U.S. Navy Wants to Invest in Graduate-Level Education for Officers

U.S. Naval War College (file image)

By The Maritime Executive 03-06-2020 10:17:00

Late last month, U.S. Navy Chief Learning Officer John Kroger gave a preview of the service's new "Education for Seapower Strategy," a master plan for training that was commissioned in the aftermath of the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain tragedies. Part of the plan addresses much-needed improvements in technical and practical training, but it also addresses a stragetic reality - knowledge-driven competition with rising maritime powers. 

“In a world where the United States no longer has massive economic and technological advantage, where we are dealing with potential peer adversaries for the first time in 30 years, we’re going to have to be able to out-think opponents in order to outfight them,” Kroger told faculty at the Naval War College. “We need to send more officers to more graduate education, and we need to do that in ways that are directly tied to our warfighting capability.”

Every year, about three percent of Navy officers are in some form of graduate education program, but Kroger said that this number needs to climb significantly. Some of the increase will come at the Naval War College, the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and civilian higher-education campuses, Kroger said. 

The strategy also calls for a new midcareer online curriculum for officers. Additionally, the naval services will add more “low-residence” education - that is, programs where students travel to a classroom a few times a month and work remotely for the rest of the time.

For enlisted sailors, the new Naval Community College program will welcome its first group of enlisted students in January 2021. Civilian Navy employees will also have access to the Naval Community College program, Kroger said. 

For midcareer civilians, a newly authorized program will send midlevel managers to get master’s degrees in disciplines such as management and finance.

“All of this comes together in what is a strategy to try to lift the educational level of every single element of our force,” Kroger said. “It’s a recognition that in our current geopolitical environment, our single biggest potential advantage is the quality of our people."