Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Richard V. Spencer addressed Naval Postgraduate School students, faculty and staff during the latest Secretary of the Navy Guest Lecture (SGL), Feb. 1. Spencer shared with the packed King Auditorium audience his vision for the future NPS, and how the Navy, DOD and the nation can capitalize on the Navy’s prestigious graduate university.
Spencer began his discussion with a personal memory from his time on campus as an active duty Marine Corps 1st lieutenant attending an aviation safety course.
“It was probably one of the most exciting times that I had because it was the first time since undergraduate that I was able to do research,” said Spencer, who described his efforts to program algorithms for hovering parameters for the H-46 helicopters he served on.
Spencer spent the bulk of his presentation to the university creating a vision for the future of NPS, and why his service, and the nation, needs to maximize the university’s potential contributions to our national security.
“We all have an interest in ensuring that NPS endures as the preeminent, postgraduate research and education institution and the first choice for the Navy and Marine Corps and our partners,” said Spencer. “But going even further, I want this institution to be the primary education and research enterprise for a partnership with the private sector, government sector and academia coming together at the research level.
“Why do I want this?” Spencer asked. “I want this specifically as the Secretary of the Navy because I have, as the globe has, many vexing problems facing me.”
Core to the university’s mission, Spencer reinforced the critical importance of defense-relevant research and its role in building capabilities. He stressed the value of attracting the best and brightest students through elevated admissions standards, as well as competing for, attracting and retaining the best faculty possible.
“Competition to attend NPS has grown for years, and that to me is a very good thing,” said Spencer. “As this institution expands its reach, everyone here benefits from the diversity of experience and expertise of the student body. It’s a leverageable learning experience.
“That excellence shines on after NPS, with many NPS alumni becoming leaders in their fields. The Naval Postgraduate School makes a difference because the Naval Postgraduate school is different,” he noted.
Going forward, Spencer stressed the importance of NPS’ academic focus, and the institution’s need for service-wide support for the university’s students, with their development essential to staying competitive, and reaching fleet and national security demands.
“This institution is a primary incubator for the capabilities that we need now,” said Spencer. “It’s all about time and urgency, from the railgun to unmanned systems, power solutions to business and public policy generation, information science to international studies, NPS is at the forefront of improving our capabilities. Having junior officers fresh from tours who have seen what their organizations need, and matching them with the expertise of the professors here, is a force multiplier to develop solutions.”
Spencer also commented on NPS’ location in California, and its close proximity to top tier universities as well as important technology and industry hubs. He stressed the importance of taking advantage of the opportunities that were there for the taking, as a result of the university’s advantageous location.
“We are open to those organization, both public and private, who want to come to NPS to build, innovate, develop, test and improve ideas, products and solutions alongside us,” said Spencer. “We must enhance the culture here at NPS to promote entrepreneurial and risk taking spirit. Major advancements in technology and policies are never the result of conservative intellectual spirit, we must expand our view and our reach.
“The research and development pioneered here, the strategic policy papers written here, the business studies conducted here, they all have real-world applicability to the fleet and other organizations throughout the whole of government,” Spencer added. “The infrastructure is in place, the credibility exists, let’s enhance it and increase the impact we can make in all our areas of expertise.”
Before fielding questions from the audience, Spencer concluded his remarks by stressing the important of the opportunity the institution has, but noted that it was up to those in the room to ensure the university meets, if not exceeds his ambitious goals.
“The future is bright here at NPS, I am very proud of the work here you do,” said Spencer. “I am excited about the prospects and look forward to working to ensure NPS enhances its reputation as an elite institution by attracting the best, both students and faculty.
“At the end of the day, however, it is all up to you,” he continued. “Ladies and gentlemen, I need your help in identifying and removing obstacles that undermine the academic agility and innovation we need at NPS. And when you go back to the fleet, I need your help in removing the barriers blocking your way to implanting these ideas.
“Go forth and prosper, you have all the resources you need to make our Navy and Marine Corps team the best that it can be,” he concluded.
The Honorable Richard V. Spencer was sworn in as the 76th Secretary of the Navy on Aug. 3, 2017. Previously, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps as an H-46 pilot from 1976-1981. Spencer worked on Wall Street for 16 years, and also served as the Chief Financial Officer and Vice Chairman of Intercontinental Exchange, Inc., a leading electronic commodity futures exchange. Additionally, he has served as Vice Chairman of the nonprofit Marine Corps Heritage Foundation and has served on executive panels that advise the Chief of Naval Operations.
NPS' Secretary of the Navy Guest Lecture (SGL) program provides a series of professional lectures by senior leaders throughout defense, government, industry and academia designed to help the university's students and faculty link their studies, teaching and research efforts to the defense needs of the nation.