PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The U.S. Navy is overhauling its approach to education because the nation no longer has a massive economic and technological edge over potential adversaries, according to a strategy released Monday.
The Education for Seapower Strategy 2020, provided to The Associated Press ahead of its release, is the first unified, comprehensive education strategy for the Navy and Marine Corps, said John Kroger, who is implementing the strategy as the Navy’s first chief learning officer.
It is very much a response to the nation’s geopolitical position in the world today, versus the advantages it had at the end of the Cold War, Kroger said, noting China’s economic strength and investments in 5G networks, energy storage and other major technologies that matter for war-fighting.
The Navy wants to create a naval community college to provide associate’s degrees to tens of thousands of young sailors and Marines, at no cost to them. It plans to unify the schools within the existing naval university system, similar to a state university system, and invest in them, as well as enact new policies to encourage and reward those who pursue professional military and civilian education.
“In a world where potential adversaries are peers economically and technologically, how do you win?” Kroger said in an interview. “We think we can out-fight potential opponents because we can out-think them. In order to do that, we must have, by far, the best military education program in the world.”
Kroger came to the Navy from Harvard University, where he was a visiting professor at Harvard Law School and leader in residence at the Kennedy School of Government. He was president of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, from 2012 to 2018, and previously served as Oregon’s attorney general. Kroger served as a Marine from 1983 to 1986.
Though the need to ensure an advantage in fighting wars is driving the reforms, Kroger said, the educational opportunities will change how and whom the Navy recruits. It’s more challenging to recruit when there’s relatively low unemployment, he said.
The strategy does not specifically say how much the Navy is looking to spend on education or where the money will come from. Kroger said it will rely mostly on existing education funding that can be used in a more cost-effective way. About $109 million was transferred from other Navy programs this fiscal year to pay for immediate education needs, including startup costs for the community college.
The Navy will ask Congress for more money for education beginning in fiscal year 2022, but the numbers aren’t finalized, Kroger said.
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