FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Nov. 8, 2010
By Geoff S. Fein, ONR Corporate Strategic Communications
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Top Navy officials said Nov. 8 at the 2010 Office of Naval Research Partnership Conference that some of the more pressing challenges facing the science and technology community may never be solved if more isn't done to develop the next generation of researchers.
"Our nation needs a talented workforce of science and technology (S&T) engineers," said Under Secretary of the Navy Robert Work, addressing the more than 1,500 attendees who gathered to discuss collaboration throughout the naval community. "We have got to grow the future of the S&T community and we need a partnership to do so," Work said.
That future force is vital to overcoming the hurdles facing the S&T community, such as anti-access and area-denial weapons, as well as the cost of operating and maintaining a Navy, the under secretary said. "We can't afford to spend billions and billions of dollars on ships and aircraft that don't reach their service lives and which cannot operate in this regime [anti-access and area denial]. We have to find a better way of reducing total ownership cost."
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead was also looking beyond the horizon to cultivating tomorrow's scientist.
"There are a couple of trends that are important to me... that those in the room have the ability to address remarkably well," Roughead said. "One area is the base from which you grow your intellectual capital, and that's the young people in our country--the young men and women who we will need more than ever before."
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that the need for scientists and engineers will double in the next 20 years; however, only 16 percent of U.S. college graduates attain a STEM degree. By comparison, 60 percent to 70 percent of students in Asia and some parts of Europe graduate with STEM credentials, according to statistics provided by the National Science Foundation.
"If we don't do something about it, nothing will happen," Roughead said. "That is something that is a fundamental for all of us interested in taking technology to the future."
Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Nevin Carr, who followed Under Secretary Work, discussed the importance of the three-day conference and ended his speech by stressing the need for more U.S. students to pursue STEM-related careers.
The Navy spent about $50 million on STEM outreach last year. "The Secretary [of the Navy] wants to double that investment in the next five years," Carr said. "It's the right thing to do, not just for the country, but we want those bright young minds to do good things for the Navy, whether it's in uniform, in academia or laboratories."
About the Office of Naval Research
The Office of Naval Research 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 Laboratory in Washington, D.C.