Navy to Invest $100 Million in STEM Education

Article excerpt

Over the next five years, the Navy will increase its investment in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education programs from $54 million to $100 million, Secretary of the Navy Raymond Mabus recently announced.

"We are going to double it in a targeted and innovative way so that we reach the maximum number of people and have the maximum impact," he said at the Naval STEM Forum in Alexandria, Va.

Past initiatives sought to reach many age groups with various educational strategies, but teachers represented at the forum asked officials for more coordination between programs.

Post-secondary degrees in STEM doubled between 1960 and 2000, but have since stagnated, the Congressional Research Service reported. Non-STEM careers are garnering higher salaries, which results in potential science and engineering majors choosing less difficult tracks.

The Navy's interest in STEM programs is rooted in the shrinking pool of military and civilian experts in these fields. More than half of the Defense Department's acquisition work force is preparing for retirement, said Rear Adm. Nevin Carr, chief of naval research. The service is working to ensure that Naval Sea Systems Command's cadre of 19,000 scientists and engineers remains fully staffed and continues to make groundbreaking discoveries, he added.

Mabus said recruiting students into the Navy's science and technology enterprise is not the initiative's ultimate goal.

"This is of great interest to the Navy and Marine Corps, but it is of crucial interest to the United States," Mabus said. "It is more clear now than it has ever been that our nation's security depends on our smarts as well as our strength."

Adm. Gary Roughead, former chief of naval operations, said more than 51 percent of U.S. patents last year were awarded to foreign companies. However, the U.S. Navy's patent portfolio is ranked as one of the strongest among government organizations. …