Navy education system overhaul creates new research hubs on coasts

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Earlier this month, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer teased that the service will change the way it looks at sailor education to focus on increasing the collaboration between the Navy’s goals and technological development.

Now a new naval strategy, focused on maintaining maritime superiority, confirms the service is overhauling the way it approaches its educational institutions. The educational system will now put more emphasis on research, collaborating with industry and intertwining real-world experience to create a more agile learning environment.

The Navy will set up two major hubs, which are basically centers of excellence. One will be located on the East Coast and another on the West, and will focus on concept development and capability development, respectively.

Navy Adm. John Richardson testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on July 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

“Now that we’ve got this great power competition as a unifying theme we can start to get this learning engine really going,”  Adm. John Richardson, the chief of Naval Operations told Federal News Network in an exclusive interview. “The gears are starting to mesh as we think about how we are going to confront this competitive environment.”

The East Coast hub will be located at the newly established U.S. 2nd Fleet and principally supported by the Naval War College and Navy Warfare Development Command.

The western center of excellence will work within the U.S. 3rd Fleet and will be supported by the Naval Post Graduate School, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command and the Navy Warfare Development Command.

On top of that, the Navy will create a three-star director for warfighting development.

The position is “going to run the learning engine for the Navy,” Richardson said. “It’s a huge responsibility.”

The Navy said in its strategy that the “office will be responsible for coordinating and aligning the Navy’s education, experimentation, exercise, and analytic efforts. It will align leader development across accession sources. Synergy between how we fight and how we learn will accelerate our combat effectiveness.”

Richardson said the Navy learns in three ways; therefore the hubs will pull together those avenues of education.

“We have training schools, we have education schools, we have graduate schools, we’ve got the Naval War College, we’ve got the post-graduate school, so that’s one way of learning we have, we teach.” Richardson said. “We also have fleet exercises. We take forces out and take the fleet out to sea and we try certain things. We have experimentation that goes on with immature technology. We’ll take it out and put it in the hands of sailors as soon as we can and just start rapidly iterating and prototyping on that.”

The idea for the overhaul comes from part of a larger review of the Naval education system, which Navy Undersecretary Thomas Modly directed back in April.

The purpose of augmenting the schools’ mission is to make the Navy more valuable to itself and to private business.

Spencer said earlier this month that the Naval Postgraduate School will soon serve as a research institution that works with private companies.

Even though the Defense Department and the military services have the Defense Innovation Unit, the Strategic Capabilities Office and other programs to call on Silicon Valley businesses, Spencer said that he thought there were other avenues to build trust.

“What better way to really start to cement relationships than to research together, with the concept of having a Stanford Research Institute (SRI) model,” Spencer said.

The SRI model refers to developers of a product both inside and outside government benefiting from their work by owning or profiting off intellectual property. That idea would still need legislative approval, but it’s been touted by the Army’s top acquisition official as well.

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