For the fifth consecutive year, the U.S. Naval Institute hosted the DARE Innovation Workshop concurrently with the annual WEST conference in San Diego. DARE brings together select junior officers, forward-thinking enlisted personnel, and influential civilian leaders to engage on and offer solutions to challenges presented by one of the Sea Service chiefs. DARE 2020 participants considered two questions proposed by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday.
What cultural changes are needed within the Navy to help the Education for Seapower Strategy 2020 initiative succeed, to keep pace with technologies that can enrich naval education, and to improve the delivery of education and training whenever and wherever beneficial?
The DARE cohort was divided into eight groups, four of which examined this challenge, starting by identifying three root causes, or sources to the problem. They discovered:
- Few benefits and incentives exist to motivate the average sailor to pursue higher education. For example, sailors currently must pursue higher education during their limited personal time; perspectives of sailors with higher education are not valued; advanced degrees are more a “check in the box” to fulfill advancement requirements; and sailors pursue an education while in the Navy to bolster résumés for jobs outside the service.
- Commands perceive sailors enrolled in higher education courses as a detriment to the command. For example, sailors absent because of classes create personnel/billet gaps and limit the time units can spend on planned maintenance, operational duties, and training.
- The fleet’s limited IT infrastructure makes attending online classes impractical. For example, most units do not have enough computer workstations or bandwidth to allow enlisted sailors to participate in online education, and NMCI and the .mil network restrict access to .edu data-sharing servers.
Initial discussion centered on the Navy’s inability to provide WiFi to deliver online content, but as the groups pulled the string to focus on the core problem, they found the primary barrier to the Education for Seapower Strategy’s success was significantly cultural.
To overcome the cultural barriers, the groups offered three recommendations:
1. Incentivize sailors to pursue higher education. This might include offering sailors who complete an educational goal (e.g., associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree) a monthly monetary stipend, a one-time bonus, or the ability to choose their next duty assignment. Another option would be to create a pay scale that recognizes a sailor’s highest degree earned. For example, an E-5B with a bachelor’s degree would receive higher basic pay than an E-5A with an associate’s degree, who, in turn, would receive more pay than an E-5 without a degree.
2. Incentivize commands to promote higher education to their subordinates.
This might include issuing a unit award, similar to a Battle “E,” for units with the best processes to support a sailor’s pursuit of higher education; including the time sailors spend pursuing higher education as a reportable mission-set; using higher education opportunities as a recruiting tool; and surveying sailors on their commands’ efforts to provide opportunities for higher education.
3. Provide sailors the computing tools needed to succeed, including individual tablets and Bluetooth keyboards able to upload/download course data without a .mil or NMCI connection both ashore and embarked, and offer college credit for the technical training sailors already complete for their rates.
How effectively are the U.S. military Sea Services integrated to fight a successful war today? What gaps or obstacles exist? How can we improve integration to leverage both military assets and other maritime entities to maintain dominance?
The four groups that examined this challenge identified three barriers to overcome:
- The Sea Services generate forces independently. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard manning and accession sources are separate, as are training facilities. This results in distinct cultural differences among the services and disparities in language or pro-words (i.e., the services cannot effectively communicate with one another).
- The equipment and assets operated by each force are not standardized and/or able to integrate well.
- Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) is a patchwork solution to creating a joint force. Most officers aren’t exposed to JPME until the O-4 level.
The groups proposed two solutions to overcome these barriers:
1. Execute joint integration early and often. This includes offering common accession sources for both officers and enlisted sailors and ensuring joint educational opportunities are provided at all phases of a career; bolstering integration opportunities/exchange tours/internships for all sailors; creating a common language among the Sea Services and phasing out specific Sea Service jargon; and ensuring technology among the Sea Services is interoperable.
2. Joint integration should not be limited to operations and exercises but should include training and education opportunities. One option is to coordinate the placement of Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, NOAA, and Merchant Marine students in the same program of study at public universities to learn together and solve issues with joint processes in mind.
The solutions offered by DARE participants may seem simple, but it took time and several iterations of problem identification and solution finding to arrive at these conclusions. Each group’s brainstorming area became covered in hand-scribed posters documenting different ideas. And while the final recommendations reflect the general thoughts of the group, they do not capture every good solution presented or reflect solidarity.
Overwhelmingly, DARE 2020 participants discovered the most valuable step in creating solutions for a problem is first taking the time to identify the root cause. They recognized that if you cannot adequately identify the source of the problem, you risk presenting the wrong solution.
Tune in to the U.S. Naval Institute podcast to learn more about DARE 2020.
Note: The U.S. Naval Institute would like to thank USAA, the sponsor of DARE 2020.