• Rej Cortez Torrecampo

Applying Network Governance Principles for the PH Navy’s Naval Cooperation

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The Philippine Navy celebrated its 123rd anniversary in May 2021. In the previous year, the navy has manifested its commitment to continuously modernize its forces through new acquisitions, decommissioning of legacy assets, and participation in several international exercises, training, and conferences. These are welcomed developments towards strengthening the country’s maritime capabilities and demonstrating its status as an archipelagic state.

This also provides an opportunity for the navy to adopt new internal management models in managing its growing network of partners, especially its cooperation with foreign navies and maritime forces. The navy, like any other hierarchical organization, is challenged by its departmentalism, tunnel vision, and vertical silos that contribute to the difficulty in keeping up with changes. This article proposes a governance framework for its naval cooperation based on the general principles of network governance. This framework aims to provide an integrated approach to the planning, execution, and evaluation of the various cooperation activities of the navy. Moreover, it has the potential to produce innovation opportunities through more rapid and less politically charged responses and decision-making to new situations and conditions the navy may find itself in.

Similar to other armed forces, international security cooperation is one of the functions of militaries to support the implementation of higher strategies and plans. In recent years, the Armed Forces of the Philippines has been working to streamline its various bilateral and multilateral engagements with the guidance of the Department of National Defense. As a response, the Philippine Navy proactively crafted its service-wide naval cooperation plan which is evident in the policy and academic discourse on maritime security for more initiatives on regional naval cooperation, especially as a component in managing the South China Sea disputes.

In practice, the navy maintains several bilateral and multilateral partnerships through its various staff and units. Within these, some partnerships have multi-agency membership and various commitments and requirements. Depending on the nature of the activity, the management of each is assigned to the office or unit that executes the appropriate function. For instance, foreign education programs are under the management of the education and training staff while naval exercises are assigned to two different units depending on the exercise location. Information-sharing arrangements are naturally handed to the intelligence units while cooperation with international contractors is within the purview of its own working group. The fleet and marines also participate, manage, and evaluate certain international engagements.

Without proper management, these silos create blind spots for other staff and units engaged in international operations and activities. This makes naval cooperation a complex network that needs to be effectively managed in order to produce results that are beneficial to the navy and its stakeholders. Instead of looking at these partnerships as independent or isolated units, they are best treated as a network of partnerships that require different management systems to create value.

General Design Principles

As defined by O’Toole, networks are structures of independence involving multiple organizations or parts thereof, where one unit is not merely the formal subordinate of the others in some larger hierarchical management. Thus, network governance is a multilateral and collaborative approach that allows actors to take on issues and problems that transcend single-unit concerns. It is implemented through managing the interaction processes, activating networks to assess a problem and develop solutions, setting up ad hoc organizational arrangements to support existing interactions, facilitating joint action, and conflict management.

A network governance model for the navy may look like a web of interconnections among staff and units that plan, execute, and evaluate its bilateral and multilateral engagements. Whether the Philippine Navy chooses to assign a central staff to manage the network or to create a new office particularly for this function, deliberate designing of the network and observance of certain principles are crucial to producing the desired outcomes.

First, the goals that the navy hopes to accomplish in undertaking naval cooperation must be clear. Making these goals explicit will help determine what the members of the network should do. This will also facilitate goal congruence, which is an important element in a well-functioning network. Goal congruence, as used by Goldsmith and Eggers, is about the congruence of outcomes, not processes. Although some may argue that goal congruence is not an issue for the navy as long as these are identified in the plan, the risk of having participants concerned with maximizing their own interest at the expense of the network’s objectives is still high. Furthermore, goals that have unclear and unmeasurable outcomes also run the risk of incongruence. As a recommendation, adhering to legal processes and norms-building, determining specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based (SMART) goals, as well as undertaking constant evaluation could be key steps toward solving the potential goal incongruence.

Second, the network should establish reliable communication channels, coordinate activities between members, and build trusting relationships which are critical for a well-designed network. In the case of a hierarchical organization, internal horizontal constraints on communication and coordination will pose a challenge for the network. The network must be able to work around these constraints to limit the delays in information sharing, coordination for planning and execution, and evaluation of activities. One potential solution is developing a data strategy that will guide the collection, use, storage, and distribution of information across the network for better planning and decision-making. Additionally , digital connections and modern,interoperable information systems contribute to solving the communication and coordination problem. If all the parts of the network speak the same language, use the same data sets, and share information without delay, then integration of planning, execution, and evaluation will be more efficient and effective.

Third, accountability must be sorted out at the onset of designing the network. Since the network will have a lot of moving parts where coordination is both vertical and horizontal, determining who is responsible when something goes wrong will be a challenge. This is where the hierarchy of responsibility becomes valuable to the network. Based on its current structure, the navy can determine who should be held accountable and by whom. Thus the navy may consider the flexible model in ensuring accountability whereby finances are evaluated in terms of proof of performance, and performance is measured by the outcomes. In this model, penalties and rewards are closely tied to the results. Therefore, the ability to hold the network and its parts accountable is linked with clear goals and their alignment with the values of the institution, explicit structure of incentives, and ability to measure network performance and manage change.

Fourth, a well-designed network should have an integrator who can coordinate activities, handle problems, and ensure the quality of outputs and outcomes. Integration is not simply putting existing lists together into one database or centralizing the logistics needed for each activity; it involves the thoughtful and careful consolidation of information, processes, and outcomes of every part of the network. If the Philippine Navy opts to adopt a network approach to managing its naval cooperation, then it must find a way to develop the competencies and capabilities to build a critical mass of network managers. Apart from the traditional management competencies of planning, budgeting, and staffing, among others, network managers require new competencies such as activating, arranging, stabilizing, integrating and managing a network. Further down the line, these people who possess the needed network skills must be retained and promoted to reflect their value to the organization.


While expanding partnership with foreign navies, maritime agencies, and private contractors is important in addressing our maritime security challenges, the management consequences of this must also be dealt with head-on. Some changes will have to be made in order to make these partnerships and cooperative arrangements work towards enhancing public value.

The network approach is certainly appealing to contribute to solving the management challenges brought about by the Philippine Navy’s increased cooperation and expanded partnerships. Designing a network for its international engagements may be considered in its naval cooperation plan. In this way, the navy can decide what should be integrated into the network and what can be done in pieces. Along with the process of designing a network, the navy can also deepen its understanding and appreciation of these seemingly independent engagements and how these contribute to its mission and objectives. It then becomes a process of learning and discovering on top of it being a management process. In this sense, the Philippine Navy will better understand itself, and be able to use that knowledge to create more value for its partners and stakeholders.


This article is based on the work of Goldsmith and Eggers, “Governing by Network: The New Shape of the Public Sector”, 2004.


Rej Cortez Torrecampo is a Manila-based independent defense and security analyst who currently studies collaborative governance. He holds a master’s degree in Development Management from the Asian Institute of Management.

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