An Overview of the U.S. Navy Sustaining Distance Training

Article excerpt

The U.S. Navy has been conducting a major reorganization using plans and strategies collectively called Sea Power 21 (Clark, 2002) that are heavily dependant on a high-technology environment. Admiral Vern Clark recently completed his assignment as the chief of naval operations (CNO), the Navy's top military leadership position. He was the first CNO to have an MBA degree (Clark, 2004a) and his business process knowledge, along with the transformational initiatives of the Secretary of Defense, set in motion revolutionary efforts that are transforming or replacing traditional Navy systems, using successful business philosophies and methodologies.

Driven by top leadership, the development of personnel capabilities is recognized as crucial for "mission accomplishment," and so individual training in the U.S. Navy has significantly increased in importance and become a significant consideration in the planning, development, and operation of the "workplace." ?-learning, along with related concepts of knowledge management and distance training, has been wholly embraced by senior leadership and is becoming an integral part of the workspace, along with technological capability, at a phenomenal pace.


The U.S. Navy has over 350,000 active duty personnel and 130,000 Ready Reserve. There are regularly over 30,000 personnel deployed (away from their home base or station) at any given time. The Navy also has over 175,000 civilian employees. All of these personnel are an essential part of the Navy's mission, and accomplish their tasks from over 280 ships and a great many bases and stations throughout the continental United States and numerous foreign countries, (U.S. Navy, Status of the Navy, n.d.). Communication and coordination can appear to be a phenomenal feat, but it is achieved regularly and more and more effectively as capabilities, processes and procedures improve, following guidance promulgated from the top.

The Navy's long-term vision is encapsulated in Sea Power 21, the Navy's transformational strategy used to develop operational and organizational processes, policies, and related strategies. It is "global in scope, fully joint in execution, and dedicated to transformation" (Clark, 2002). It communicates the vision on how the Navy will "organize, integrate, and transform," and consists of three fundamental concepts that will ensure the Navy continues as the supreme military seapower force in the future: Sea Strike, Sea Shield, and Sea Basing. Sea Strike enables projection of offensive power from the sea, Sea Shield extends defensive assurance throughout the world, and Sea Basing enhances operational independence and support for the joint force. Sea Power 21 also provides the critical concept of FORCEnet, which will enable information management (through technological capability) among the three fundamental concepts, and empower all Navy personnel.


Given the size and geographical dispersion of the Navy, a distance learning program capability is critical, and recognized in top leadership guidance. Each year, the chief of naval operations publishes an annual document, titled CNO Guidance for [year] which provides an overview on the Navy vision and mission, and assigns critical tasks or milestones to specific organization elements. This year's multipage guidance includes: Develop a postgraduate education strategy centered around the Naval Postgraduate School's resident and distance learning programs (italics added) that fully leverages Joint service, inter-agency, and international curricula (Mullen, 2005).

But that is just a small part of the initiative to match skills (and education, and provide training and "just in time" information) to the position. The CNO's 8 Tenets (What I believe: Eight Tenets That Guide My Vision for the 21st Century Navy) are further guidance intended for use by Navy leadership. Admiral Mullen (2006), current CNO, stated

New opportunities and security challenges require new skills. …