Why the U.S. Navy needs intellectual diversity to thrive

Eric Garland Uncategorized Leave a Comment

USS_VincennesIn this era of economic transition, many non-technical jobs are being shed as quantitative skills are valued over qualitative. The narrative these days goes, “Did you study electrical engineering? Good move! It’s a growth industry. What? You majored in philosophy? Nobody needs that, you fool. Enjoy making foamy coffee drinks.” You can tell by my editorialization that I think this is foolish – but I’m not alone.

According to this OpEd by Lt. Alexander P. Smith, the U.S. Navy would be foolish to rid itself of a diverse intellectual background in its officer corps.

To me, diversity is more than gender, race, religion and sexual orientation; it also includes the intellectual background each officer brings to the force. Starting in 2014, however, the vast majority of all NROTC graduates will be STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) majors with minimal studies in humanities. Our Navy is about to go through unprecedented compartmentalization, but not many officers seem to realize it.

The tier system was developed in 2009 as a result of fewer NROTC and Naval Academy graduates entering the nuclear-reactor community. Guidance in the Regulations for Officer Development and the Navy’s Academic Major Selection Policy directs a minimum of 65 percent of NROTC Navy Option Scholarship midshipmen complete a technical degree program before receiving their commission.

A technical degree refers to Tier 1 and Tier 2 majors, which are science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors. All other academic majors constitute a nontechnical academic major, or Tier 3.

As a result of the new academic tier policy, Naval Service Training Command offers scholarships first to Tier 1, then Tier 2, and lastly to Tier 3 majors.

Technology is more important to our institutions than ever. Yet just as war is too important to leave to the generals, technology is too important to leave to the techies. As I have discovered in the cross-disciplinary world of strategy, different people think differently – and that’s an essential thing, not a problem. You don’t want want a bridge that I built (math, you see), you might not want your head of engineering doing human resources, and maybe the quarter-by-quarter-commission sales guy isn’t the best for long-term strategy. The fact is, we all work together, and we would be wrong to value one type of skill over all the others required to run a healthy institution.