The professional education of the naval officer, a subject of grave importance, should be re-examined in the light of World War II experience. The idea that the only roads to success are submarines and aviation is bad for the Navy and bad for the individual. In the interest of efficiency and teamwork, a career plan should be formulated which recognizes the needs of the service and gives the individual a chance to advance on his own merits. This is not a new problem to the Bureau of Naval Personnel and, fully realizing the desirability for a possible further change in the present system, the Chief of Naval Personnel has recently appointed a board to study this matter and m:tke recommendations to improve the present methods of assignment, rotation of duties, and training of officers.
Since World War I, three boards have been appointed to study and make recommendations concerning the education of the naval officer. The Knox-King-Pye Board of 1920 was the first, and established the basic principle which still exists today concerning the specialist versus the general line officer. This board stated as its major premise that all officers should have a well rounded education, and that superimposed upon this should be a specialty. Then, by association and exchange of information, knowledge of these specialties would be disseminated throughout the service. The career of an officer was divided into four definite periods. The first period included his training and education as a junior division officer; the second, his training and education as a division officer; the third provided for combatant command and head of department on a large ship; and the last included unit, fleet, and task force commands. These periods or phases of an officer's career are still applicable today.
In 1944 the Pye Board was convened by the Secretary of the Navy to study and modernize the educational plan for the line officer and, further, to answer specific questions. The decision concerning one of the questions placed the responsibility for the training, assignment, and education of officers with the Chief of Naval Personnel. This board re-emphasized the basic principle stated in the report of the 1920 board. It also brought out that the principal objective of the naval educational system was to produce officers trained in advance to assume greater responsibility and to perform higher duties when the Navy expands for war. In particular, it should develop adequate numbers of carefully selected officers capable of exercising high command in time of war with skill, imagination, and determination.
About the time of the Pye Board report the Joint Chiefs of Staff submitted a plan which would qualify officers to participate in joint operations with the other two armed services. This plan stated that the general objectives of joint education should include: (1) a general knowledge and appreciation of the capabilities, limitations, and operating procedures of other components; (2) means of promoting team work between the components; (3) preparation of officers for participation in joint operations; (4) preparation of officers for command of joint operations; (5) preparation for exercise of command and staff functions; and (6) promotion of understanding between the armed forces and other agencies of government and industry.
The Holloway Board, the most recent study, was in effect an implementation of the Pye Board. Part I of this board established a system whereby a certain percentage of the Regular Navy officers will be graduates of the various Naval Reserve Officer Training Units. Part II provided for the education of the transferees, and Part III outlined in broad terms a general plan for graduate education. The recommendations of the first two parts are being carried out, but the last part has never been enunciated by a well defined policy covering the entire career of an officer.
The recommendations set forth by these boards provided for a system of educating officers during the first eighteen years of commissioned service. Although the Pye Board and the Holloway Board recognized the importance of over-all training in later years, there has been no specific plan to put the Boards' conclusions into effect. The acquisition of the knowledge necessary to perform the duties of a task force commander is provided for in part only, and the choice of duty assignments and schools necessary to acquire the know-how for high command is frequently left to the individual officer, his application for training, and his chance availability therefore. Further, there is a decided lack of integration of the various components of the services, and insufficient emphasis is placed on training involving "triphibious" operations.
As each new weapon is adopted by the Navy, a fresh group of officers crop up who are specially skilled in its use. It is human and natural that these groups should feel their importance, which is very real, and that they should seek special privileges and authority. The morale of the rest of the officer corps is directly dependent upon the extent to which these ambitions are realized.
In addition, present methods of education provide for various specialties, such as the ordnance officer, the Diesel engineer, the lawyer, and many others, but it is noteworthy that there is no mention of the specialist in broad command. The lack of emphasis on this particular feature of the educational program of the naval officer is an imperfection that must be corrected.
In the case of an officer's career within the Navy, high command requires an education insuring knowledge of the capabilities of all the tools with which modern naval warfare is or may be waged. This education should be a progressive indoctrination commencing on the first day of commissioning and continuing to the last day of active duty. It must embrace submarines, aviation, amphibious operations, guided missiles, and many other factors. It must include a special course in high command at some specified point in an officer's career, the successful completion of which in combination with his abilities, both inherent and acquired, will qualify him to command any tactical unit, regardless of its composition. And from this course should come the so-called three dimensional commander whose ultimate goal will be the direction of the complex forces of the future. This education must be such that as an officer advances in rank, he concentrates less on the specialized duties of the junior grades and more on the broad administrative and executive responsibilities of high command. It other words, his identification with any particular branch or specialty becomes less marked as he moves on in his career. Last, the implementation of this system must give equal opportunity to the most capable of all line officers, irrespective of their early training.
For continuity of concept and balanced training, it is essential for high command that a system of training be created which will take diverse types of officers and mold them into a team with a common purpose. The outstanding example of the end result of such training was the interchange of Fleet and Fast Carrier Task Force Commanders of the Third and Fifth Fleets during the past war. It is significant that these changes in the high command in the Pacific theater of operations were accomplished with no halting effect on the spirited prosecution of the war; in fact, both the individuals and the Navy benefited. However, two of these officers owed their training in air to a demand for senior officers in that branch of the service and not to a pre-ordained plan of training. In future years, even this avenue of training will be closed. Therefore, it is vital to modernize the present methods of career planning if we are to produce comparable leaders to meet the complex demands of the future.
The solution proposed herein applies to the unrestricted line officer. During the first six years of commissioned service, an officer should be rotated frequently, preferably at one year intervals, among various billets. At the end of three years he should be sent to another type of duty. For those entering the submarine service or naval air, this rotation should be confined to the branch in which he is serving. On promotion to the grade of Lieutenant, all officers should attend a two year Line course which includes operational training in strategy and tactics and indoctrination in branches other than their own. After return to sea duty, some of these officers will go to command billets. At the end of twelve years, as many officers as possible should attend a command and staff course of one to two years. This, as in the previous course, should also include indoctrinational training in branches other than that with which the student is familiar. At eighteen years of service, the capabilities and aptitude of an officer for command or other specialties should be apparent. At this point those officers best qualified for broad command shall enter an indoctrinational and training period of sufficient duration to thoroughly familiarize them with the capabilities and uses of all the tools of modern naval warfare. These officers become the Navy's specialists in strategy and tactics. They should be the group who are selected for combatant command and staff billets directly concerned with the handling of tactical forces. From these officers should come the leaders of tomorrow.
To implement this program, a career planning board should be established directly under the Chief of Naval Personnel. The duty of this board should be to constantly evaluate officers of the grade of Commander and Captain. It should be the purpose of this board to slant the careers of officers above the grade of Lieutenant Commander so as to insure that each receives the proper training along the lines that he is most qualified to follow. Those officers showing the greatest aptitude for command would be given preferential consideration in assignments which will broaden their knowledge of the tools with which naval warfare is waged. A priority list for combatant commands should be established by the career planning board. A continuing study of the needs of the Navy with a resulting billet analysis should be conducted by the board to meet the ever changing situation imposed on the Navy by new scientific developments. Perhaps one of the most important duties should be the study and improvement of the methods for reporting on the fitness of officers. The members should be unencumbered by administrative duties and left solely to analyze the records of each officer as he comes within the purview of the board. The evaluations of this board would not be available to selection boards but should be shown to the officer himself on request. Selection boards should continue to function as at present.
There is one stipulation and that is that the success of this or any system will rest upon a liberal exchange of officers between all branches of the line, particularly in the sea-going billets. There should be a close integration of the various branches in all grades by the elimination of special qualifications now existent in many of the present billets. This raises the question of carrier command. At one time combatant command billets were more numerous for general line officers than for aviators, so in the middle twenties a policy was established which later became a law making it mandatory that the commanding officers of carriers be aviators. Since carriers are the backbone of the fleet, the preponderance in the number of carrier commands is increasing, and the shoe is now on the other foot. In view of this and the fact that peace time operations are primarily for training, either the law should be repealed or certain selected non-aviators should be given a qualifying course so that these officers can command carriers. In the lower grades there are many billets on both cruisers and carriers which should be filled by aviators and non-aviators, respectively. Both types of officers need to know more about the other branch of the Navy.
While not advocating an unqualified adoption of the general staff as it exists in the U.S. Army today, it is interesting to note that this problem of broad education for high command has occupied the minds of the greatest military leaders in history, and through their efforts a staff system has evolved which is basically the same in all modern armies. The prime purpose of any staff system is to provide the commander with a staff composed of officers of known intellectual capacity, experience, and background, capable of administering broad command. To satisfy these requirements a method of selection, training, and assignment has grown up which tends to separate from the general line those officers best fitted for command and which insures a priority of assignment in such duties. The best interests of the Navy lie in the application of certain features of this method to the naval service. From the days of Alexander the Great until the middle of the 16th century little advancement was made, and it remained for Gustavus Adolphus to mark the beginning of staff organization which is now more or less standard throughout the world. The greatest development occurred during the time of the numerous Franco-Prussian Wars when such names as Frederick the Great, Massenback, Moltke, Napoleon, Berthier, and many others were associated with this line of endeavor. Subsequently, staff organization has gradually improved to the present day system existent in the U. S. Army. This is essentially the French idea, as conceived by Napoleon and his Chief of Staff, Berthier.
Briefly, the Army selects an officer on his record, after fifteen years of service, for assignment to ·the Command and Staff School at Fort Leavenworth. On successful completion of this course he is assigned to General Staff duties for a period of four years after which he is returned to the branch of the service from whence he came or is sent on to more schooling. The German system varies from this on two points: (1) a member of the German Staff is permanently assigned early in his career, and (2) the representative of the German General Staff in the field is jointly responsible with the field commander for the operations in progress.
The problem of general staff organization is not related to armies entirely to the exclusion of navies or industry. The study of history of the military staff naturally raises the question, "What progress have navies made in this matter?" Analysis brings to light some interesting facts. In the first place, sea power was never recognized in its true perspective until Mahan inundated the world with his writings. During the 18th and 19th centuries, nations, with the exception of England, were primarily interested in land warfare and, as a result, the best minds on the continent concentrated mostly on problems of army operations. For this reason navies were never accorded the same professional standing as the armies on the continent of Europe. Further, in the days of Nelson, naval leaders did not have the heterogeneous collection of material and tools to deal with that are so characteristic of today. A square-rigger with its muzzle-loading cannon was relatively simple, and the problem of logistics played a minor role at sea compared with the importance it assumed on land. In those days, while general staff organization was of great concern to the military leaders of the time, navies were mobilized on the spur of the moment by recruitment through press gangs, and officer personnel were called to active duty from their civilian pursuits-in many instances after years of rest from the sea. In the meantime there remained in active service a hard nucleus of officers who, through long years of service, became well versed in all the facets of naval warfare; these officers formed a general staff by themselves.
The last war was the first and only application of sea power on a large scale in the history of this country. Previously, the Navy was small and had the benefits of a single educational institution for officer personnel. The advance of science, the greatly increased size of the Navy, the increasing importance of such factors as amphibious operations, airsurface operations, etc., have created an entirely new situation wherein these advantages no longer exist. In the future, officer personnel will be much larger than ever before and it will be composed of individuals from all walks of life and various institutions of learning, so the advantages of homogeneity will be lost. The career planning board will offset this disadvantage by subjecting those officers destined for high command to a systematic indoctrination which will produce commanders of a similar pattern.
At present the Naval Academy has a well founded three-dimensional course in its curriculum; that is, there is basic grounding or indoctrination in aviation, submarines, and surface ship duties. On graduation, some officers go to aviation, others to submarines, and still others follow the time-honored role of the surface ship sailor. Generally, these classmates do not meet again on grounds of common professional interest until the grade of Captain or flag rank, and in some instances never. This wide divergence as an officer travels from Ensign to Admiral is a glaring defect which this proposal of a career planning board will correct. It will afford an opportunity for the submariner, the aviator, and the surface ship sailor to acquaint himself with the other parts of the Navy.
In the interest of national security, the Navy should produce officers thoroughly indoctrinated in the principles of naval strategy and tactics so that they can knowingly and intelligently serve jointly with the other services of the National Defense Establishment. Further, the Navy is the best equipped of all the armed services for the development of officers destined for ultimate command of combined operations. Therefore, it is incumbent that the Navy systematize the general pattern to be followed in the evolution of the tactician within the service to better prepare him for the larger field involving the other two services. The program of operational training and experience presented in this paper will give to a certain number of officers this necessary extensive background. Here, for the first time in the history of the Navy, specialization in broad command is recognized as an accomplishment in itself. This idea is in contravention to the old concept that all officers are or should be experts in this line.
In general, the implementation of such a program will give equal opportunity to all Line officers, irrespective of earlier training. Further, the Navy will gain in that individuals will be channeled into those jobs for which they are best qualified by a regulated evaluation. In conclusion, a definite objective is realized-namely, preparation for high command-by a definite form of career planning beyond the eighteenth year of service of the Line officer.