VADM Debbink transitioned to the Navy Reserve, went home, joined MSI General, and began turning his military engineering experience into civilian skills with structural and civil engineering courses. [...] if you're not delivering value - and in their eyes, by the way - how can you expect to receive the funding you need? To that end, the new chief has spent a good share of his time already with leaders on Capitol Hill, among the Joint Chiefs, Navy Reserve Forces New Orleans, the Offices of the Secretary of Defense and of Reserve Affairs, and his counterparts in the service branches.
By Elizabeth H. Manning, Senior Editor New Navy Reserve chief brings engineering experience, client focus to post. Eighteen months ago, Navy Reservist Dirk J. Debbink stepped down from running the design-and-build company his father founded in 1957 in his hometown of Oconomowoc, Wis., and began to pack up for Washington. First deputy and now chief of the Navy Reserve, VADM Debbink brought with him the skills he has learned not only as a surface warfare officer but also as a structural engineer and businessman. “From an engineering point of view, you learn to make decisions based on facts and metrics,” VADM Debbink told The Officer in an interview at the Pentagon, where he is still settling into the office he took over from VADM John G. Cotton. VADM Dirk J. Debbink He received his Senate confirmation on July 22 as the Navy Reserve’s 12th chief. “So often you hear anecdotes or you hear circumstantial evidence. And when you’re making decisions for, in our case, a force of 68,000 Reservists, is there any one decision that’s going to be perfect for every one of those 68,000? It’s not going to happen that way. But you need to make decisions based on what’s best, first and foremost, for our nation’s defense. Then, second of all, what’s best for our drilling Reservists especially. So you apply the engineering mentality.” Metrics is a word oft repeated in the Navy these days as part of its Enterprise Initiative—an effort to reshape management along the lines of business. Metrics help evaluate return on investment, effectiveness of outcomes, efficiency of processes, and a variety of other business-oriented practices. In the face of increasing costs—particularly in personnel and in acquisitions of ships and aircraft—the Navy across its commands is trying to run a tighter shop, as it were. Conducting “the business of defense,” as VADM Debbink puts it, is a model in which the new chief feels at home. He was six years out of the Naval Academy and serving as flag lieutenant for the commander of the U.S. naval forces in Japan when his father flew from Wisconsin “for a friendly family visit, or so I thought,” recalled VADM Debbink with a smile. Pete Debbink had gradually expanded his business over the years, and now was working on a succession plan. “It would be great if you’d consider coming back,” he told his son. 26 the Officer / NOVeMBer 2008 WWW.ROA.ORG “The most difficult decision I’ve ever made was to leave the operational capability for the Navy until 2014. Given that, he Active Component,” says that son today. VADM Debbink said, “the way I need to help my Sailors is to figure out what are transitioned to the Navy Reserve, went home, joined MSI the issues with the current system—which does work, it’s just General, and began turning his military en
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