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Navy Renews Focus on Education

Service Announces University System

The Navy announced today a Naval University System (NUS) that will overhaul the education of the fleet, ensuring a competitive advantage in the decades ahead.

The announcement came in the wake of a memorandum signed by the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) last week promulgating his decisions and immediate actions resulting from a landmark, seven-month Education for Seapower (E4S) study lead by Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly. The findings and recommendations of the study, captured in a December 2018 final report recently made available via the Navy's website, identified the Department of the Navy's strengths and weaknesses when it comes to Sailors' and Marines' academic education.

“We decided to take a comprehensive look at naval education on how to best educate our Sailors and Marines to sustain an advantage for our naval forces in respect to their minds,” Modly said yesterday in an interview on E4S. “We decided to assemble an outside group of leaders ... to conduct a top-to-bottom, clean-sheet review of naval education.”

The NUS will combine the United States Naval Academy, Naval War College, Marine Corps University, Naval Postgraduate School, the academic curricula of the Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps and service Officer Candidate Schools, federal executive fellowships, and all flag and general officer education into one united university system.

The new system will align and orchestrate the academic efforts and resources of all naval education activities, while also retaining the special characteristics and strengths of each institution, and enhancing overall agility and accountability. It will use a universal transcript system and institute a common strategic intent and similar policies for admissions, instructor qualifications and faculty empowerment.

The chief of naval operations and commandant of the Marine Corps will also refine selection standards for top-level schools and war colleges, aiming for the top 30 percent of officers in terms of leadership, as well as operational and academic performance.

“This will help us create a much more agile fleet,” said Modly. “That's ultimately going to be our differentiating strategic advantage. That goes from what our ships can do ... how we work together between the Navy and the Marine Corps, and how our leaders think and how they react. This is not just about the individual, but how that individual will impact the organization.”

Another keystone of the NUS will be the establishment of a Naval Community College (NCC). The NCC will provide accredited associates' degrees for enlisted Marines and Sailors in academic disciplines that advance lethality, partnership and reform.

“The idea is to get our enlisted service members an opportunity to get educational programs ... wherever they are,” said Modly. “We want to provide them with a system, whether it's online learning or connections with local colleges in certain areas, to make it easier for them to advance their education.”

The new focus on education will also appear on evaluations. Both branches will utilize competitive grading criteria for educational and learning achievements on officer fitness reports and enlisted evaluations. This will ensure learning achievements are appropriately weighted when it comes to promotions.

“[With the E4S study,] we're finding that there was very little correlation between people who are getting advanced degrees and education with their promotion ranks,” said Modly. “We want to see ... a direct correlation, and then obviously it'll bear itself out in terms of how prepared we are as a naval service. ... Education has not been considered a part of [the] readiness equation at a high enough level. ... What the study found is that's short-sighted because at some point, if we don't educate our people properly, it's going to have a huge impact on readiness.”

A new N7/director of warfighting development will serve as the sole resource sponsor and strategic leader for Navy education within the office of the chief of naval operations (CNO). This director will serve alongside a Marine counterpart, the existing deputy commandant for combat development and integration, to refocus naval educational efforts on increased warfighting capacity.

A new chief learning officer (CLO) position will also be created. The CLO will act as a Department of the Navy advisor to the OPNAV and Marine Corps staff on all education matters.

In addition, a naval education board, comprising the under secretary of the Navy, the CNO, the commandant of the Marine Corps and the vice chief of naval operations, among others, will meet at least semi-annually to ensure the success of the NUS.

Read SECNAV's memorandum here and the E4S study report here.
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Graphic by Nate Quinn, All Hands Magazine