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Joint force concept is key to Hampton Roads' economic prosperity
Joint force concept is key to Hampton Roads' economic prosperity
As seen in Inside Business

If you want something done right, do it yourself. Right?

More often than not, we slip down this path and what is intended to help only hurts. We have vision, we have passion and we have resources so who better to get the job done right than us? Until one day you wake up and realize nothing of significance truly gets done alone.

The novelist needs the editor, the contractor needs the architect; collaboration is key to the success in any project of magnitude. Establishing Hampton Roads into a first-rate region for economic growth is no exception.


There are many organizations throughout our region working every day to make this area the best it can be, but often they hesitate to work together. This stovepipe model continues to threaten our region’s long-term success.

This reluctance to work together is puzzling considering our region’s large military presence. With every branch of service represented within our borders we should realize the benefit of operating collaboratively better than any other region in the country. Our military functions together and interacts seamlessly toward the successful execution of any mission it is given. But it wasn’t always this way.

They were once stagnating in their own stovepiped operations, each service well-intentioned but unable to function efficiently and effectively with its sister services toward the greater good of the nation’s defense. It wasn’t until the hallmark legislation called The Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 that things began to change. We now have the greatest military in the history of mankind!

The Goldwater-Nichols Act put in place legislation to change the way the services were structured and interacted with each other. Instead of working independently, Goldwater-Nichols legislated the creation of “Joint Forces.”

Our military and interagency organizations now train and work together, using their combined assets, technological advances, and sheer talent to improve interoperability to support specific functions or geographic regions. Goldwater-Nichols ended counterproductive inter-service rivalry and created a unified, streamlined military.

Our military is stronger and able to face more complex national security challenges on a global scale because of these changes. Now, through collaboration, our nation’s defensive forces are unparalleled. That’s the power of working together and that’s the kind of environment we need to create here in Hampton Roads to improve our economy.

In no way am I suggesting we pass legislation to create this regional environment. I am proposing we focus on the outcome of Goldwater-Nichols and use the theory behind it to our benefit.

Take a moment to think about the endless possibilities of what we could accomplish for our region if we started thinking “jointly.”

How can we best combine our individual strengths for the betterment of the region? How do we accomplish each of our economic missions with greater precision and excellence? The answer is we work to our strengths and collaborate as much as possible.


This idea is not a new one. The GO Virginia economic development initiative ties funding for private-sector growth and job creation to proof of collaboration by business, education and government. That’s how important it is in the business sector. Even on their website they proclaim it. “Growth in Virginia’s diverse regions requires collaboration.”

Growth in Hampton Roads is no different. We need to collaborate. Our economic success is dependent on it. I’ve seen it firsthand. We cannot get anything of significance done as a chamber without the buy-in, support and efforts from other organizations. Likewise, we go out of our way to support other like-minded organizations and key initiatives.

Where we need to focus our energy is finding the best ways to work to our strengths. We need to institute (not legislate) a Goldwater-Nichols Act of the Hampton Roads economic development organizations. After all, we all want the same outcome.

We want to be a part of an economically thriving, prosperous and diverse region. Collaboration is how we get there and we need to start now.


Bryan K. Stephens
President & CEO
Bryan K. Stephens is President & CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber.
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