Bannon: 'I Was Put on to Ensure that It Was De-Operationalized'

Lookups spiked after Bannon was removed from the National Security Council

Lookups for operationalize spiked 3196% on April 5, 2017 after President Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, was removed from the principals committee of the National Security Council. A senior White House official said that Bannon’s role on the council had been to “de-operationalize” the Council. In a statement, Bannon himself also used the term:

Susan Rice operationalized the NSC during the last administration. I was put on to ensure that it was de-operationalized. General McMaster has returned the NSC to its proper function.

Operationalize means simply “to make operational,” which in this instance means “of, engaged in, or connected with execution of military or naval operations in campaign or battle.” It entered the language in the early 1950s, and has the technical and unemotional tone of words used in military jargon. De-operationalize uses the prefix de- meaning “remove” or “do the opposite of.” The word is rarely found in this negative form (and we do not enter de-operationalize), but operationalize is found in the vocabulary of social sciences, politics, and policy:

The three-tiered prevention approach has been used extensively to conceptualize and operationalize disease prevention in the public health arena.
—George Sugai, School Psychology Review, 2003

The news website Politico quotes one unnamed insurance-industry official saying the House bill would be "almost impossible to operationalize... bordering on herculean."
—Mark Trumbull, Christian Science Monitor, 11 December 2013

To operationalize these measures, we used age-specific cutoffs for obesity as defined by the CDC.
—Michael Seipel and Kevin Shafer, Social Work, July 2013

A central problem for arms control policy as for the assessment of candidate agreements is that it is exceedingly difficult to operationalize the goals of arms control.
—Colin S. Gray, Weapons Don’t Make War, 1993

Words ending in -ize like this were sometimes disapproved of in the past, particularly finalize, which was used by both President Eisenhower and President Kennedy—famous military veterans.

Those presidents (and this dictionary) were criticized for using or including the word.

Trend Watch tracks and reports on the words that people are looking up. You can see all the Trend Watch articles here.

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