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Review of the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Draft Memorandum, "NAVSEA’s 21st Century Engagement, Education, and Technology Initiative" May 30, 2008 Mr. John H. James, Jr. Naval Sea Systems Command 1333 Isaac Hull Ave., SE Washington Navy Yard, DC 20376-1080 Dear Mr. James: In 2007, an ad hoc committee of the National Academies released a report entitled, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future That report concluded that “the scientific and technological building blocks critical to our economic leadership are eroding at a time when many other nations are gathering strength.”1 The report identified a series of challenges to competitiveness and four areas of recommendations for the nation to enhance the science and technology enterprise so that the United States can successfully compete, prosper, and be secure in the global community of the 21st Century. The Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), the largest of the Navy’s five systems commands, “maintains the current Navy, acquires the next Navy and designs the Navy after next. Accounting for nearly one-fifth of the Navy’s budget, NAVSEA manages more than 150 acquisition programs and has 33 activities in 16 states. With a force of 53,000 civilian, military and contract support personnel, NAVSEA engineers, builds, buys and maintains the Navy’s ships and submarines and their combat systems.”2 NAVSEA employs scientists and engineers in a variety of fields: electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, engineering technology, nuclear engineering, general engineering, electronic engineering, and computer science. These professions account for 35 percent of NAVSEA’s workforce. In 2007, NAVSEA asked the National Academies to review the draft memorandum, “NAVSEA’s 21st Century Engagement, Education, and Technology Initiative”, which responds to the call to action set forth in the Gathering Storm report. The memorandum outlines NAVSEA’s proposed contributions to this national effort.3 Discussions between NAVSEA and the National Academies led to the creation of an ad hoc committee4 tasked with commenting on the memorandum.5 Observations and recommendations are based in large part on committee expertise and opinions, drawing on information provided by NAVSEA personnel. This report, which was reviewed according to National Academies’ policies,6 fulfills that charge. 1 NAS/NAE/IOM. 2007. Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, p. 3. 2 http://www.navsea.navy.mil/ 3 A copy of the draft memorandum presented to the committee is in Appendix V. 4 A list of committee members is presented in Appendix I. 5 The committee’s charge is detailed in Appendix II. 6 The committee would like to thank the reviewers, who are listed in Appendix III.
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Review of the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Draft Memorandum, "NAVSEA’s 21st Century Engagement, Education, and Technology Initiative" SUMMARY First, it is heartening and reassuring that NAVSEA recognizes the critical challenge of maintaining an adequate number of skilled Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) professionals. NAVSEA correctly reasons that this challenge has implications for its own workforce development, and its commitment to address this challenge as it relates to its own mission is commendable. The committee recognizes that the program outlined in the draft memorandum is an early attempt to lay out a comprehensive solution for NAVSEA in the context of existing efforts there and in the Navy more broadly. The focus of the proposed activities should be on fulfilling NAVSEA’s needs, drawing on its unique resources. Our review is offered in the spirit of strengthening and enhancing NAVSEA’s potential contributions. The committee’s review is summarized in the following four points: The committee was unclear in reviewing the memorandum as to what problem NAVSEA was trying to address. The committee assumed that the issue revolved around maintaining a highly qualified and diverse workforce. NAVSEA should clearly lay out its objectives for the proposed program. This would both enable a better understanding of the program and serve as a basis for establishing metrics by which achievement of program objectives can be measured. The concept of a long-term program with three ongoing phases (plant, nurture, and produce) demonstrates NAVSEA’s understanding that this type of initiative requires both a long-term perspective to achieve sustaining results and a focus on engaging students at different age groups. There is the implication, however, that these phases are distinct and that we must wait until 2015–2018 to produce the desired results. The Committee urges a more dynamic and iterative relationship between the three phases proposed. Further the committee recommends that NAVSEA carefully consider how wide a scope it can adequately address, given the available resources and the amount that would be needed to target different age groups. The draft memorandum contains a wide range of initiatives, and probably too many to be effectively managed to the desired results. Several initiatives (e.g., NAVLAB) are not described in sufficient detail to evaluate them effectively or their potential for successful implementation. In other instances (e.g., basic research), it is not clear that NAVSEA is best positioned to oversee the effort. The committee believes that NAVSEA should concentrate its efforts where it can best leverage its existing resources and its broad geographic presence. To this end, NAVSEA would be well served to make a robust competitive scholarship program and an intern and summer work initiative the centerpieces of its program. NAVSEA should focus on programs where it has unique value added. It should not “reinvent the wheel,” but rather do what it does best to meet its needs and consider partnering with other branches, services, federal agencies, or professional societies to enhance currently beneficial programs.