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The US Naval Academy: Adapting for Modern Naval Leadership Challenges

The US Naval Academy is diverse

The US Naval Academy (often referred to as Annapolis or USNA) has a longstanding history of developing leaders who have made a tremendous impact in the world whether on the field of battle, the playing field or off earth exploration. The Academy is noted for famous graduates with names like Carter, McCain, Stockdale, Shepard, Burke, Nimitz, Robinson, Staubach, Webb, Bolden, Perot, Lovell, Lawrence, Krulak, Crowe, Trost, Rickover, Stavridis and Williams. But Navy and Marine Corps leadership aren’t just recognized within the military. Their bold effects have touched every sector and every industry in business, philanthropy, and beyond. Yet, as societies evolve and new threats surface, the question arises as to how the U.S. Naval Academy will adapt. Given its history of leadership development, the US Naval Academy and its future strategies are topics worth exploring.

Bold Business was fortunate to interview the US Naval Academy’s 87th Commandant of Midshipman Captain Robert B. Chadwick II at the Zephyrhills Jump Zone where he was participating with the Naval Academy Parachute team. In this exclusive interview with Associate Publisher John R. Miles, himself a 1993 Academy graduate, Captain Chadwick discusses how the Academy is evolving with modern warfare and leadership needs.


Although many consider the US Naval Academy for its military training, it is also one of the top academic colleges in the country with an 86 percent graduation rate. Both Forbes and U.S. News and World Report ranked it as top public colleges and the later for the best undergraduate engineering program. Over fifty United States astronauts were trained in the Yard. In addition, there have been seventy-three Medal of Honor recipients, two Nobel Prize winners, twenty-six members of Congress, five Governers and a former President of the United States. Likewise, the US Naval Academy has generated over 1,000 academic scholars, including fifty-two Rhodes scholars, and twenty-eight Marshall scholars. But modern Navy leadership and academic training continue to evolve as the world and social change.

New Generations, New Challenges for Navy Leadership Development

The mission of the US Naval Academy is to develop midshipmen morally, mentally and physically while advancing ideals of duty, honor, and loyalty. Life at the Academy is centered around preparing them to be Naval Officers in the United States Navy or Marine Corps. Through a variety of programs and activities, individuals are trained for the highest levels of command, citizenship, and government. And global changes continue to evolve over time, and the US Naval Academy has adapted with them. This includes a shift towards greater diversity.

Capt Robb Chadwick speaks on USNA diversity
A more diverse world means a more diverse US Naval Academy.

Contemporary generations learn in different ways compared to past generations. The challenge, then, is to continue to excel in Navy leadership development while considering new approaches. This case requires assessing new attitudes and perspectives while continuing to invest in ethical and bold leadership values. Indeed, a perspective that embraces diversity and inclusion helps. Still, the US Naval Academy is doing much more to enhance Navy leadership training for new recruits.

According to Captain Chadwick, the US Naval Academy views itself as a leadership laboratory. The laboratory, as an analogy, continually seeks new ways in carrying out Navy leadership training. In this regard, he notes that both the leadership and ethics departments have been growing significantly in the past years. Because the US Naval Academy is leveraging these advances with diversity in leadership experiences, midshipmen are enjoying new approaches to Navy leadership training. This approach has not only been ideal for newer generations but also effective for dynamic world environments.

Vice Admiral Walter E. "Ted" Carter Jr.
It takes a top-notch educational institution to create top-notch Navy leadership.

The Price of Innovation: A Battlefield to Master Through the Center for Cyber Security Studies

Generational preferences also show a significant inclination towards the use of technology in leadership development. But technology is shifting leadership needs in other ways as well. Specifically, cybersecurity issues are now ranked as the most pressing matter for organizations across the globe. Therefore, the US Naval Academy must equip tomorrow’s leaders with cybersecurity skills and knowledge. They are doing this through the Center for Cyber Security Studies.

The Center for Cyber Security Studies’ purpose is to enhance the education of midshipmen in cyber warfare. The program (one of the first of its kind) fosters the sharing of information and expertise on the perspectives of cyber warfare from inter-disciplinary research. All midshipmen must take two classes from the center during their four years at the Academy.

According to the Cybersecurity Jobs Report, roughly 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs will exist by the year 2021. In fact, the current unemployment rate for these positions sits at zero percent. This need has developed rather quickly, as the US Naval Academy had few such programs a decade ago. But for quality navy leadership development, the Academy provides ways to meet the need and cultivate such skills. These skills will be increasingly essential for all leadership positions, civilian or otherwise.

Vice Admiral talking cyber education and the Center for Cyber Security Studies
Innovation has made cyberspace the next battlefield, so the US Naval Academy is busy preparing future leaders through the Center for Cyber Security Studies

More than 120 students now graduate in this field compared to about 30 two years ago. According to Paul Tortora, its director, the Cyber Security degree is now the third most popular this year for midshipmen.

The US Naval Academy Today – Proactive Strategies in Developing Future Leaders

The US Naval Academy is embracing the challenges in its leadership development efforts. As Captain Chadwick notes, the immersive process at the US Naval Academy provides a broad approach to leadership development.

In addition to providing a new Center for Experiential Leadership Development, the US Naval Academy gives its junior officers the opportunity to engage in ethical and legal scenarios as part of their training. Furthermore, by keeping up-to-date on current global needs, the US Naval Academy improves its modern Navy leadership training strategies. It is clear the US Naval Academy continues to develop the bold leaders of tomorrow—and will continue to do so in the years to come.

John McCain talks USNA
As a US Naval Academy grad, the late US Senator John McCain was appreciative of what the institution had taught him.


For more on US Naval Academy Commandant of Midshipman Captain Robb Chadwick II, check out this week’s Bold Leader Spotlight. For the full length interview. watch it here.

To read more about the Naval Academy’s impact on leadership, read our exclusive story with Major Katie Higgins Cook USNA’08, the first female Blue Angels Pilot.

To learn more about the Marine Corps’ traditions and the impact of women in the Corps read our Bold Leader Spotlight on Lt. General Lori Reynolds USNA’86.

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