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John Kroger, Vice President of the Aspen Institute, discusses failures impacting the Navy and reforms that could address them

The Navy’s new plan would expand its fleet to as many as 530 ships in the coming years, but the force is facing some failures, according to former Chief Learning Officer of the Navy John Kroger. In a piece in Defense One, Kroger lays out three major failures impacting the Navy along with reforms that could be implemented.

The first is the failure to strategically define a compelling vision for the Navy’s future. “We’re still operating under a force assessment plan that was written during the Obama Administration,” Kroger said on “Government Matters” Wednesday. A shipbuilding plan was drafted but shelved, and, according to Kroger, “that kind of drift is really dangerous to national security.”

Kroger said he is alarmed that the Navy “has basically been stripped of the power to define what the future Navy looks like.” He said Secretary of Defense Mark Esper put aside the plan the Navy was working on “because of the reception that it was based on.”

Kroger suggests the implementation of a joint Navy and Marine Corps think tank that brings together leaders from all across the landscape – academia, private sector, etc. When asked by “Government Matters” host Francis Rose if he is encouraged that the most recent force structure assessment is bringing in dialogue from outside the building to help move forward, Kroger said it is a “good step.”

The second failure Kroger identifies is the failure to reform a broken ship design and acquisition system. “Over the last four years under this administration, we haven’t made any fundamental changes to our shipbuilding planning and acquisition process,” he explained. “I was somewhat stunned to see the ranking members of both parties in the Senate Armed Services Committee call for fundamental reform, and no real response from the Navy.”

The third failure Kroger defines is the failure to build a diverse, high-performing leadership team. Rose asked Kroger if he is encouraged by the action all the branches seem to be taking of removing pictures and names from promotion boards to try to eliminate bias. Kroger responded, “I think that everyone is taking steps. They’re probably overdue, but they’re to be encouraged.”

He is worried, though, about the leadership in the Department of Defense, saying the department is run mostly by white men. “We have national security experts of both genders … across the spectrum of race and ethnicity, and we really need to draw on all the strengths of America.”

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