“meta-organizations”32 approaches understood and ready to be executed in minutes to hours across the appropriate skill and authority areas. This is important not only to support the immediate responses, but to rapidly examine other areas where an adversary might use these capabilities and very rapidly prepare responses to mitigate those potential capability surprise extensions across the entire regime that might be at risk.

While the committee has not yet explored the potential for generating meaningful metrics that might be used in addressing naval preparedness for dealing with potential capability surprise, we believe a cultural shift is needed towards increased flexibility and agility to react when such surprise or “black swan” events occur. This committee believes that integral to the organizations’ effectiveness in dealing with surprise is the issue of metrics, and the potential incorporation of surprise readiness into these metrics. Concepts to develop and integrate the culture of surprise readiness across the naval enterprise will be presented in the final report.


All naval forces of the world have been nurtured in an environment that breeds on honing one’s ability to deal with surprise. Professionalism as a mariner was often judged by an ability to “read” the winds and seas or to “weather” a storm without lost of limb or ships capability. This single-handed ability to deal with the surprises faced by the captain of a vessel is a classic template that has colored naval operations since 1776.

Thankfully, tremendous advances in technology and information sharing have given captains enhanced tools and data with which to face today’s surprises—as long as the event has been previously experienced and a reliable solution known.

However, when a totally new surprise emerges, it takes strong leadership to steer away from “let the captain handle it” or “let the commander and his staff figure this one out.” An ad hoc approach to facing a new problem is not likely to result in a high-quality solution, even less likely to be worthy of attribution to the mature and capable naval forces of the United States.

Historically, the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard have registered some “eye-watering” successes based upon timely and thoughtful ad hoc reaction to surprise. Similarly, some solutions have been less than stellar.

The goal of naval forces must be to always find the best reaction to a surprise, using the fullest measure of knowledge, intelligence, experience, and talent that can be brought to bear.

In the coming months, the committee plans to continue its work to provide an expanded and more comprehensive examination of the topics covered in this interim report and to complete its final report expeditiously. Furthermore, in the preparation of its final report, the committee will explore additional capability-surprise-related topics,


32Meta-organizations or meta-leadership are used when there are unexpected or fast changing situations such as in public health or homeland security to coordinate/lead across different organizations. An example was the response led by ADM Thad Allan, former Commandant of the Coast Guard, in response to Hurricane Katrina. Additional discussion on meta-organizations is found in the Scandinavian Management Journal, 2005, Vol. 21, Issue 4, 2005, pp. 429-449; available at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956522105000813. Accessed June 8, 2012.

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