Washington, D.C. (NNS) -- Now is the time for every ship, submarine, squadron and Navy command listed in the Standard Navy Distribution List to submit their annual, CNO-mandated, Command Operations Report (COR), said Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) operational archive personnel Mar. 6.

The archive, which collects the reports from the fleet every year by March 1, permanently records command operations and major achievements for future generations. For shore commands and squadrons, it's the only record that remains reliably on file for reference. Unlike ships, those commands don't use deck logs.

"The COR informs the planning and policy-making of Navy leadership," said Dan Jones, acting head of archives branch at NHHC. "Navy policy-makers from the CNO on down use them to inform their approaches to current issues, and sometimes, they need to go back decades in order to plan effectively."

The COR also plays a part for veterans. Long after a Sailor has left a command, and well after every Sailor he or she served with has left that command, a command's COR acts as a voice to tell of their overall deeds and actions and how they were significant to the Navy. It can also serve as a legal document for veterans.

"I am often asked by the [Veterans Administration] to provide documentation in order to support a veteran's claim," said Laura Waayers, an archivist at NHHC. "Many veterans assume that every activity they took part in was recorded and kept permanently by the Navy. The only permanent record covering a command's operations is the COR. 

"I'm afraid many veterans have been denied benefits because they were unable to prove certain events, either because their command didn't submit a COR, or because the COR was not detailed enough," she said.

When writing and compiling the report, commands should include any documents related to their primary activities, like deployments, underway periods, qualifications achieved and awards earned. Accuracy is essential. The archives staff said sometimes not all important activities and information have been written into the COR, and "unpleasant" information may be deliberately omitted altogether, distorting the historical record.

Conversely, despite a command's best efforts, some vital information goes unmentioned. Acronyms, for instance, stand for something and should be spelled out for the reader, who may not be in the military and would be unfamiliar with even the most common Navy terms. Operational names also need to be accompanied by a description.

"[They are] understood now, [but] may not be understood in 40 years," said Gordon. "Spell out the first time a term is used, [or] attach the operational orders/operational plans in the supporting reports section that define operations. Security is not an issue; classified reports can be submitted."

Examples of documents often missing or incomplete from reports include:

--Detailed chronologies that show the dates of movements and major operations of a command, with a narrative elaborating on the chronology
--An accurate description of the command's mission
--Supporting reports, which can be submitted "as is"
--Operational and administrative chains of command listing at least commanding and executive officers and command master chiefs
--Official records, such as medical logs, patrol reports, records about ship modifications, and message traffic. Also, commands with rotational crews, such as some submarines and patrol craft, need to submit complete reports for each crew.

In 2014, numerous commands are decommissioning or deactivating. Even if the command is leaving active service, commanders still need to submit a report in order to close out the history.

"History and heritage are important to the Navy, but everyone has to play their part in order to ensure that our naval heritage lives on," said Waayers.

NHHC is frequently contacted as a source by scholars, media and the public about naval heritage generally and the histories of specific ships and commands. FOIA inquiries are common, as well. When there's no report to refer to, there is a gaping hole in the Navy's historical narrative which also means the hard work and efforts of Navy commands and people go unrecognized. To help compile a report, authors may consider keeping a diary throughout the year and have access to key documents and reports.

"A COR is a command's opportunity to show how they fit in the larger Navy, and to argue for the importance of their mission," said Gordon. "At a time of fiscal difficulties and budgetary cutbacks, this is a dialogue that no command can afford to opt out of. If you're not willing to make this argument for your command and your Sailors, nobody will."

Exceptions to the March 1 deadline are possible, but commands need to contact NHHC in order to get this extension. Even if a command doesn't call or have an extension, they should still try to get the COR submitted as soon as possible.

The operational Navy instruction governing COR requirements and outlining guidance is OPNAVINST 5750.12K. Although the instruction requires an electronic copy be submitted to NHHC, due to technical issues, NHHC can no longer accept COR's via NIPR or SIPR email. Until further notice, all commands submitting unclassified, confidential, or secret reports shall submit CORs via commercial courier (FedEx or UPS). Remember to package and ship classified information in accordance with Secretary of the Navy Manual M-5510.36.

A delinquent list will be published by NHHC listing all commands which have not submitted a report, or been granted an extension.

The COR template can be downloaded at NHHC's website here:http://www.history.navy.mil/Commands/index.htm . 

For more information, reach out to Dale "Joe" Gordon at dale.gordon@navy.mil or John Greco at john.greco1@navy.mil or call NHHC Operational Archive front desk at 202-433-3224.