Jargon, convoluted obfuscation profundicates honcho

I forget who said it to me, but the line has been bouncing around in my head for years.

“We’re building partner capacity and promoting interoperability through sustained security engagement.”


Between all the jargon and acronyms—there are roughly 1,100 contained in Army Field Manual 1-02 alone— it’s easy to think English is a second language for some in the military.

In a memo to his staff this week, Navy Chief of Information Rear Adm. John Kirby urged his sailors to cut out the “jargon and gibberish” when telling the Navy's story.

“I think many of us have simply forgotten what it is to write well and speak well,” Kirby wrote in the memo.

In his memo, highlighted by Foreign Policy’s Friday “Situation Report,” Kirby rattled off a host of dingers.

“I once heard a general say -- no kidding -- that he was worried about a kinetic provocation‛ on the Korean peninsula. I’m pretty sure he meant attack.”

“We do not withdraw from Afghanistan. We retrograde. We do not come home. We redeploy. We do not muster out. We reintegrate. And when we do reintegrate, it’s to places INCONUS rather than just plain old stateside.”

For Kirby, words matter and using them more effectively is key to connecting with a population disconnected from the lives of its fighting men and women.

“We can no longer afford to say nothing,” Kirby wrote. “Each word must count. Each word must work as hard as we do. With resources declining and the gap growing between the military and the American people, we must at least try to communicate better and more clearly."

You can read Kirby’s full memo here.


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