Robert Timberg: Christ Figure?

In a surprise move, the U.S. Naval Institute (USNI) has fired its prominent editor in chief of Proceedings magazine. Shock waves from the Annapolis, Md.,-based epicenter reverberated, underscored by the flurry of e-mails and scant news coverage on this latest blow to the historic, though beleaguered organization.

Defense News reported author Robert Timberg had been fired Wednesday by USNI CEO Tom Wilkerson because of a “personal dispute with others.” Neither Timberg nor USNI officials would elaborate.

But others familiar with the USNI were happy to dish in hopes that someone will look into what seems to be a trend in senior shake-ups in the past five years.

We’re told Wilkerson recently held an all-hands jamboree with USNI employees. It seems USNI’s finances have suffered in part to the recent downturn in the financial sector. (USNI’s economic woes are no secret and have been recounted in the news.)  Ol’ Tim said pay hikes, COLA, and such would be frozen to avert having to let anyone go. 

Apparently the sanity was short-lived.

The retired two-star and Marine flyboy tossed two people anyway. It seems Timberg got mad. (Really, really mad.) Wilkerson might have heard Timberg’s expressions of anger from another floor. Not sure what was said, but the editor in chief soon joined Wilkerson’s other two targets. Our guess is Timberg had strong feelings over some other issues that have plagued the venerable organization. In its 135-year history the USNI has not been known for turnover, drama, and instability. (They like to leave those things to Bancroft Hall, the Navy’s shipbuilding programs, and the U.S. Marine Corps.)

Timberg graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1964. (Wilkerson is class of ’67.) He made his name as a White House correspondent in the 1980s for the Baltimore Sun. His books include The Nightingale’s Song, and he’s written a biography about John McCain. Had McCain won the election, we wonder if Wilkerson would have kicked Timberg to the curb.  

Robert Timberg still was listed as Proceedings’ editor in chief as of this posting. 

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