Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What is an Information Professional?

Me: Hi, I'm LCDR Stephen Gray
Other Naval Officer: Nice to meet you. I see you have that new pin [IDWO]... What do you do?
Me: I'm an Information Professional Officer.
Other Naval Officer: What's that?

This summarizes my most common interaction with other officers that are not part of the Information Dominance Corps (IDC).  While I've become much better at answering this question, mostly because I expect it, I find it unfortunate that the frequency in which I get it hasn't changed.

So what do I say?  I say: "The Information Professional (IP) community is part of the Information Dominance Corps.  We are the leader for the Navy's IT operations and investments and we provide communication, network, and space capabilities to operational commanders."

Of course, there is a lot more to an IP officer than just that.  One of the reasons as to why many people don't know about what IP officers do is because they don't interact with them until much later in their career because:
1) There are only approximately 40-70 Ensigns and Lieutenants Junior Grade IPs at any one time throughout the whole Navy, and
2) Their first interaction with an IP officer is on a CVN, LHD, Carrier Strike Group, Expeditionary Strike Group, of Numbered Fleet Staff.

So, as an answer to this challenge, IP Community leaders have put together a working group to focus on strategic communication.  Two years ago a similar group released an IP Community Brochure that I thought was fairly effective.  Given the leadership focus this initiative is being given, I am hopeful the results will build on the strengths of this previous work.  This current group is not only focused on internal strategic communication, but also external communication.  

The importance of external strategic communication was highlighted for me last week as I did an interview for a highly qualified Direct Commission Officer candidate.  This candidate's interest is in the IDC, but he had trouble finding out what the IP Community does.  I spent considerable time during the interview answering his questions, but unfortunately, I believe the lack of discoverable information is a significant reason he will likely not be listing the IP Community as his primary choice.

Have you had encountered officers that unfamiliar with your IDC community?  What do you think should be part of a strategic communications plan for the IP, or any other IDC Community?  How would you disseminate it?  Do you think it's even necessary?


  1. Yes, find people unfamiliar with IP's and IDWO all the time. My experiences with CTF 56 have led me to believe that the IDC has (to the few people outside of the IDC who have the vaguest idea of what we do) three very broad generalizations:

    What information to share - Intel/Metoc
    How to move or share info - IP
    How to make sense of other's info and make sure an adversary can't make sense of ours - IW

    In order to really help others outside of the IDC understand what we do we have to see ourselves from their perspective. We have to realize that the "How" in "How to move or share info" is more than what radios or networks are available. As leaders, we become ambassadors from person to person, command to command, so that people don't just start screaming at each other once good comms are established.

    The only way to disseminate this effectively is to actually see our shipmates and their challenges, explain how we can help, and the help by leading by example.

    It's not only necessary, it's vital.

  2. Pete,

    I agree with you. What I have found during my career so far is that whoever sits at the table and puts up good ideas, no matter what their rank/designator is, are the ones that will make a difference.

    At the most recent IP Training Conference I attended, RADM Hamby made it a point to say that for IPs to be more effective, we needed to integrate ourselves into planning and operations. During the Terminal Fury 2012 Exercise, even though I was "just a liaison," I felt like I could be much more effective by injecting myself into meetings and discussions in which I could add value. It proved worthwhile and I think left a good impression of Naval Network Warfare Command up at Fleet Cyber Command.

    The last point I would make is that an IDC officer needs to make sure they understand the missions, functions, and tasks of the units we are supporting. Many times, it is easy to lock yourself away behind a locked door where most of your work takes place. It pays dividends to get out among the rest of the command to understand what they are doing and where their challenges are so you can find ways to make them more effective. This is even more important and challenging for NCTAMS/NCTS/NIOC because our customer is not on-site with us.

    Thanks for your comment Pete. It's good to hear from you.