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Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Carlos Del Toro recognized 337 graduates, including 40 international students from 24 countries as the commencement speaker for the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) during the school’s Fall Quarter graduation ceremony, Dec. 16.
Del Toro, a former Navy surface warfare officer and an alumnus of NPS’ space systems engineering program, also shared with the graduating class news about the future of Navy education.
“I am pleased to announce a bold new vision for the naval education and innovation ecosystem,” said Del Toro. “First, we’re establishing the Naval Education Board comprised of senior department of the Navy leaders, for strong naval education governance. Second, we are increasing naval education resources and investments to meet the department's true education requirements,” he continued. “And third, a new Naval Education Strategy that is aligned with my strategic guidance is in the works.”
Del Toro also detailed his long-term vision to develop a Naval Innovation Center at NPS, which he described as a “premier military education facility tailored to innovation and experimentation, serving as a technology resource for Navy and Marine Corps warfighting development commands, as well as a go-to partner of the defense industrial base, the technology sector, and academia.
“This Naval Innovation Center at NPS will support all of our innovation efforts, from NavalX and the Marine Innovation Unit to the corridors of the Pentagon, as well as to our commanders distributed across the globe,” he continued.
NPS President retired Vice Adm. Ann E. Rondeau provided the opening comments for the ceremony and welcomed the graduating students and their families and friends with a reminder that NPS is “where science meets the art of warfare.”
“This is more than a tagline,” said Rondeau. "In this phrase, you are the art of warfare. All of you bring your mid-career operational experience to NPS and apply it to your curricula. Through you and our distinguished faculty, we deliver results throughout the year aligned to naval and defense priorities.”
Rondeau stressed that to outfight an adversary, warfighters must first be equipped to outthink them. When all things are equal in competition or combat, the human element is the decisive difference.
“As part of the Naval Education Enterprise, NPS uniquely serves as the fusion of defense-focused education, research and innovation,” said Rondeau. “We work to empower you, our warrior scholars, to make a difference while you are here and then take what you learned to lead more decisively upon your return to the operational forces.
"You have established a strong bond with your fellow students and our faculty, bonds which will help you back in the fleet and operational forces. Use us!,” she continued. “There are so many NPS alumni out there like you. Join them, and you will be stronger together.”
Before introducing the commencement speaker, Rondeau proudly informed the audience of the newest inductee into the NPS Hall of Fame, retired Adm. Cecil Haney. A dual degree alumnus of NPS, Haney would go on to become commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet as well as U.S. Strategic Command, and was officially welcomed into the school’s prestigious community of alumni and friends, Dec. 15.
Del Toro then took to the podium to congratulate the Fall Quarter class, opening his address by reminding the students of the honor to study and work alongside their peers representing the joint force and partner nations from around the world.
"You've had the opportunity to learn together, study together, to interact both inside and outside of the classroom, and perhaps best of all, to discuss complex problems and solve them," he said.
"The solutions to the many challenges to our national security will require analytical thinking and creative strategic problem-solving," added Del Toro. "The graduates here today know a thing or two about that."
Del Toro continued, mentioning the recent acceptance of NPS into the University Consortium for Applied Hypersonics (UCAH).
"This membership will facilitate deeper defense collaboration among partner universities, and it will bolster NPS' ability to contribute its research and expertise, its high-supersonic wind tunnel capability, and best of all, its warrior scholars' operational perspectives to help accelerate results," said Del Toro.
Strengthening partnerships is one of the Secretary’s strategic priorities and Del Toro referenced his attendance a day earlier at a signing ceremony for a new Education Partnership Agreement between NPS and the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability noting, “NPS is already a leading research institution in the climate and energy space, and this partnership will expand NPS’ reach and leadership in support of the Department of the Navy’s Climate Action plan.”
Del Toro took the opportunity of speaking at the Navy’s premier research-based graduate school to discuss his perspective on critical issues related to education. He mentioned the work of the Naval Educational Task Force, convened early this year. Over the past 10 months, the task force has focused on three major areas: the continuum of learning for Sailors and Marines; policy and management needs for effective education governance and oversight; and, human and capital investment.
The Secretary put his naval education vision into context saying that it takes educated thinkers at every level, who have the tools—and have been charged with the responsibility—to fix the problems they see in front of them as well as see the possibilities that lie over the horizon.
Citing a quote from the late Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, "Think outside of the Pentagons's five-sided box," he said, encouraging students to make full use of what they gained from the NPS experience.
"We need you to go forth and apply the lessons you've learned here, and that creative thinking especially, in your future roles as operators, engineers, in research and development fields, and most importantly, as warfighters,” Del Toro continued.
In closing, Del Toro thanked the graduates and ensured his trust in them.
“Graduates, whether the threat be a resurgent Russia, an aggressive China, a changing climate, or the sheer speed of technological developments, I am certain that you can overcome any challenge,” he said. “Stay in touch with each other. You will find that the bonds you've forged here through intense studies, late nights, and committed problem-solving will last a lifetime.”
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