Monterey Naval Postgraduate School Prepares Military Elite

By Jim Fisher-Thompson
USINFO Staff Writer

Monterey, California " Perched atop a knoll on the outskirts of Monterey on the grounds of the former Del Monte Hotel sits a premier U.S. defense education institution that has trained leaders from 70 nations.

The Naval Postgraduate School has educated 45,000 foreign officers and defense officials since its founding in 1909 in Annapolis, Maryland. Its alumni include:  King Abdullah bin Al-Hussein of Jordan; Admiral Ozden Ornek, commander of Turkish naval forces; General Elyezer Shkedy, chief of staff of the Israeli air force; and professor Lui Pao Chuen, chief defense scientist of Singapore’s Ministry of Defense.  The school moved from the U.S. Naval Academy to its current location in Monterey, California, in 1951.

The NPS is currently home to a student body of 1,600 U.S. officers and more than 250 military personnel from 40 nations.  They are pursuing yearlong post-graduate courses in 35 different subjects, including engineering, science, technology, business and national security, in a picturesque setting of a former resort built by railroad magnate Leland Stanford in the 1880s.

Vice President Cheney has said the military institution by the sea is “absolutely vital” to prepare U.S. and foreign military officers in the important fields of defense management as well as in technical and security studies.

In light of continuing advances in technology, Cheney suggested that defense management is as important a proficiency for senior military officers as operational warfighting.  This is why, since World War II, so many generals and admirals in industrialized nations have acquired advanced degrees in technical fields as well as business.

The institution called a “national treasure” by former President George H.W. Bush has turned out many polished officers including Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Mullen.  Mullen graduated from NPS with a master's degree in operations research; he also attended Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program.

Mullen recently captured the essence of NPS when he said the institution “is at the vanguard of national security and graduate education … it is the right place " absolutely the best place " for analytical and technical professional development” for U.S. and international defense specialists.

The university is divided into 14 academic departments under four degree-granting graduate schools:  Business and Public Policy, Engineering and Applied Sciences, Operations and Information Sciences, and the School of International Graduate Studies - established in 2001.

In addition to its resident programs, NPS also offers graduate degrees through distance learning to military officers stationed abroad via “web-enabled, video tele-education” seminars and lectures.  Teams of scholars also travel and teach overseas as part of NPS’s short-course programs that reach close to 50,000 students annually.

The bulk of NPS’s faculty of 500 - 10 percent of whom are military officers - holds doctorates and includes noted scholars such as professor Douglas Porch, chairman of the Department of National Security Affairs (NSA) in NPS’s School of International Graduate Studies.

Porch is a military historian and author of several popular books on the French army and its colonial wars in Africa.  His most recent work, Wars of Empire, is part of the Cassell History of Warfare series.

Jessica Piombo, a professor of African studies with a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, teaches in Porch’s department. She recently returned from Nigeria, where she served as an election observer on a team sponsored by the International Republican Institute.

Piombo told USINFO that the department is mentoring approximately 400 students from 35 nations.  She said the department offers master’s degrees in regional studies, security studies and homeland defense and security.

The former visiting scholar at the African Studies Center of the University of Cape Town said she teaches African politics in NSA’s regional studies section. She instructs officers from all branches of services who specialize in geographic areas and need excellent problem-solving security tools.

The Defense Department, which funds the university, expects officers to demonstrate regional expertise including foreign language ability, according to Piombo.

Piombo said many of her U.S. students eventually will choose as their life’s work the study and analysis of African politics, culture and languages because some branches of the U.S. military allow officers to specialize in a single region for their entire career.