During a trip with multiple visits, including Stanford University and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, U.S. Army Gen. Richard D. Clarke, Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), paid a visit to the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), Jan. 23, to explore relevant research, and like his other stops, engage with leadership and students to get a first-hand look at how NPS is fostering innovation.
Clarke wanted to gain a better understanding of not just how NPS research is addressing critical challenges, but how NPS is specifically preparing professionals in special operations forces (SOF) to innovate in the modern environment. The visit also provided Clarke the chance to participate in NPS’ Secretary of the Navy Guest Lecture series and personally interact with students. Clarke spoke about the history and mission of SOCOM and how partnering with academia and industry will help to give America the edge in the great power competition and future conflicts.
“My guidance and priorities from the Secretary of Defense, and from the national defense strategy are clear,” said Clarke during his address to NPS. “One of those priorities is to build a more lethal force, and I am trying to do that with technology. I absolutely believe in education, and we have to work with academia and technology companies to get the best and brightest minds to help the defense industry.”
Core to the university’s mission, NPS has recently worked to expand and develop new education and research partnerships with the private sector, government sector and academia to foster defense-relevant research and capabilities. Clarke linked academia and industry as a combined key enabler that can inform and shape how the force thinks about the future.
“Thinking about the future, and helping the force become predictive is why I’m spending time in places like NPS,” said Clarke. “We at SOCOM want to be a pathfinder for you in this area because at the end of the day, we still have men and women that are forward deployed and need the best capabilities and the best protection, and that’s why I’m here - because we have to innovate for the future.”
While at NPS, Clarke received presentations on current and upcoming curricula specifically tailored for SOF professionals, and received student thesis briefs on current research directly applicable to their challenges.
According to U.S. Army Col. John Crisafulli, NPS’ Chair for Special Operations, the visit allowed for a two-fold understanding between Clarke and NPS.
“This visit enabled [Clarke] to see the entire realm of NPS and what it has to offer the SOF community,” said Crisafulli. “We [at NPS] produce in SOF professionals what SOCOM has directed them to have. This visit allowed him to understand our curricula which helps SOF professionals understand innovation in the modern environment, and it helped us elicit guidance from him. If SOCOM needs more specific classes to focus on emerging needs, then we, unlike other institutions, have the flexibility to make those changes.”
In the concluding remarks of his address to faculty and students, Clarke talked about leadership and delivered several personal anecdotes regarding failure and success, which boiled down to one phrase – “trust your gut.”
“There will be times in your career where you will have to make decisions, and at the time you may not realize how consequential they will be,” said Clarke. “Follow that gut instinct, and know that experience comes over time. Don’t be afraid to use other people and ask for their input because that is absolutely critical.”