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Ten Takeaways: The Education for Seapower Report

Ten Take-Aways: The Education for Seapower Report

In February 2019, the Department of the Navy issued its landmark Education for Seapower (E4S) Report, calling for major reform and improvement of our system of naval education for commissioned and enlisted Sailors and Marines. The Department of the Navy is beginning to implement the report’s recommendations at the direction of the Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer, through his memorandum to all naval forces. When fully implemented, these changes to our education and promotion systems will have a profound impact on our naval services. Because of this, it is essential that policy makers and indeed our entire force understand the report and its conclusions. I recommend that everyone read the full E4S report: it is filled with important insights into the nature of seapower in the 21st century and the essential contribution of education and intellectual development to maintaining naval dominance. Since, however, the main section of the report is 71 pages long, I thought it would be useful to summarize its main conclusions and recommendations. Accordingly, here is my take on the 10 most important takeaways you need to know about the future of Navy and Marine Corps education from the E4S report.

1.         Education of our force is vital to national security 

After exhaustive study of the strategic challenges we face as a nation, the E4S Board concluded: “The education of our naval leaders is the single most important way to prepare the Naval services, and the nation, for a dangerous and uncertain future.” As retired Admiral James Stavridis observed in the report, “In the end, 21st century warfare is brain-on-brain conflict, and we must build our human capital and intellectual capacity as surely as we produce the best pure war fighting technology if we are going to win the nation’s wars and advance its security.” 

2.         Our current educational efforts are inadequate 

Because our intellectual capital is so vital to our nation’s security, developing that capital through education becomes a top priority, at least as important as building platforms and weapons systems. The E4S report concluded that our current system of educating Sailors and Marines is “insufficient to create the operational and strategic leaders needed for the modern Navy and Marine Corps.” Indeed, the report noted that in some respects, we have gone backwards. “While 98% of Flag officers had attended the Naval War College on the eve of World War II, today, only roughly 20% have.”

NEWPORT, R.I. (March 19, 2018) U.S. Naval War College (NWC) students participate in a learning game beta test by NWC’s Joint Military Operations and Wargaming departments. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jess Lewis/Released)

3.         Immediate action is necessary

Unlike a weapons system, we can’t just buy a strategically-minded senior non-commissioned officer or field grade staff officer – it takes years of education and the right motivation to develop the creativity and critical thinking required to lead through an uncertain future. The E4S board concluded that inadequate intellectual development of our force “is THE fundamental problem that must be corrected now.” We need to strengthen our capabilities in leadership and ethics, strategic education, technology and science, organizational management, logistics and acquisition. Failure to change and improve, the report noted, would be a “strategic blunder.” This will require a major cultural shift, so that every naval warfare community and discipline recognizes the full value of education to our national security. 

4.         We must invest in and support our educational institutions

After studying the Naval War College, U.S. Naval Academy, Naval Postgraduate School, and Marine Corps University, the E4S Board concluded that though these schools have proud histories and talented faculty, they are “underfunded, under-prioritized, under-utilized, and disconnected from one another, without any unifying strategic vision or purpose.” The report noted in particular that “Faculty are not receiving enough funding to teach effectively, develop professionally, and conduct research.” To fix these problems, the report calls for the creation of a unified Naval University System, changes to intellectual property rules for faculty, major budget process reforms within the Pentagon, and an increase in high priority funding.

5.         We must create a Naval Community College for enlisted personnel

Our enlisted Marines and Sailors represent a national treasure, both in terms of intellect and selfless dedication to service. Yet we do not provide adequate educational opportunities that will help them develop their vast capacity to help solve the strategic challenges of the future. The report notes that despite many programs to support enlisted education, “valuable talent from the largest part of the services is not being utilized.” To tap into and develop this talent, the report calls for the creation of a Naval Community College offering “rigorous associate of science degree programs for naval sciences, with concentration , such as, data analytics, organizational behavior, and information systems.” 

6.         We need 21st century education

The E4S report recognizes that residential education delivered over an extended period of time in a traditional campus setting is a very valuable educational tool, but that deployments and operational and training needs often make residential education difficult to obtain. To address this problem, the report calls for adoption of more flexible education delivery models, including short executive courses, stackable certificates that lead to degrees over time, and better use of available technology to deliver education outside the brick and mortar classroom. The report also calls for two important changes in emphasis in our school curriculums: coursework leading to “greater understanding of emerging technologies,” and “more theoretical education in order to develop true critical thinkers and leaders.”  

NEWPORT, R.I. (Aug. 15, 2018) Lt. Sarah Miller of Lacey, Washington, an instructor at Surface Warfare Officers School (SWOS), discusses virtual conning of a ship with Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) Midshipman 3rd Class Christopher Anstett, of Buffalo, New York, a student at State University of New York Maritime College, during the 2018 NROTC National Shiphandler of the Year competition. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nardel Gervacio/Released)

7.         The Navy must adopt school selection standards

Achieving a high-quality educational outcomes means much more than retaining the best professors or creating challenging curricula. The E4S report noted deep concerns about how Navy officers are selected for and perform at graduate professional military education schools.  “Leaders candidly observed that the Navy often sends poorly qualified officers to fill quotas. This practice includes sending non-due course officers, junior officers to senior programs, and restricted line officers, such as dental officers and chaplains, to fill quotas meant for unrestricted line officers.” As a result, Navy officers “consistently underperform the officers of other services.” To remedy this problem, the report calls for “competitive in-residence graduate selection boards” similar to those already adopted by the Marine Corps – a process that has already begun in the Navy and is still being refined by both services.

8.         The Navy must change its evaluation and promotion system to value education

For education to truly matter to the naval services, excellence in learning must be recognized and rewarded. The E4S report concluded that while Marine officers and enlisted personnel are required to pursue and complete education coursework to qualify for promotion, many Navy officers do not, because education is not seen as necessary or valuable to career advancement.  “Education is currently viewed as an obstruction in naval career paths by the majority, an obstruction exacerbated by the needs of the personnel assignment system,” and “there are not enough incentives for the personnel to continue higher education.” The report thus recommends significant changes to how we evaluate and promote officers, to insure that career incentives promote, not discourage, educational and intellectual development.

SAN DIEGO (June 1, 2018) Capt. Richard LeBron, executive officer of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), places a lieutenant shoulder board onto the uniform of Lt. j.g. Allen On, the ship’s safety officer, during a promotion ceremony aboard the USS Midway Museum. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Daniel Charest)

9.         Leaders must take responsibility for education in their command

If we want our forces to reach their full strategic and operational potential, our officer and enlisted leaders must model a commitment to excellence in lifelong learning. The E4S report notes that though it is critical for leaders in our force to pursue their own intellectual development, this alone is not sufficient. In addition, our leaders need to “assume responsibility for the education of their charges.” This means that leaders at all levels, both commissioned and noncommissioned, must help the Marines and Sailors they command identify, obtain and complete the academic coursework we need for our national security.

10.       Improving education is a team effort          

Finally, the E4S report makes clear that all of us, individually and collectively, are responsible for strengthening the intellectual capabilities of our naval forces. Individual Sailors and Marines must pursue more education and take their academic performance just as seriously as they do the performance of their operational duties. Our leaders must obtain world-class education while taking responsibility for the educational advancement of the men and women they lead.  Our educational institutions need to reinvent their curriculums and delivery systems so that greater educational impact can be achieved for sea services that are by definition continually deployed. And the Department of the Navy as a whole must invest in our schools and make badly needed reforms to our personnel systems so that education becomes a top priority.  These reforms are not optional. This is a fight we must win if we are to do our duty to protect national security. 

https://navylive.dodlive.mil/2019/10/17/ten-takeaways-the-education-for-seapower-report/ poyrazdogany

Navy Innovation, Silicon Valley Style

By Cmdr. Zachary Staples
Director, Naval Postgraduate School Center for Cyber Warfare

A diverse collective of nearly 150 of Silicon Valley’s best coders, hackers and all around cyber experts gathered June 24-26 at warehouse-turned-innovation hub Galvanize in the heart of San Francisco, California. Their charge was to hack into the code controlling the Naval Postgraduate School’s fleet of autonomous swarming drones.

Participants brainstorm their methods of attack during the 2016 Navy “#HackTheSky” hackathon, hosted by the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) and Navy Office of Strategy and Innovation, at Galvanize in San Francisco, California, June 24-26.The event brought together an array of hackers, cyber experts, Silicon Valley tech representatives, and data scientists to discover vulnerabilities in code for unmanned aerial vehicles developed at NPS. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Victoria Ochoa)

Participants brainstorm their methods of attack during the 2016 Navy “#HackTheSky” hackathon, hosted by the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) and Navy Office of Strategy and Innovation, at Galvanize in San Francisco, California, June 24-26.The event brought together an array of hackers, cyber experts, Silicon Valley tech representatives, and data scientists to discover vulnerabilities in code for unmanned aerial vehicles developed at NPS. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Victoria Ochoa)

 

Coined #HackTheSky, the event included three distinct events – an onsite hackathon, the Future of Autonomy Workshop, and a global crowd-sourced initiative to create a user experience and interface for a swarm commander. The event proved to achieve all we had hoped it would – improved control software and several steps forward on some innovative technology developed on a shoestring budget. But the event was about much more than simply improving technology, as important as that is.

Fundamentally, we are interested in ideas that protect our nation and influence adversaries through power in the information age.  #HackTheSky was an experiment to see if there are techniques within the Federal Acquisition Regulations that allow for software development at a pace significantly faster than we develop and acquire hardware. Moreover, a system with two speeds – one for software acquisition and one for hardware – is the model we must adopt to avoid strategic risk against an adversary that adopts software development speed as an organizing principle of their force.

#HackTheSky also was designed to increase diversity of our technological base. As a Navy, we are focused on increasing our cultural diversity because we understand that diverse teams address and solve problems with greater flexibility and creativity. However, we have limited our prime technology developers to a closed set of large contractors.

Participants brainstorm their methods of attack during the 2016 Navy “#HackTheSky” hackathon, hosted by the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) and Navy Office of Strategy and Innovation, at Galvanize in San Francisco, California, June 24-26.The event brought together an array of hackers, cyber experts, Silicon Valley tech representatives, and data scientists to discover vulnerabilities in code for unmanned aerial vehicles developed at NPS. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Victoria Ochoa)

Participants brainstorm their methods of attack during the 2016 Navy “#HackTheSky” hackathon, hosted by the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) and Navy Office of Strategy and Innovation, at Galvanize in San Francisco, California, June 24-26.The event brought together an array of hackers, cyber experts, Silicon Valley tech representatives, and data scientists to discover vulnerabilities in code for unmanned aerial vehicles developed at NPS. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Victoria Ochoa)

Although there is support for small business in the Federal Acquisition Regulations, we routinely see the same companies bidding on government work. More than 70 organizations registered for #HackTheSky, most of which had never worked with the government before. And our social media campaign reached more than 3.4 million impressions with a positive sentiment analysis around a very sensitive topic, military drones. This is a powerful statement about Silicon Valley’s best and brightest and their willingness to help us answer difficult questions in new ways.

In cybersecurity we used to say that, “Every company has been hacked, some just don’t know it yet!”  A more useful riff on this idea is that, “Every organization is a software and data company, some just don’t know it yet.”

As a Navy this is hard to accept because we love our ships, submarines and aircraft, but increasingly, the capabilities of our hardware are fully dependent on good software.  So we are truly a software “company” with all the risks and benefits that reality affords.

Fundamentally, there are hundreds of good software tools and security products that we will be able to buy from the commercial market, but we face an existential challenge against nation-state threats that drive unique military requirements. And of course, there are domains where we should not, and some where we cannot, use commercial solutions, either because they do not exist or we would need to differentiate our risk exposure. In those cases, we will simply need to have unique Department of the Navy solutions.

Ultimately, this three-day hackathon provided two key takeaways for both business and military leaders. First, we are a data driven organization and we need to understand our data rights, protections and streams. Second, we need to produce unique software that keeps pace with leading software companies. We do not have many examples of this being done well right now, but #HackTheSky foreshadowed some ways we might begin this effort.

Finally, #HackTheSky demonstrated that we cannot continue to advance autonomy and unmanned systems without a closely linked parallel effort to implement cyber security for those systems. We have invested in an innovative capability to conduct unmanned and autonomous research at the Naval Postgraduate School, but we should probably look at a similar vehicle for cyber experimentation to move the entire set of capabilities forward in concert.

http://navylive.dodlive.mil/2016/07/08/navy-innovation-silicon-valley-style/ U.S. Navy