U.S. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer has picked a highly-credentialed academic administrator, John R. Kroger, to take up the newly created post of chief learning officer (CLO) for the Navy's wide variety of educational programs.
Kroger served for six years as the president of Reed College, a liberal arts college in Portland, Oregon known for its strength in the humanities and the rate at which its graduates earn doctoral degrees. He is a Marine Corps veteran, a graduate of Yale and Harvard Law School, a former prosecutor and - most recently - a visiting professor at Harvard Law and a leader in residence at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.
As the leader of naval education, Kroger will "align the efforts of the Department’s academic institutions to improve officers' critical and strategic thinking." This element of his role includes oversight of the United States Naval Academy, the Naval War College, Marine Corps University and the Naval Postgraduate School.
In a substantially different undertaking, he will be charged with carrying out the Navy's educational reforms and creating a Naval Community College (NCC) for enlisted personnel. This community college system - announced by Spencer as part of the post-USS Fitzgerald reform package - will be an accredited online system allowing U.S. marines and Navy sailors to earn an associate’s degree while on active duty. Credits accrued in the NCC will be transferable to bachelor’s degree programs at civilian universities.
In 2018, in response to the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain casulaties, Secretary Spencer commissioned an independent inquiry into the status of the Navy's educational system. In addition to reinstating a full course of navigation training for surface warfare officers, the inquiry recommended boosting funding and unifying educational programs under one single authority - the chief learning officer - in order to help prioritize training.