Educating a Mustang can be dangerous!

By Craig Johnson

The Joint Cruise Missiles Project 3 (JCMP3) located in Crystal City, Arlington, Virginia had decided that the Submarine Launched Program Office (SLPO) needed to have its own business manager.

Photo Credit: The Salute Uniforms

Photo Credit: The Salute Uniforms

I was a Mustang, prior enlisted, lieutenant junior grade (LTJG) assigned to the SLPO.  When I was commissioned from chief torpedoman to ensign I had not had any college education to speak of. I decided that to be more competitive for advancement, I should get a college education.

Having made this decision, I went to the education office located at the Pass Office, personnel, in Crystal City, Arlington, Va.  Sitting down with the counselor, they recommended that I work with the University of the State of New York.

I contacted the college and made arrangements to register with them at their local office in Washington, DC.  When I got there, they had a long line of students waiting to register.  I noticed that they had a library for students and asked if I could go in there while the line went down. They told me to go ahead and that they would call me when they were ready to talk to me.

While walking around the library, I found a copy of the school’s regulations.  My first chief had taught me to always read the regulations so I said, “Why not?” and sat down at a table to do that. I was really surprised to find one little paragraph in the regulations on registration that stated that if a student paid the $350 registration fee, he or she could challenge any number of courses in their area of study by taking an exam on that subject.

If they got a B or better, they would get full credit for the course and would not have to pay for it.  If they got less than a B, they would be required to take the course and pay for it. I very quickly got a course requirement list for my area of study and filled out the challenge request for every course on the list.  I then waited to talk to the counselor.

Shortly after I had completed this list, I was called into the office of my assigned counselor.  After we introduced ourselves to each other, I handed her a copy of my receipt for registration and my challenge request.  Her response was, “You are not allowed to do this!”

I handed her a copy of the school regulations and said, “According to your school regulations in the library, I can.”

After about an hour, the school’s response was that I had to take the tests every morning over the next four weeks plus an eight-hour test on one Saturday.  So the following Monday, I started this with the support of my command. Two weeks after completing the four weeks of testing, I received a letter from the school saying that I had enough credits to graduate with my Bachelor of Science degree.

The senior officers from the admiral down were amazed.  My captain called me into his office and said that since I had not used my GI Bill benefits, he would support me doing a Master’s degree.  I told him I would check with the education office and see what they could set me up with.

Basically, the first of the next month I started my Master of Science degree program with Central Michigan offices in the Washington, D.C. area.  One of the first courses I took was the environments of administration.

This course would prove to be extremely helpful in performing my job at JCMP3. It was taught by a civil service person from the Senior Executive Service of the U.S. Federal Government who had been in Washington working with Congress to develop laws and more importantly, regulations for the Federal Register.  He taught me how to go about getting things done in Washington by manipulating the bureaucracy.

In addition to the Central Michigan course, the new business manager in our office was very happy to show me how the different colors of money worked in the annual Congressional Budget and its effect on what the Pentagon could do with the different types of money.

One of my many functions was to act as the training support agent for all cruise missiles. This meant that I was responsible for working with the Naval Service Training Commands to develop training for cruise missiles. I distributed the funds for developing this type of training and was one of the required signatures for approving new training.

One of the commands that supported me was the Naval Underwater Systems Command (NUSC) in Newport, Rhode Island.  I asked the NUSC to host a meeting with all of the contractors involved in developing Tomahawk cruise missiles and the fleet representatives from both coasts.

Naval Training Command wanted me to give them $45 million to build a new training facility in Dam Neck, Va. At this meeting, I informed all present that this was a brainstorming meeting and anything that stuck to the wall would be considered.

It was 1984 and all Navy personnel computers with installed hard drives were just being introduced to the civilian population. What they came up with was using desk top computers with 12 ¾ inch CDs for interactive simulation training.  It was determined that we would need $3 million  to develop seven courses and buy the equipment for seven portable training systems with four units each.

One problem, I did not have any money in the budget for either the budget requests nor the $3 million and definitely not the $45 million. It was now time to put my education to work. I contacted several Congressional Aides who worked for key players in the defense budget and invited them to lunch.

While at lunch, I asked them for advice since I was only a junior naval officer and did not know what I was doing. I explained that I had been tasked to request $45 million to build a training facility but had come up with a way to save money on several layers.

They asked what I wanted to do and how it would save money.  I told them what we could do with the portable training school, which did away with the need for a $45 million dollar building. Plus the other benefit was that we could save money by sending the training to the commands that needed it at minimal shipping costs. If we built the one building, then we would be sending sailors and would have to pay for travel and other costs.

They liked my idea and wrote out the body of a memo that they wanted me to submit my plan up my chain of command.  When the memo reached their bosses office, they would take care of it from that point on.

I went back to my office, wrote out the plan on a standard short government memo form and submitted it. A short time later, my captain called me in and asked, “Craig, do we really need this?”

“Yes, sir!” I responded.

He then signed it and forwarded it up the chain of command.

The following year, the Pentagon got its new budget and shortly after it arrived, all hell broke loose. Congress had sent the budget with a one-line item entry stating that $3 million was assigned to not just my command but my desk code directly. This was not heard of before.

What it meant was that I controlled that $3 million and no one in the chain of command had the authority to take it for anything else.  It was locked in to me.

The admiral called my captain and me to his office to find out how this happened since he had to go back to his superiors and explain. I was very innocent in my response to all of this and showed them the memo that I had submitted, which said nothing other than I was the originator with my desk code.

It should be understood that a Mustang is an officer, like myself, who has been promoted up through the ranks of Navy enlisted personnel through an in-service procurement program, which in my case was the opportunity to acquire a Bachelor of Science degree. Add to that the knowledge I acquired on how to manipulate the Washington bureaucracy and this type of thing was bound to happen!

However, I was dismissed with the understanding that all of my correspondence after that concerning money had to be looked at by the Navy’s chief of staff.

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3 responses to “Educating a Mustang can be dangerous!

  1. Great story Craig!

  2. Pingback: Old beliefs die hard in U.S. Navy | Bangari Content Gallery

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