Station HYPO is proud to host the following article written by CAPT David Houff, an active duty Intelligence Officer and Commanding Officer of NIOC Texas.
My first insight, and one that my CMC and I comment upon frequently with our sailors, is that we’re amazed at the talent level of our force.  Frankly, we both note that “our junior sailor- and JO-selves” would simply not have been able to compete with the sailors/officers we see on a daily basis in the command.  It makes it very easy to accomplish mission with such a talented and dedicated workforce.  It is not at all unusual to see our most junior sailors provide subject matter expertise and briefings to very senior officers and members of the intelligence community.  We’re in great shape now, and will continue to be, as these junior personnel mature into future CMCs and COs.

Second, I greatly benefit from cross-detailing personally and see the potential to expand cross-community/cross-designator opportunities for officers at more junior levels moving forward.  Although it is critical to allow JOs to develop their tradecraft within designator, there are probably selective opportunities for cross-designator billets that will help broaden the IWC’s ability to synchronize and leverage the diversity of the community in support of the fleet.  Numerous officers in my wardroom have asked about the potential to do this and are eager for the challenges such assignments would bring.  My observations in Texas lead me to characterize the information warfare community (particularly linkages between “intel” and “cryptology”) as “never closer.”  In fact, I was surprised at how much our notionally “single source” command leverages “All Source” to conduct our current missions, and I already knew the value of cryptologic input into the work being done at intel centers or on major intel staffs.  Bringing a higher knowledge level of METOC and IP capabilities could help us grow even closer as an IWC.  It is clear that we’re progressing well on building an IWC culture.

Third, and certainly not specific to just the IWC, is a question that I (and my CMC) get asked frequently by our officers and sailors–“how do you prepare to command (or to become a Chief/CMC)?”  My answer is that nothing fully prepares you for the variety of “command” scenarios that are always circumstantially different, but the best steps to prepare are to: (1) seek out a diversity of billets and responsibilities that will broaden your experiences in various scenarios and (2) seek duties that bring you into contact with command decisions (e.g., be the legal officer, SAPR POC, DAPA, etc.).  Similar to working out physically, building “reps” of situations and decisions arms you to be a better sailor, chief, and/or officer and gets you as prepared as possible for command challenges.

CAPT David Houff biography:

Captain Houff is currently assigned as the Commanding Officer, Navy Information Operations Command, Texas at San Antonio, TX.

As a Junior Officer, he served in USS UNDERWOOD (FFG-36).  Transitioning from Surface Warfare to Naval Intelligence, he was assigned to the Chief of Naval Operations Intelligence Plot (CNO-IP) at the Pentagon as a watch officer.  Following the Pentagon assignment, he served as Naval Intelligence Watch Officer and Director of Naval Intelligence (DNI) briefer at the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), Suitland, Maryland.  He then was the Senior Intelligence Analyst at U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and U.S. FIFTH FLEET Headquarters in Manama, Bahrain, supporting Maritime Interception Operations and OPERATIONS SOUTHERN WATCH and DETERMINED RESPONSE.  He also served as the Assistant Flag Intelligence Officer (N2) for Commander Cruiser-Destroyer Group TWO/Commander GEORGE WASHINGTON Battle Group, where he completed a combat deployment including missions in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM, OPERATION SOUTHERN WATCH, and OPERATION NOBLE EAGLE. After CRUDESGRU TWO, he served as Assistant U.S. Naval Attaché in Moscow, Russia, where he represented Senior US Government, DOD, and USN officials to their counterparts in the Russian Federation.  He also was a military professor at the Naval War College in Newport, RI.  Immediately prior to reporting to USAFRICOM, he was the Deputy Commander of the Joint Special Operations Command Intelligence Brigade (JIB), where he led over 500 all-service, civilian, interagency, and contractor intelligence personnel supporting JSOC’s vital special operations missions.

CAPT Houff earned a B.S. degree in History, with distinction and honors, from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1991 and a M.A. degree in History from the University of Maryland, College Park. He is a graduate (with highest distinction) from the U.S. Naval War College’s College of Naval Command and Staff as well as from the Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC).  While at the JFSC, CAPT Houff received the MacArthur Award for excellence in critical campaign analysis/writing.  He is a Joint Qualified Officer.  He also is a graduate of the Defense Language Institute-Washington, D.C., in the Russian language.