ALEXANDRIA, Va.--Reinforcing President Obama's call to improve America's science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education over the next decade, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced his plan to strengthen the service's future workforce at a June 15-16 conference sponsored by the Office of Naval Research.
"I have committed to doubling the Navy's investment in STEM education over the next five years," Mabus said in his keynote speech as he kicked off the 2011 Naval STEM Forum in Alexandria, Va. "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."
The secretary used his keynote speech to introduce a roadmap aimed at renewing the Navy's focus on providing educational opportunities for future naval scientists and engineers.
Mabus said the Navy's STEM priority areas will: inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers; engage students in STEM-related hands-on learning using Navy-centric content; educate students in the STEM disciplines, so they are prepared for the Navy and Marine Corps' high-tech careers; employ, retain and develop naval STEM professionals; and collaborate across the naval STEM enterprise with organizations around the country to maximize the benefit to the Navy and Marine Corps.
This roadmap, Mabus said, introduces exciting new programs that will help increase participation by students and teachers in under-represented communities and also address gaps in the current naval STEM portfolio.
The move will increase the Navy's total dollars committed to STEM education initiatives to more than $100 million by 2015, from $54 million in 2010.
"In the fleet and in the operating services, Sailors and Marines are called upon every day to do a lot of really difficult things," Mabus said. "They work on the world's most complicated and best anti-air and anti-missile systems; they maintain avionics systems; they hang ordnance on aircraft heading out for combat missions; and they operate the nuclear power plants on subs and our carriers."
These technically challenging missions, he said, takes more than intelligence; they require critical thinking skills received from a great education. "It is more clear now than it has ever been that our nation's security depends on our smarts as well as our strength," the secretary said.
The Department of the Navy's emphasis on STEM initiatives is due in part to an aging science and technology (S&T) workforce. More than 50 percent of the Navy's scientists, engineers and related disciplines will be retirement eligible by 2020.
To establish a strong naval STEM program requires collaboration, Mabus said. To achieve this, ONR will become the coordinating body for naval STEM, facilitating efforts across the service, he said. The Department of the Navy's science and technology agency will develop and promote common policies and tools to support STEM education, establishing a "one-stop" information portal for public exchange of naval STEM programs and develop partnerships with federal agencies, stakeholders and other services.
"The U.S. is a world technology leader and the goal of Navy STEM is to keep it that way," said Rear Adm. Nevin Carr, who as chief of naval research leads ONR. "Each of the member organizations across the naval research enterprise are deeply committed to actively supporting the secretary's plan."
About the Office of Naval Research
The Department of the Navy's Office of Naval Research (ONR) provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps' technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and 914 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.