ONR contracts and grants already support some undergraduates in research projects, but not in a coordinated program to attract students. For example, most or all of the NA&ME/Ocean Engineering institutions could offer summer research opportunities, even if they did not have relevant ongoing ONR projects. These summer positions would be attractive to undergraduates both financially and intellectually, and the cost would be moderate.
Life at a university can be extremely competitive on both a personal level and a program or departmental level. There is no simple "bottom line" by which evaluations can be made, a fact that gives added importance to some subjective criteria. The health and even the survival of NA&ME programs may depend on their being able to demonstrate that intellectual diversity is critical. At the same time, programs must also demonstrate their worth according to the standards, both objective and subjective, applied to more conventional programs. Universities will need the active support of industry and government to accomplish this.
The institutions discussed in this report are expected to produce the naval architects and ocean engineers for future naval construction and a resurgent commercial shipbuilding industry. Their ability to do so, however, depends upon their continued existence. Many programs are in decline, and there is no unified effort to change the situation. If the number of programs in a field is too small, there will not be enough latitude or redundancy for experiments to be made in institutional programs. If the number of institutions decreases, the United States risks losing the capability to educate engineers specifically for the marine industries. If this capability is ever lost, it will be extremely difficult to recover it. This study would suggest that modest steps and investments can avoid such a national crisis as the loss of our NA&ME educational pipeline; absent such attention, a crisis looms. The committee recognizes that a broader view of education in marine fields is necessary and urges further study, particularly of the role of maritime academies in a period of decline of both the U.S. Navy and the U.S.-flag merchant fleet.