Did You Know…?

June 2009


I was told an interesting fact on Tuesday. Very credible source, but I am unsure how to verify. This is something that I think is rather remarkable.

Out of 52,400 active duty officers in the US Navy, only seven active duty US Navy Unrestricted Line officers* have a Ph.D.

* corrected to include that this statistic applies only to Unrestricted Line officers

Posted by galrahn in Navy

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  • smitty

    A) When would they put it into their career path,
    B) Do you want Naval Officers turning into windb^Wacademics?

  • Scott

    I’d believe there’s a dearth of PhD’s, but that number still seems too small to be believable. I’m not a USNA grad, but I think the Navy’s Permanent Military Professor program selects active duty folks and puts them through PhD programs so they can teach at Annapolis for the remainder of their active duty lives. I’d think that would account for at least 7 brains.

    In my 16th year as an AD aviator, I’ve never met a Navy Dr. who wasn’t an MD whereas I’ve run across 4 during my 2.5 year joint tour from Army and Air Force. The Navy has long undervalued academics, probably to it’s detriment. Concur with Smitty, don’t need a bunch of egghead academics in Navy blues, but we need a few more than we have today.

    Makes me wonder what the talent pool’s like at the Naval Research Lab, among other centers of excellence in the fleet.

  • Does this include those in the Permanent Military Professor program at the Naval Academy?

  • doc75

    Does this include technical Ph.D. or just the more policy oriented ones?

  • CDR Lumpy

    I would have to disagree with that, as there are a number of Naval Officers who are obtaining PhDs at the Naval Postgraduate School and I would estimate that the Permanent Military Professor program at the Naval Academy has seven PhDs on Staff (I found four on their website in 3 minutes of googling). The medical community has a number of PhDs in their ranks.

    Which brings up an interesting point.

    This quote can be found hanging on the wall in the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan Headquarters in Bagram.

    “The state which separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting by fools.” – Thucydides

    This quote illustrates the importance of educating our warriors.

  • Benjamin Walthrop

    I think you may be on to something there CDR Lumpy.


  • Anathema

    That stat is likley missing a number of qualifiers as there are many PhDs in the restricted line and staff communities. There is an active PhD program for those communities that is not mirrored in the unrestricted line.

    If you restated that there are only 7 Unrestricted Line officers with a PhD you would be likely more close to the truth.

    Oh, and the Navy Personnel Command has the official (self reported) stats. I looked them up some time back for enlisted personnel (which would make an interesting comparison…) and they certainly have those numbers for officers as well.

  • galrahn


    That is correct, it is only unrestricted line officers. I was corrected this morning on this point and was unable to update before your response.

  • Chap

    I was told in ’04 that there are 11 PhD’s in int’l relations or similar. There are several technical PhD slots open every year, although the Pol-Mil Master’s program occasionally gets quietly cancelled to divert money somewhere else from what I hear. Might be worth digging into.

    Also, re that Thucydides quote: it started a long conversation over at Milblogs in which I participated. I read it somewhere else; it’s actually by General Sir William Butler, writing about General Gordon, in a great book about the Sudan campaign. Here’s Marine colonel (and classics Ph.D.) Matthew Bogdanos using the quote to make a related point, and a restatement in a Washington Post editorial.

    You might well enjoy Colonel Bogdanos’ book.

  • k

    Nice thought for fact, but as the other commenters point out, not well executed.

    I’m a PHD, but a Reservist.

    My last two active duty admiral bosses – Admiral Patrick Walsh & Admiral James Stavridis – also PHDs.

    That’s a whole lotta dissertating going around.

    I think a better stat might be how many total PHDs there are on active duty. I do imagine the ratio would be higher for Reservists too. In my community I know of several others.

    As for verification, you can ask BUPERS to run a query because education transcripts are a part of the paperwork we have to submit to the Navy.

  • Prof Gene

    Our Permanent Military Professors (PMPs) are all reclassified out of the URL as HR officers in the RL, since they will never return to their URL communities, so they do not count in this stat.

    ADMs Pat Walsh (VCNO) and Jim Stavridis (EUCOM, or nearly so) are the only two URL flags with a Ph.D.

    This stat apparently originates from the Ph.D. dissertation of CAPT Mark Hagerott, a new PMP at USNA. It’s called “Commanding Men & Machines: Admiralship, Technology & Ideology in the 20th Century U.S. Navy” and is well worth the read if you have time for 465 pages. His basic argument is that in the 1950’s we adopted a technocratic model of officer development that values technological expertise over warfighting, particularly in our educational institutions.

    The big question here is after ADMs Walsh and Stavridis pass from the scene, who is next as the Navy’s warrior-thinkers? Who is next as the Navy’s operational/strategic leaders who regularly publish in forums like Proceedings and the War College Review? ADM Stavridis and CAPT Hagerott co-authored an article for the Spring War College Review that should be required reading for anyone who cares about the future of the Navy’s officer corps. Read it at: