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The Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) is one of the Navy’s most underused assets. It provides a wide array of advanced educational opportunities and facilities to officers of all the uniformed services and many defense agencies. The school’s current curricula include administrative sciences, aeronautical engineering, operations analysis, antisubmarine warfare, air-ocean sciences, and many others.
Some of the facilities available include an IBM 3033 mainframe computer with advanced statistical analysis and graphics capabilities, a complete aerodynamics and aircraft propulsion laboratory, current Navy fire control systems, a wargaming analysis and research laboratory, and a myriad of other complex systems.
With so many opportunities available, one would expect the Navy to emphasize strongly the research and education accomplished there, but of all the services, the Navy uses the facilities and their graduates the least and seems to have the vaguest grasp of their potential. This is the result of a variety of factors, some relating to NPS policy and some to elements outside the school.
Factors Outside the School ► Isolation from the Service: Officers at NPS are cut off from their parent services. While this allows them to concentrate on their studies free of some of the encumbrances of active service, it also isolates them from infor-
mation about current topics, procedures, and other subjects of special concern to them as military officers. The fallout from the Walker spy case exacerbated this situation. The Navy was compelled to reduce the number of its officer security clearances and decided to cancel or at least downgrade the security clearances of almost every student officer at NPS. While this looked good on paper (the Navy was able to announce that it had pulled more than 1,500 officer clearances), it further isolated most of the NPS student body from its parent service by cutting off its access to classified material.
► Lack of Thesis Research Topics: A major part of the graduate student’s education at NPS is completion of a thesis in his field of study. This could be an excellent opportunity for students to complete service-related research. Too often, however, the students choose treadmill topics they can complete with a minimum of outside assistance and within the requisite time period. Part of the blame rests on the school’s thesis procedures, but it is also partly because many naval organizations do not actively solicit students to perform research for them.
Some organizations have been providing thesis topic suggestions for years. But they are seldom of pressing concern to the service because usually the research must be accomplished by one student on a part-time basis
Lieutenant John M. Lillard, U. S. Nay.'
in less than nine months, and such topics may or may not be chosen. .
► Failure to Take Advantage "/ Experience Tours: Some of the NPS curricula, such as operations analysis and ASW, send their students on six-week expe rience tours as part of the cout- of study. While some comma11
and even civilian organizations ^ actively recruit students for the tours, many naval commands view them as something simt* to a newly commissioned enSL
“stashed” on board. The stu dent-officer is often forced to
find his own sponsor for his
and once he arrives is left to
own devices. The result is 3 waste of valuable time and e ' fort. f
The basic cause of these de ciencies is lack of adequate communication between the s
vice and the school. As a res
the service spends thousands 0 dollars recruiting civilian research that could be accom- , plished at NPS for a fraction ^ the cost. Also, when the sch11 and the service investigate tn same areas, they frequently work at cross purposes.
Factors Within the Schoo ► Rigid Thesis Procedures■
strictive thesis requirements ^
only permit students to wor^
their topics during the last Q ters of their tenure, discount classified topics, and require adherence to strict time constraints cause students to 0 tate toward topics that can accomplished easily.
P°D Committee on Excellence in Education, “The Service Academies: Conclu
ij s a°d Initiatives,” 28 April 1975, p. 2
gCe William P. Baxter’s comparison of Soviet and U. S. PME in Soviet Airland Wle Tactics, Novato: Presidio Press, 1985, p. 261.
Collins, U. S. Defense Planning: A Critique, Boulder, CO: Westview, 1982.
£kclt°n, p. 6.
^?Unfation Briefs, Naval War College Foundation, October 1988.
I 0lTlas Buell, “The Education of a Warrior, ” U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 9?Uary 1981, p. 42.
loon>ar^es Viliam Maynes, “America’s Chance,” Foreign Policy No. 68, Fall
p AdlT1- Stephen B. Luce, USN, “The U. S. Naval War College,” Naval Institute r°ceedings, Vol. 134, 1910, p. 561.
A frequent contributor to the Proceedings, Captain Schratz has been a student of military education for many years. Navy Secretary Paul Nitze authorized him to accept a doctoral fellowship on condition that he use his special training to improve the Navy attitude toward professional education. He is both graduate and faculty member of three senior war colleges. He served as long-range academic planner at the Naval War College, as Director of the Defense Strategy Seminar and founder of the Research Institute at the National War College, Director of International Studies at the University of Missouri, a Brookings scholar, and professor of military strategy at the Air War College.
riSgraduate School become stu-
\a"’ ln civilian clothes, but the the ^ niust not lose touch with 1,1 as it is wont to do.
°f Facilities for Classi- Sjs Work: The increased empha
°n security of classified ma-
caught the school off
for^ 3na tae original facilities hitvStudy of classified subjects eXa£ never been expanded. For tyrj^Plc. students who choose to c0tn c*assified theses must ac- pr Phsh most of their word
in the school’s small acting lab, where computer der,jSs's limited and thesis stu- Wjtjj niUst compete for space . students involved in war- thg^.S sessions. In addition, lied ,1S a dire shortage of classi- “ho|Stoyage safes and study in ®s ” At a time when meaner defense study is routinely gte i e(i> these restrictions can i \ ^'naer students’ efforts.
°f Contact with the Q Navy”; Within the
mSs t June 1989
school, this is much more difficult to quantify, but any NPS student can testify to its legitimacy as a problem area. For example, the programs provided by the school’s Chair of Tactical Analysis (part of the Operations Research Department) do not reach nearly the number of student-officers they should. Without access to even routine message traffic, student officers all too often find out about matters that affect them directly by reading the Navy Times.
► Too Few Interdisciplinary Curricula: Most of the curricula at NPS involve the “hard sciences” (i.e., electrical engineering, physics, or oceanography) or administrative sciences (financial management, logistics management, or transportation management), with relatively narrow applications outside their own fields. Interdisciplinary curricula that are of more use to the unrestricted line (e.g., command, control, and communications, and operations analysis) make up a much smaller part of the curriculum choice than their importance warrants. This aspect tends to reinforce the commonly held impression of NPS as a breeding ground for restricted line officers, especially when compared to institutions such as the Naval War College and the Air Force’s Air University.
Factors Affecting Graduates
► Duty Assignments: The Navy is the only service that does not make immediate use of the NPS education. This is partly the result of the sea-shore rotation requirements for unrestricted line officers, but all too often gradu
ates are sent to jobs that have absolutely no connection with the area they studied at NPS. By the time most line officers are assigned to their subspecialty tours, they have been out of their field of study for as many as three years.
► Obligations Incurred: Too many penalties are associated with a tour as a student at NPS. Under current Naval Military Personnel Command directives, students are obligated to serve an extra three years for their first year, with a year-for-year obligation after that. This extra obligation is not the main bone of contention, however. Naval student-officers, especially aviators, are forced to serve many tours outside their warfare specialty and face the prospect of falling out of step with their contemporaries in consideration for promotion and command. In the case of an aviator, a two- and-a-half year tour at NPS followed by a disassociated sea tour and then a subspecialty shore tour can lead to spending close to seven consecutive years out of the cockpit. For tactical aviation (TacAir) aviators, this virtually assures failure to screen for command. Consequently, few aviators (especially from the TacAir communities) even apply to NPS, and a tour there is widely regarded in squadron ready rooms as something to be avoided at all costs.
Recommendations: Some of these deficiencies are “the nature of the beast” and have no quick and easy fix. However, the NPS staff and the Navy can
rectify some of the most glaring with minor changes in procedure and philosophy.
► Enhance Communication Between the Navy and the School: NPS is equipped for and capable of producing quality analysis on a multitude of military-related subjects of interest. Organizations such as the Operational Test and Evaluation Force,
Naval Air Development Center, Naval Training Center, and Naval Space Command should actively seek research assistance from the school. The luxury of having one or more trained officers devoted to researching a particular subject of interest is one all of these commands could benefit from.
► Relax Thesis Research Requirements for Students: NPS should not try to be a standard civilian postgraduate school. Its purpose is to provide military officers with advanced education that will benefit the services. Accordingly, the current thesis requirements should be relaxed to allow students to conduct research in conjunction with a sponsoring command. Experience tours should be coordinated with this research; if necessary, ongoing research could continue through several students’ tours- Successful completion of or a significant contribution to the project should satisfy the thesis requirement. Not only would the student benefit from the expert' ence of conducting real-world research, the services could save hundreds of thousands of doliarS that would ordinarily be spent hiring civilian contractors to pef form the same job.
Getting the Second Degree__________ By Major Les Stein, U.S. Marine Corp5
Most U. S. military officers believe that their performance determines their chances for promotion. Yet, in the same breath many will argue that there are also numerous nonperformance criteria, such as graduate degrees, that can enhance one’s chances for promotion. Unfortunately, this is difficult to substantiate because promotion boards have never been accused of adhering to strict objectivity in their decisionmaking process. One year’s board rarely uses the same guidelines as the previous year’s. We often hear that each promotion board has its own distinctive “personality” motivating its members to satisfy a different, often preconceived, resolve. We have come to expect the board’s composition to play a significant role in prioritizing the nonperformance factors.
While serving as a first lieutenant in an infantry battalion, my battalion commander called me aside and informed me that my overall performance was “outstanding.” However, he said that if I wanted to be competitive with my peers I should seek a graduate degree. Not long after I received this advice I discovered that many of my fellow officers were spending long hours after work attending evening classes at local colleges and universities. In talking to them, I found that the information that my battalion commander provided me was well known. Unfortunately, many of these officers had no interest in furthering their nonmilitary education and were seeking simply to satisfy a perceived requirement. In talking to career- minded officers who were enrolled in off-duty graduate degree courses, 1 found that most fit into two categories:
Table 2 Marine Corps Promotion Rates (1972-84) Advanced Bachelor’s
Capt. to Maj.
Maj. to LtCol.
LtCol. to Col.
Col. to Gen.
Source: Defense Manpower Center
Table 1 Survey Results
1. Do you feel that an officer’s career suffers if he/she does not have a graduate degree?
2. Promotion boards favor graduate degrees in selecting officers for
3. Do officers with graduate degrees have more credibility with their superiors than those who do not have such degrees?
4. All things being equal, the officer with a graduate degree should be
promoted ahead of the officer who does not have such a degree. 5. Do you encourage your fellow officers to pursue off-duty graduate
6. Graduate degrees improve one’s performance on the job.
7. Graduate degrees improve one’s communication skills, both written and oral.
8. A graduate degree improves one’s approach to problem
(Questions 9-11: Directed to officers without graduate degrees.)
9. Do you feel that a graduate degree would be beneficial to your
10. Do you feel that your superior would give you a better fitness report if you attained a graduate degree?
11. Do you feel that a graduate degree would make you more successful
in the Marine Corps?
(Questions 12-13: Directed to officers with graduate degrees.)
12. Do you feel that your graduate degree has helped you in getting promoted?
13. Do you feel that your graduate degree will help you with future
Note: *=P < .05 (significance level using Chi Square Test for analysis and validation.)