vides academically. The Chronicle of Higher Education has reported that a large proportion of the students in engineering and science graduate fields come from abroad. The large number of foreign graduate students attests to the premium placed on U.S. graduate education.
Although the U.S. educational system apparently produces an adequate number of degree recipients in science and technology, the courses of study available are in many ways poorly matched with Navy needs. There has been a tendency for both the faculty and the students to aim for more prestigious courses of study, those concerned with the exotic and the theoretical at the expense of more practical applied sciences needed for naval operations. Many applied science programs have attenuated or have disappeared from academic science departments, in some cases reappearing in engineering departments, while many engineering departments have eschewed applications-oriented studies for science-based education. The fraction of college students enrolled in calculus-based elementary physics has declined over the last 50 years, yet the military's need for individuals with expertise in such a discipline has expanded over this period, not declined.
In many U.S. graduate departments of science and technology, a majority of the students today are foreign nationals and thus do not qualify for either civilian or uniformed employment by the naval forces. Foreign national students who remain in this country and achieve citizenship constitute a substantial fraction (perhaps half) of the total. They represent substantial gains for the United States, but the Navy can attract them, if at all, only in mid or late career.
It is a paradox that although the real strength of the U.S. educational system is at the graduate level, there is little indication that the Navy leadership prizes such education as a necessary component of an officer's background. The discipline in graduate study of tackling an original research problem that has no known right answer; of learning how to frame a question and how to approach it; of knowing how to interpret data, how to draw significant conclusions from them, and how to present and sell the validity of the result provides an extraordinarily effective approach to problem solving that is beneficial throughout a career. The nature of the discipline or the particular problem is less important than the process. The Navy may not value sufficiently the problem-solving potential represented in substantive graduate programs in technology, engineering, and science.
Education takes time in the career path of the officer: time to think, collect and analyze data, organize, and communicate. This time cannot be abridged too severely without losing the effectiveness of the process. Although some officers are engaged in this way of learning, others by choice are serving in the fleet without making the commitment to further learning. The latter tend to be favored by fast-tracking in the Navy's promotion process because they are more visible, making personal contact with active Navy officer superiors who then may tend to advocate their subsequent advancement. Viewed in this light, the extended time spent in serious graduate study, even in fields of critical interest to the Navy, frequently inhibits promotion and advancement compared to those who do not