you know? The reason Admiral Mullen kept me around, I forgot to tell you—I served with him in the same capacity three different times, which was I was basically a non-linear, non-conventional, connector of dots. I look at problem sets or challenges in a very, very non-linear way and try to find what I call elegant solutions, things that you can do that will affect systemically many of the things at once.
He never listened to me but he had me on his staff, so that he could say he had someone who does that—so Puck is the same way. We think systemically, so from that perspective it was natural for us to say, isn't it weird that 39 years later after the signing of the Peace of Westphalia, Newton published the Principia Mathematica that served as our understanding of the physical universe for about 28 years or so, something like that. And yet, it's odd that we would have civilizationally the flexibility of intelligence to recognize that certain phenomenon weren't being satisfied by the mechanics described by Newton, and so in the late 1800s we had the Ultraviolet Conundrum which was black body emanation and the ultraviolet range. This baffled people, but it resulted eventually in Plank coming up with a number to reconcile this difficulty, it was Plank's Constant. Plank's Constant wound up representing the smallest measureable element of light, a quanta, and this was used by Einstein and others to develop quantum theory.
Quantum mechanics led to the—through Debrouiller and others, led to the understanding or recognition that—of the dual nature of light. Light exists as a wave and a particle simultaneously, so it's actually probabilistic, you know? Particle mechanics is based on the fact that in very small worlds—very large worlds? Very small worlds, it's a probabilistic universe. It's not a deterministic universe, and so this whole notion that we had from 1689 onwards really, it kind of rattled our cage, here because we were now demonstrating the empiric uncertainty of our universe, and people were trying to come to grips with that.
It was actually Heisenberg, I'm sure you all know this but I'll reiterate it, so it was Heisenberg who came up with Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. What, he wasn't going to call it "Clyde's Uncertainty Principle," so he came up with Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle which says in quantum mechanics, in particle theory, you can either accurately measure a particle's location or you can accurately measure its momentum, but you can't simultaneously accurately measure both its location and its momentum.
It occurred to us—I mean, we really did have this discussion, I'm not making this up—it occurred to us simultaneously that that was exactly what was wrong with every strategy we had ever seen in the Pentagon. Now, I've been doing strategy for more than six years, and in the Pentagon we have about a gazillion strategies and across the river, they have about two gazillion more strategies, none of which or very few of which seem to be overly well-aligned with each other but all of them are focused on averting or overcoming a recognizable risk or threat.
All of them, and it occurred to us, that what we're doing is we're hyperfocusing on our location and by the time you recognize your location and the recognizable risk or threat inherent in it, it's too late to change it. All you can do is respond to it, all you can do is react to it. While, if our strategies maybe were focused on our momentum as a nation, the opportunities inherent in our trajectory forward as a nation, maybe we would have a better opportunity to influence the future environment to make it a more sustainable future.
We thought, well, that's kind of where we want to go, so then we had to come to grips with okay, so what really is a strategy? Well, a strategy, we thought, has to have some kind of primary objectives, you know? We had to—we thought, well what are the enduring national interests of the United States that form the—in a big flick that form the basis of our national strategy, you know? I've said this repeatedly, I said it last night, but it's true. I'm Catholic and I wanted there to be three of them, so we argued around and around and around, and we could only, as hard as we tried, we could only come up with two. We came up with two overriding national enduring interests, and those are prosperity and security.
We recognized that prosperity and security are wholly interdependent. You cannot have security in the absence of prosperity. You can't have prosperity in the absence of security. Now, we'll get maybe to this a little later, but I'll tell you right off the bat, I define security and prosperity in a much different way than I bet you're thinking.
I would define security as freedom from anxiety, and this covers a lot of things. This covers not only freedom and security from attack, from the outside, but it's freedom from economic collapse or economic depravity, it's freedom from hateful ideologies, it's freedom to express yourself freely, it's freedom from pandemic diseases; there's a lot of things wrapped up in anxiety and security, and freedom, I think we recognize as Americans.
The other thing that I do is, I define prosperity differently. I don't think prosperity is determined by GDP. I think GDP has to be a very poor metric of prosperity. I define prosperity as well-being, and interestingly, so does Gallup. The Gallup organization is doing a world, a global poll of all nations eventually, that they've been running for a couple years now. It's called the wellbeing index, and it's interesting, because it judges how people in other countries feel about their wellbeing, on that, the day that they're polled.
Okay, so we had these two enduring national interests, well, I've got to tell you and I said this to Dr. van der Leeuw last night, I've got to believe that probably many of the 200-plus nations in the world probably also have prosperity and security as primary objectives or enduring interests. It was that-and this is really where it was divine intervention, because we got the third piece of this whole thing, it was really, it's the values that characterize us as Americans that constrain us in our pursuit of security and prosperity. We can't just go commit genocide because we're running low on rare earth elements in Africa.
There are constraints put upon us by the values that we respect, that were laid out pretty clearly by our founding fathers, and all of our foundational documents. Liberty is one, but I mean, all the freedoms I talked about before. Those are included, as well.
Okay, so we can't do that, but interestingly we're not only constrained in our ability, in our pursuit of prosperity and security, we're empowered by those values. Those values are what provide us credibility to be a leader among nations, so that by remaining true to those values we gain credibility in the eyes of the rest of the world as well as our own people.
The values that I'm talking about here, those values are also shared by, I would submit, by probably most people and most religions on Earth today. We share a lot of common values, and I talked before about the fact that we recognize we're in a completely different strategic environment now, one that is completely interdependent. It occurred to us that we as a nation, need to stop seeing interdependence as a weakness and start recognizing it as a strength. If many of the people in the world share the same values, then we should be able to find converging interests in any given area in which we can offset the inimical bastards who will inevitably exist, who have divergent or conflicting interests.
It's not simply a matter of a national direction, it's really a matter of finding the converging interests among peoples and nations and cultures and ideologies to offset those who have clearly divergent or conflicting interests with us collectively.
Basically, that was kind of the way we decided to frame this whole thing out. When I told Admiral Mullen, let me interject something here really fast. It was at about this time that we both realized we're not smart enough to write a national strategy, so it actually came to us—I'm the one who said it first, but I said when I mentioned it, I said, but you know, actually the more I think about this—now we wrote this, this was in August of 2009. When I said it, I said, but you know what, I don't really think that's what's needed. I actually have thought about it and I don't think what we need right now nationally is a new national strategy as much as we need a strategic narrative; a narrative to explain who we are as Americans in a new century and in a new strategic environment. A new civilizational epic, actually.
So, we decided that we would write a narrative that explains, a simple narrative. We said we wanted to limit it to ten pages. I actually wrote the words, it wound up being 11, so I got gigged for that, but that was the length of it. We wanted to write something that people could easily read and find unity in. It's non-political, it's non-divisive, it's hopeful in nature, and in fact the other thing that occurred to us when we were talking about Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and risk and threat, is that there's every bit as much opportunity and hope in uncertainty, as there is risk and threat. We're a nation, or we used to be, a nation of opportunity and hope. That's what we represent in the world. It used to be in any case, and I think it still does. I think people are desperate for America to represent opportunity and hope again, and we're poised to do that.
I told Admiral Mullen that we were, that we had done this strategic narrative, and he says, "But what's our narrative now?" I said, "Sir, we don't have one," and he said, "Oh yes, we do." So I said okay—I worked for the guy for a long time—I said, "Oh, okay sir, are you asking me what do our actions as a nation say to the rest of the world, our narrative is," and he said, "Yeah, that's exactly what I'm asking. You go write that, and then I'll read this." That's literally what he said.
I write fast, so we did that that afternoon. I wrote basically what I perceived to be our—what our policies have said about the United States from 1946 to the present, and I broke it out regionally to show how that was being interpreted in several regions of the world. I'll share that with you real quick because it's fundamental and it actually touches on another elementary piece of what we talked about.
Coming out of World War II, I would submit that the United States was just empowered, I mean, with a capital E, so we have the strongest economy, we have the strongest military, we arguably had the strongest system of government. We had very strong values, we were unified as a people, so when George Kennan and others in 1946 and beyond started surfacing the threat of the spread of global Communism, I would submit that it would be almost psychologically impossible for Americans not to have a sense of exceptionalism that drove us to view the strategic environment as if it were a closed system.
In a closed system, you can manipulate enough variables to arrive at a deterministic result. The second law of thermodynamics, unfortunately, says that closed systems trend towards entropy. What you may wind up with is static equilibrium, that's really not what you want as a nation anyway.
So, the truth is through the work of all of the big names who worked on this, so this was Truman and John Foster Dulles and Paul Nitze and Eisenhower and the whole team, they accepted this vision of the threat of global Communism as a unifying construct, against which to develop a national strategy and it was probably the last—I would submit it was probably one of the last coherent national strategies that we have had.
That strategy was a strategy of control, believing that the environment was a closed system, and it was called containment. We thought that primarily through military means, also some economic, that we could contain the spread of communism by controlling enough pieces on the chess board. Again, viewing it as if it was a closed system. Well, the truth of the matter is, we may have accelerated the collapse of Communism, but the truth is it collapsed under the weight of the corruption of the [inaudible] system.
The interesting thing is that it collapsed because it was a system of control. It was a system of ultimate control. It was a closed system and it trended towards entropy in a very big way.
The difference between a closed system and an open system is that in an open system, you can maintain dynamic equilibrium, growth, but that requires energy. That's another law of thermodynamics, so you need to input heat or energy to maintain dynamic equilibrium. We recognize that as a nation the last thing we want to be doing right now is trending towards entropy and as a civilization, that's kind of where we're headed right now, so we thought we really need a strategy of sustainability, because sustainability is a good word to represent the maintenance of dynamic equilibrium in an open system.
You can see where the tools of our strategic construct would be different than they were if we viewed the environment as if it was a closed system. In a closed system, you would have tools such as force and power, and in an open system you have tools, you have a tool called strength, and that strength doesn't come from military strength alone. It comes from the strength of your economy, the health of your people, the strength of your values, and how you express those or demonstrate those globally, so that's an important piece.
The other thing that's different is that in a closed system, you need control. In an open system you can only hope to have influence, and influence, credible influence in a global sense, only comes from maintaining a coherent values-based approach to the policies that you conduct domestically and abroad. Basically we were saying, because we were lords of the universe we could, we were writing a national strategy that no one was going to read, so we said look—we need to have a congruence and complimentarity of foreign and domestic policies, so we need to demonstrate our values at home before we try to export them as smart power abroad. By demonstrating them at home, others will recognize their efficacy.
In The Federalist Papers, Hamilton and others didn't argue that we should impose our values on other nations. We should demonstrate their efficacy and allow others to emulate them or not. Truthfully we're not looking to bully or cajole or persuade anyone to accept those values, I think they're actually already shared by most people in the world—but the more that we can consistently apply them in our policies, the better respect and the more credibility and the more leadership we will gain, and influence, in a global sense.
So what? Here's something else that occurred to us. We were founded as a free market republic, and throughout our history it occurred to us, we have excelled across the spectrum of human endeavor through competition. I would like to believe, through fair competition. This is in every discipline that we can name, every discipline represented in this room, so this is medicine, science, literature, poetry, sports, art, mathematics, everything. We have excelled in innovation and entrepreneurialism, we have excelled across the spectrum of human endeavor. Again in the last 20 years or so as a nation it struck us that we have become competition-averse. It's like, it's one of the weirdest phenomena I have ever thought about, because the only time you ever hear competition used any more is pejoratively, and it's generally in the same sense as China. Ooh, they're our pure competitor. It's a negative thing.
We started thinking about this and Puck, who has got a phenomenal ability to read and retain everything ever written, says to me, he says, competition comes from the Greek, competari. Actually I looked it up, it comes from the Latin competari as well. It means to strive together, or to strive for a common end, and the truth is in the real Olympics, in the original Olympics, Olympic athletes used to train with their competitor so on the day of the games they would both compete to the height of their ability, to the peak of their ability, and put on a better show for the spectators.
Well lately, it seems like competition in the United States and in many other places, competition has come down to the gun goes off, you trip the guy next to you and you waddle across the finish line. That's not what competition is about, you know. We started to realize that it's because we're viewing competition in the wrong perspective.
When we talk about competition, it is the concept of having multiple winners, not a single winner and multiple losers, and if you think about it that way, you go back to the comment I made earlier which is there is strength in interdependence and there are possibilities to find converging interests. This is true in our markets, it's true in a security sense, it's true in a lot of different ways, but I truthfully think that's fundamental to what our strategic approach needs to be.
We said we need to reinvigorate our competitiveness, we need to reinvigorate confidence in ourselves, to compete nationally. Let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that that's pretty tough to do when you're 25th in math, 23rd in science and 14th in reading literacy or reading comprehension. There's something wrong there, you know? It's pretty hard to maintain an aura or a legacy of innovation dominance when those figures are staring you in the face.
We decided that what we needed to do, because we're lords of the universe, what we decided we needed to do was completely re-prioritize all of our resources nationally and provide three prioritized resources that America should focus our resources on. The first one's education, because the only way you're going to reinvigorate your competitiveness internationally is through education, and we have just about the most broken system of education in the world today, I would maintain. I told you, these are my views only, they do not express the official opinion of the United States Government or government policy, Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or anybody else. They're me, okay?
So, what I'm saying is, we spend more money on education than any country in the world, and we're 25th in math, 23 in science, 14 in reading. Something's wrong. It says to me that the model that we designed, at the time when 60 percent of Americans lived on farms and gave our kids three months off during the summer, and has them go to school state by state on an average of 180 days a year when China goes to school 240 days a year and many Asian and European nations go to school 220 days a year, it tells me that we have dug a hole for ourselves and we are unwilling to look at models that might take the money we're already spending and use it in a more effective way. All I'm saying is, it seems to me like it's worth exploring.
The second priority was security and you're thinking, I knew it, I it, he's a baby-killing military guy, he's going to come back security. No, I'm going to go back to my definition which actually again I hate to say this, comes from the old Catholic liturgy, which is freedom from anxiety. My sense is this, that security doesn't belong to any one department of the government any more than it belongs to the government itself. Security, as I said, is not just freedom from attack, but it's economic security and health security and the security of our values, and the security and freedom of expression, whatever that is.
Those are all things that are very important but they don't belong to any piece of the government or the government itself. They belong to all of us, they belong to us as citizens and we need to be responsible for that and start to step up a little bit and make sure that we're functionally addressing security and not trying to address it organizationally.
The third thing was the access to and—the development of and the access to renewable resources, and so this is food security, it's soil, it's water management, it's also renewable and alternative sources of energy because here's the bottom line of this whole mess that I've just woven for you all. What I said earlier is true, that the three largest nations in the world are now following a model of economic growth that was based largely on fossil fuel energy source, and a rapacious approach to agriculture and water usage, etc., etc., as well as minerals and a lot of other finite resources. Well, fair play to them. They're emulating this model to raise the quality of life of their middle classes and they're exceeding very well right now.
The problem is, by the middle of this century we are going to have so many, I’m going to use the word—we are going to have so many consumers that we have already far surpassed the carrying capacity of the planet. It's just, we're there, we're there, we already are exceeding the carrying capacity of the planet. So my sense is, that this whole idea of sustainability as a strategy is just an enormous opportunity for Americans, for Americans with vision because this is something that we can take a leadership role in. We can demonstrate that we recognize the evolutionary shortfalls of the models that were developed a half century ago and we recognize that there needs to be a new path to prosperity, growth and security in the future, and that the entire world will benefit from that, but we can take a leadership role.
I would submit if we don't take a leadership role, who is? I believe that. I've lived outside the United States 16 years of my 27 years in the Navy. I have experienced many different cultures and my takeaway is we need to maintain a strong, credible and values-based leadership role for the rest of the world if we are going to evolve together as a species. That's the conclusion I came to.
The bottom line is that all of this comes down to you, so I'm really gratified to speak to the Institute of Sustainability which you're clearly focused on this, but more than that, it's American citizens. It's the people who came here because they don't go to the school. It's people who came because they were interested.
The truth about citizenship is that being a citizen means a lot more than being a resident. Residents pay rent, and they pretty frequently don't care what shape they leave the place in as long as they get their deposit back. Citizenship means a lot more than that. Citizenship means you are invested in your own future, and the future of the country can't depend only on those of us who were worn to support and defend the Constitution. There are many other agencies in addition to the Department of Defense who are far more capable in a lot of different areas. They need to be empowered to do their best the way Department of Defense was empowered originally, to prevent war or to win decisively when it was required. That's kind of the demarcation line.
Our security, our prosperity, it belongs to all of us and we all have to step up. There's two quotes that I'll just kind of leave you with here. I just spoke at General Electric's global research strategic planning conference and I finished with a quote that I found from Thomas Edison that morning, and it is, "We frequently miss opportunity because it's dressed in overalls and it looks like work." This is going to bring me to a point that I feel very strongly about. The sense of entitlement that we have developed nationally is not a positive thing. We can no longer live on the legacy of greatness that was built for us by previous generations.
I recognize the greatness of this generation, but I also recognize the next quote that I'm going to give you, and it's from the Preamble of the Constitution, and it says that, "We are to secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity." It's not just ourselves that we're focused on. I really believe in this generation and I believe this generation needs to really have the confidence in future generations to go forward and to create a sustainable model of prosperity and security that is values-based, that can provide a shining example of hope and opportunity for the rest of the world.
That's all I have, I'm happy to answer questions.
Jim Elser: Thank you very much, Wayne. Election day is coming up, where do I vote, for you? [Laughter] You're not on my ballot. Anyway, we all have time for questions and discussion, and there's lots of time for that. I remind everyone that after we're done with that period there will be refreshments, lovely refreshments afterwards, and so let's have our time for questions. Warren's going to bring the microphone around so wait for the microphone before your questions.
Audience Member 1: I really enjoyed your talk today, I was very impressed. I heard the debates. I didn't care for them anyways, I'm more of a third party type of person, depending, but the discussion was we need to spend more money for the military. I’m thinking is, we should be spending more money for diplomacy and these young people coming out of the sustainability programs be our diplomats of the future, that their requirements are they understand what you're talking about. Is there talk about that?
Captain Porter: Okay, so I can say this. Three things I have to remember. Number one, vote. I should've said that. Number two, I forgot to mention this website that was created by a woman who heard me speak last Spring, she's a—this is directly in response to your question, that's what I want to tell you. She heard me speak at a World Affairs Council. She is a consultant in Palo Alto and she just felt compelled to do something, so she went out and bought the domain, www.NationalStrategicNarrative.org, and she is devoting one year of her time to maintain that site so that people can use it as a forum for sharing ideas, which is why I'm bringing it up. You can actually—her name is Betty Sproule, that's the website. It has probably over 200 articles that have been written internationally about the narrative. It has a lot of videos and interviews and television things that we've done, but most importantly it's a forum for people to try to put initiatives up, just like that. I think this is a great point.
Now, to answer your question. These views are mine only, they do not reflect the official position of the United States Government, Department of Defense or the Naval Post-Graduate School. I wrote an article that was published in Spring I think last year, by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy. It's called, Rethinking America's Joint Force: Credibility and Strength in a Constrained Fiscal Environment. You can look it up, it's actually on there, I think anyway. That's—this has all the stuff that I talk about.
And oh, by the way, the rule that I made her adhere to when she said she would do this is, it would have no funding, certainly no funding that would be traceable to any political agenda, and that I would permit no political agenda or any political statements to be made on the site, so that was—she's maintained the integrity of it.
The thrust of my article was that in my opinion, we have a military for two reasons: to prevent or deter war, or to win decisively when war is unavoidable. Those are the two reasons you have a military. My personal belief is that there is a spectrum of crisis and conflict that runs from high probability, high risk/low probability nuclear war, high probability—low probability high risk, down through humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, along the way passing through transnational crime, counter-piracy, etc., that's high probability/low risk. My sense is that what that parental curve represents is a tradeoff of capability and capacity, requires a lot of capability to deter nuclear war or to win decisively in major combat. It takes a lot of capacity to combat transnational crime, counter-piracy, and respond to every humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operation. There are a lot of militaries in the world who are capable of doing that. There were a lot of elements of our government and our private sectors moreover, internationally, who are very good at responding to those things. They can't deter nuclear war very well, and they can't fight major, they can't do major combat very well.
My sense is that we need to think about our budgetary process with a strategic perspective in mind, and recognize that much conflict can be avoided through that fat tail at the end that goes from all of those things, transnational crime, all the way through humanitarian assistance, stability, things like that, whereas the money that should be left for the military really probably needs to focus a lot on maintaining a capability, a technological and fighting capability edge.
What I'm trying to say is, as Secretary Gates did I think when he was Secretary of Defense, we need to look at how we've prioritized our budget and recognize that there are other agencies and there are other elements of the government who are better-suited to pursue some of the things that right now the military happens to be doing a good job of covering down on, but I think we need to—I personally believe we need to focus a little more on our core war fighting capabilities and allow other parts of the government and the private sector to take on many of these other civil oriented issues.
Throw the mic, throw the mic back there.
Audience Member 2: Thank you for your talk, my name's [inaudible], I'm in the Computer Science department here, and I was interested in asking you what do you think it would take for this initiative to be adopted both in your own agency, but in concert with the questions of the former questioner, to think about whether the more appropriate approach is to have the strategic initiative actually be a trans-agency initiative such that each agency has their own stake in the common strategic initiative of [cross talk] you were suggesting.
Captain Porter: Yeah, actually what we said in the paper—so if you read the Narrative, the last section of the narrative, what we say—and this was interesting because we didn't, the paper was released as the Mr. Y article. That was actually the Pulitzer Prize winner Tom Friedman and Anne-Marie Slaughter's idea and we were honored because not only do we revere Kennen, but Anne-Marie was the first woman and at the time was serving as the George Kennen chair at the State Department, and it was her idea. So, we didn't say no and we got Admiral Mullen's permission to do that.
Basically the reason I'm bringing that up is that there is an interesting corollary here between the time Kennen was writing and what resulted. Really what resulted, if you think about it, was NSA 47 and SE 68. NSA 47 reconfigured the elements of our government, specifically the intelligence agencies, the Joint Force, etc., etc., to develop the synergy required to combat the global spread of Communism through containment. The lights went out on that quite a long time ago so what we say in the paper is, that if you're going to pursue now a strategy of sustainability, that what we believe is called for isn't a National Security Act—1947—what's required now is a national prosperity and security act 20-whatever, 2013.
What that would provide for would be much greater fungibility and the ability to distribute budgetary funds across agencies of the government in a far more dynamic way. It would require a re-look at US code. We would have to look at the laws that we have in place that restrict our ability to share funds across agencies, but moreover I think—excuse me, more importantly, it would broaden this to the private sector, so the private sector could play a much larger role in our own prosperity and security. So, that actually is, we talk about that in the paper.
Audience Member 3: Jordan Seale, School of Sustainability. I want to go on tour with the Jim and Wayne, right, Three Sustainability Kooks tour. [Laughter] Could you—I don't want to put you Johnny-on-the-spot here, but if you're willing could you talk a little bit about your [inaudible] project and how this sort of thinking is rolling out at a derivative level?
Captain Porter: Yeah, thank you.
Audience Member 3: I think it would be really [cross talk].
Captain Porter: I'll just be, I'll be really brief, I know you're highly tired. What I'm pursuing for my dissertation work at the Naval Post-Graduate School is really interesting because I wanted to develop a, I wanted to create an initiative that would allow us to model six systems that comprise a new national strategy, so I had been working on that with Sandia National Labs and their complex and adaptive modeling team, but in the process of doing that I was asked by the mayor of Salinas, California, if I could help him develop a strategy for economic development in Salinas Valley which happens to be the row crop center of the United States. It's where much of your lettuce and radicchio and other crops come from, strawberries and a lot of other things, cauliflower, wine.
The point of this thing was that I looked at this systemically, because I can't help myself, and Salinas is undergoing—they have a lot of problems right now. They have problems, they have gang problems, they have migrant population problems, they have immigration problems, they have education problems, they have a lot of problems that would apparently be obstacles. What I felt at the time was that those, they have water shortage problems.
What I thought at the time was that those problems represent the solution sets, so not only that they represent a replicable solution set for the rest of the nation. So, I convinced him that we should pursue a strategy of economic development that is not dependent on adding more farms, wineries or ranches which would then further tax the water supply, but that what we should do is develop, create an industrial cluster which is what the economist Michael Porter of Harvard refers to these things as, and they exist in several places in the world—Southern Germany is the industrial cluster for mechanical engineering, Northern Italy is the industrial cluster for design, Boston is pharmaceuticals, biomed, silicon valley is obviously integrated circuitry.
So, they exist, and what they all have in common are the same constituent parts. They all have a high concentration of universities and research institutes, the education systems in each place from K through 12 are largely focused on the economy base that is represented in their regional area. They have a concentration of venture capitalists and entrepreneurial engineers who develop themselves through that process and recognize the opportunity of growth.
What I decided to do for my dissertation is, I am modeling the growth of new business in silicon valley and we have developed a partnership between silicon valley, Salinas, and coastal California into Salinas, and we are creating—we're trying to engineer through system dynamics modeling, we're trying to engineer an industrial cluster that we're now referring to as the Steinbeck Cluster because it covers Steinbeck country.
What it focuses on isn't the development of more agriculture. It focuses on the development of precision agriculture and precision aquaculture for sustainable manufacturing growth, so basically it is how do you produce food, water and energy in a sustainable way that will make money for people investing in it that won't, that will not only not tax your water supply, it will eventually increase your water supply. So, this is literally, we started doing this about six months ago, seven months ago, and it's really taking off.
We have MOUs drafted for six local universities, I talked to many of you in meetings yesterday and today about the work you're doing and how well that would map onto what we're doing. It's a perfect fit. Georgia Tech Research Institute is interested, from a modeling as well as a nanotechnology and robotics, remote monitoring perspective. The manufacturing we're talking about would be related to industries that can real-time monitor soil composition, water chemistry, intrusive plant diseases, and real-time intercede those, interdict those.
These are the kinds of technologies that I think someone is going to make a lot of money from in the future, and we're trying to demonstrate to them that what better place to create a center of excellence if you will as a cluster, than the nation's—we're not the bread basket, we're the row crop center, whatever it's called. The bottom line is we have a strong mariculture, strong aquaculture, we're already developing technologies that use algae and seaweed filtration, we're working with a new water source. It's really interesting, actually, and it's coming together.
I have cards with me if you're interested in hearing more. I can give it to you. We've actually submitted it now to the Bloomberg Challenge for American Cities. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I think we find out next week if we made the first cut, but it's an interesting project and it's exactly right down your alley.
Jim Elser: Next question, over here, sir?
Audience Member 4: I was just thinking now, all this stuff, and I was involved in the military, Naval intelligence in Vietnam which has absolutely nothing to do with what you're talking about, and then you're talking about academia type stuff, there's I guess most of you were talking about, military, Naval and military stuff, but how do you get this on a political level? I mean, they don't listen to any of this stuff.
Captain Porter: Yeah, this is—let me tell you, let me give you a great response to this question. The question is, how do you address the things that I talked about on a political level? You don't. Here's why I'm saying that. I'm not being pejorative, one of the reasons that we were so honored to have our article referred to as Mr. Y, you know, like a kind of a new-age X article that was written by Kennen in '46, was that we thought it represented an opportunity for unity, for Americans to recognize a unifying vision of the country. The reason I'm using this as an example is that Kennen's paper and that vision, at the time it was of a threat. I like to think ours is of an opportunity, but be that as it may, it was universally accepted in the United States by both parties. I mean, almost without exception.
When Eisenhower convened the team, the Solarium project, and other projects that worked on trying to develop the theory, the strategy that we would use to confront global communism, it wasn't—there wasn't this kind of poisonous, divisive atmosphere between parties saying well no, we're not going to—if you want to do that, we're going to do this, and if you're going to do that, we're going to do this. That isn't what happened. It was actually understood to be such—the magnitude of the threat was accepted as overriding political divisions, and I would like to believe that the strength of a message of opportunity and hope in America is enough to overcome political divisions.
Because I really think, I really am—I really am patriotic. I really believe in Americans. I just drove across the country recently and it just validated for me everything I believe in. I think Americans are desperate for this. I've given this pitch, this year, I have given this pitch in parliament, at Kings College, London, twice in the Camden Opera House in Maine, of all the bizarre things, Tufts University, GE, I've addressed groups in Washington, all over the place and the reaction is uniformly positive. People want to hear something positive about ourselves and believe that we have the wherewithal to affect our own destiny, to recreate our own destiny, and stop living off a legacy.
I think that eventually—here's another thing, and I don't want to sound pejorative. Statistically, an almost insignificant—an almost statistically insignificant number of Americans live in Washington, DC. Three hundred thirty million Americans in this country. We need to take responsibility for ourselves and make sure that that statistically insignificant number of people, Washington, understand what people want to believe in, they understand what we want to do. I think we want to take the country in a positive direction.
Here's one thing that I—I will tell you because you can look it up at YouTube, Prime Minister Gillard, former Prime—I don't even know if she's still Prime Minister, Gillard in Australia, addressed a joint session of Congress, I think it was in 2011, and it was an unbelievable speech. I mean, I—watch it on YouTube, it's incredible. I mean, it was incredible. There were like 12 members of Congress crying while she was—it was unbelievable.
What she was basically saying is, she grew up as a little girl in Perth, Australia, thinking Americans could do anything. She watched us put a man on the moon, she watched us develop the space program and everything else, and she said, you know, Asia needs—so the countries of Asia and Asia-Pacific need a strong America now. What her assertion was, was she said, she ended her speech by saying, "Mates talk straight to mates. America, live up to your finest traditions, be bold." I don't think we needed to hear that from the Prime Minister of Australia, but maybe we did.
I think if enough people really start kind of talking about a different approach, then it is unavoidable. We have the right democratic system and people in politics will listen, whether it's at the regional level or the state level, community level, all the way up to D.C. Right now, I am hugely gratified to see the entire community in Salinas is just—and coastal, the Central California coast, they're really embracing this concept right now as far as I can tell and it's—I mean, how cool is that? I think it's really neat. I have no idea what party these people belong to, none. I mean, I'm dealing with farmers and ranchers and vintners and fishermen and aquaculturists. I don't even ask what party they belong to and I'm blissfully non-political because I'm in uniform.
So, we just need to have that kind of sense of unity again, and I think we can do that. I really do.
Jim Elser: We have time for one more question before the appetizers and apple pie, anybody?
Audience Member 5: I'll try to make it quick. What educational model do you think could fit the needs of this narrative that you're talking about, this new kind of America?
Captain Porter: Great question. I'm glad that's the last question because I don't want to lose sight of the number one priority which should be education. In fact, in the Salinas project, education is the foundation, K through 12 education, forms the foundation for trying to build the right professional base, academic base, consumer base, you name it, that has a much greater understanding of sustainability and ecology as it applies to their particular environment.
To answer your question, I've done a lot of reading about this. I don't know that there is, because we are such a huge nation, diverse and our education systems are probably rightfully driven by the states and not the Federal government, necessarily. That's the way it's designed. It's very difficult to say that there is a single model, but here's what I can tell you honestly. The finished model, I think, is really interesting. Somebody said to me, I think last night, that—or maybe it was today, that things will never change until we start recognizing what the most—what the most valued jobs are in America. Right now we're a 76 percent service-based economy. There is something wrong with that. That's the way that the Romans went, that's the way that the Brits went, and it's—I don't think it's a strong foundation to build going forward. Really, we need to re-energize our manufacturing base.
My point is this: the most highly sought job in Finland is being a teacher, and to be an elementary school teacher you have to have a Master's degree, and you stay with your cohort of students for the entire term of elementary school. So, the kids stay with the same teacher so there's continuity over time.
In America, if you bring that up, people are going to say, you must be out of your mind, and I would too. You think I want my kid staying with that teacher for eight years? Are you crazy? Well, maybe it's because we don't have the right standards, and we don't have the right parental involvement, we don't have the right community involvement in the schools. Maybe if we did, we would have a different perception.
I'm not saying that the Finnish model is the best. It is one that we should be looking at to see if we can incorporate elements of that. Singapore is another one. The Singapore method of mathematics, for instance, very interesting. I also want to say that when I talk about education, I am not focusing solely on STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Very important that we do that. It's also equally important that we focus on philosophy and art and literature and sports and everything else. You have to have a well-rounded individual who is capable of critical thinking. You can't focus on one, you can't focus on the other, you've got to give them some kind of a broad understanding or basis to perform critical thinking.
And the last aspect of this, there's a video, a YouTube video, it's really short, 12 minutes long, it's by Sir Ken Robinson, it's called I think, Divergent Thinking. It's outrageous. It's really interesting to watch, it's fun to watch, it's animated, but he talks about the fact that divergent intelligence is—there is actually a thing called divergent intelligence quotient, and the way that you judge a person's divergent intelligence, for instance, is you ask how many functions can you find for a paper clip.
Well, as it turns out, the assertion he makes in this video is that kids in Kindergarten are in the 98th percentile internationally in divergent thinking, and by the time they finish school, at least in Britain, because he's British, by the time they finish, by the time they're 15, they're in the 50th percentile and by the time they're finished with school they're done, you know what I mean? Forget it.
So, what he's saying is, that we're actually training creative problem solving out of our kids through the system of education, so I'm just saying I think there are probably a number of models that we could look at and I think it's worth trying to run pilot programs at the community level in a bunch of different places, and they probably need to be tailored to the communities in which they exist to really develop the support they would need to succeed. That's how I would answer that question. I didn't mean to cop out.
[End of Audio]