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GSBPP Celebrates 50 Years of Education and Research in the Business of Defense

Article By: Dale M. Kuska

The Department of Defense, and the U.S Armed Forces, are about combat effectiveness.  

But in modern times of intense budget scrutiny, sitting right behind being effective is being efficient. Budgets have been scrutinized for years, but with sequestration looming, and further tightening of the belts pending, the reality is those budgets will only continue to be examined in excruciating detail.

Efficiency is the best remedy, and in all aspects, it’s a pillar of a profitable business. Whether that efficiency lies in logistical optimization, personnel management, finance or in leadership, it is the name of the game for success. But it has become just as critical in DOD operations and strategy as well, and this is the space of the Graduate School of Business and Public Policy, or GSBPP, at the Naval Postgraduate School.

A dedicated management school at NPS was stood up in the late 50s, and according to current GSBPP Dean Dr. William Gates, naval leaders recognized then the value of lessons learned from the business community.

He cites a 1959 conference on the establishment of the Master of Science in Management degree at NPS, noting the goal for the initial degree was “to inform our graduates about the best management practices from large and complex business and government organizations, and apply them to the ‘management of men, material and money’ to maximize the Navy’s combat effectiveness,” Gates said.

 

 It’s strikingly similar to the goals of NPS’ business school today, however, the means by which the university achieves these goals have evolved dramatically.

“GSBPP’s programs, students and faculty have grown, diversified and improved in quality during our 50-year evolution,” says Gates. “We now have approximately 70 faculty members, over 50 of whom hold Ph.D.s, and GSBPP now offers a broad spectrum of degrees, both in residence and distance learning, as well as hybrid programs and certificates that meet the individual needs of our sponsors, and the students they support.”

Gates points to multiple degree programs in management, as well as Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Executive MBA programs also available. Degree programs in contract management, logistics management, program management, defense systems analysis and so many others, round out a broad portfolio of degrees that are tailored to the immediate and near future needs of the Navy and DOD.

This direct connection to the needs of the services could not be more critical, says retired Rear Adm. Jim Greene, who in partnership with GSBPP Associate Professor Keith Snider, lead the school’s Acquisition Research Program.

“I think you’ll find that our programs are very well connected with what the Secretary of the Navy’s guidance for NPS is,” Greene says.

Greene is referring to the Secretary’s instruction 1524.2B of 2005, and the subsequent OPNAV 5450.210D in 2009, which outline in very specific detail how the education and research programs at NPS directly relate to the immediate needs of Navy and Marine Corps leadership.

Those same instructions also encourage senior officers to engage with NPS faculty and administration, detailing their challenges, and tap into the intellectual capital available.

“I am in contact weekly with our sponsors — we have about a dozen of them in total — and garner thesis topics directly from them that our students can access,” says Greene. “With these topics, I am tapping into what the senior officers and Department of Defense officials see as the most pressing issues of the day that they want people thinking about.”

In his past experience as a flag officer, Greene saw the value of understanding the acquisition process, learning these hard lessons during one of his own stints in the DOD headquarters as program manager of the multi-billion-dollar Aegis Shipbuilding program.

Greene and Snider have driven the Acquisition Research Program (ARP) for a decade and the effort has become the nation’s leading clearinghouse of research and knowledge in acquisition policy and practices. The team boasts nearly 1,200 scholarly reports and analyses through the ARP that have been published and are readily available.

Given the enormous investment the U.S. makes in acquisition, its importance in achieving the mission, and its potential for failure, “It seems that far more attention should be paid to acquisition research than is the case,” Snider says.

But he is quick to point to both the aforementioned girth of acquisition reports and papers, as well as a growing number of scholars involved in the evolving discipline, as a mark of success in the program.

“All of these contribute to a growing body of publicly-available knowledge about acquisition, and they also help to bring defense acquisition into the scholarly mainstream,” he adds.

Vice Adm. William E. Landay, III, NPS graduate and Director of Defense Security Cooperation Agency, speaks to Defense Resources Management Institute (DRMI) students about security assistance and cooperation during a campus visit, Apr. 11, part of the International Defense Management course. Landay manages a professional security cooperation workforce of military and civilian personnel located around the world, providing leadership, management and oversight for a diverse portfolio of security cooperation and partner capacity building efforts. 

A very recent success story of student research through GSBPP came at the request of Vice Adm. William Landay, pictured above right, Director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) and an NPS graduate in systems technology. Landay wanted a fresh look on the Foreign Military Sales Administrative Surcharge Rate, and tapped into the intellect of U.S. Army Maj. Matthew Fix and U.S. Air Force Maj. Abizer Tyabji to achieve this.

Working closely with longtime NPS GSBPP Professor Joseph G. San Miguel and Operations Research Professor Daniel Nussbaum, the two officers performed a detailed analysis and assessment of the rate, detailing their studies in a joint 2011 thesis. Landay also requested an additional study on workload and cost analyses for the DSCA’s Foreign Military Sales efforts, performed by Marine Corps Capt. Henry Creque.

Landay’s organization reviewed both works, performed its own detailed studies, and just over a year later, modified the surcharge rate agency-wide. In a letter to GSBPP Dean Gates, Landay noted, “I am personally grateful for the efforts and professionalism exhibited by these individuals and appreciate their tremendous contribution to the Security Cooperation mission,” he wrote. “I firmly believe these initiatives will contribute to improved management of this large and complex business.”

“Maj. Fix and I are very excited that our research was able to make some really positive financial changes at an important governmental organization,” says Tyabji, currently teaching management at the U.S. Air Force Academy. “The results of this research wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our NPS advisors, Professors Nussbaum and San Miguel, as well as the amazing cooperation of DSCA and Vice Adm. Landay.”

Gates notes there are countless examples of direct responsiveness between the research performed by GSBPP students, and the needs of fleet and service commanders — it’s a true hallmark of the school’s diverse set of programs. And the results are immediate, not only in policy but in operational elements as well, such as the re-establishment of a search and rescue unit at Naval Air Station Lemoore thanks to an EMBA capstone project by several NPS students.

Beyond research, GSBPP’s core educational programs are equally in direct connection to the needs of Navy leadership. Rear Adm. Joseph Mulloy, pictured above left, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget and Director, Fiscal Management Division — the individual required to develop the Navy’s budget — sponsors the university’s financial management (FM) curriculum.

Mulloy is well connected to business studies at NPS … In fact, his uncle, retired Rear Adm. Paul J. Mulloy, was part of that first graduating management class.

But more so, Mulloy is very connected to the current FM program, on campus to perform a personal curriculum review annually, like most NPS sponsored educational programs. He also, however, takes the time to meet with his FM students and presents the full Navy budget from his perspective during a detailed classroom exercise. He emphasizes the importance of operational flexibility while balancing personnel, procurement, research and development and so much more.

The effort provides the students with a first-hand perspective on what top Navy leaders need from NPS students. As Mulloy himself noted during his last presentation on campus, “The focus I need for you is better and more accurate budgets.”

Another very unique program in the GSBPP lineup is its degree in manpower systems analysis (MSA), a detailed analytical approach to manpower management. U.S. Navy Cmdr. Gary Lazzaro, a Naval Aviator and current student in the program, notes how the MSA curriculum has helped him understand the complexities of manpower in the Navy.

“It is important, as a senior leader, to understand how manpower and personnel fit into the mission of your squadron, and it is also important to understand the ‘why’ behind how manpower calculations are made,” he noted. “A person cannot understand the ‘nuts and bolts’ of Navy manpower without being able to perform calculations to analyze how work requirements translate into people requirements.

“The other part of the NPS business school curriculum that I believe is particularly helpful is the focus on organizational culture and strategic management,” he stressed. “The study of the organizational change process is what we learn in strategic management, and I really found it useful … I think the NPS business school has taught me useful tools that can help me be an agent for change within a large organization such as the Navy.”

GSBPP research and education efforts also keep a keen eye on the emerging and future needs of the U.S. Navy and DOD. Humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) operations are becoming a more critical element of operational strategy, one that will likely only continue to evolve and grow.

The service is learning fast lessons, on the fly, on how to get better at HADR missions, and responding to this need is the GSBPP’s Humanitarian Research Group (HRG), launched by the efforts of Operations and Logistics Management Associate Professor Dr. Aruna Apte.

 Rear Adm. Joseph P. Mulloy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget and Director, Fiscal Management Division, OPNAV (N82), speaks to a small group of Financial Management students, April 26. Mulloy presented the Navy budget for fiscal year 2013 while on campus for the Financial Management curricular review.

“I founded HRG as a group of faculty from several disciplines and students interested in the topic,” Apte notes. “We study HADR from a holistic perspective … the cost and budget, the acquisition of assets, contingency contracting, collaboration amongst players and most importantly, the humanitarian operations themselves.”

Apte proudly points to several rigorous studies that have already been completed through the group — projects on topics such as optimizing pre-positioned assets for natural disaster response, and detailed analysis on the request and response processes for DOD support to domestic disasters.

The HRG is a new effort, but Apte notes that it is only made possible through the intellectual capital, right now on the NPS campus.

“At GSBPP, I have colleagues who work in all the [relevant] areas, so there is a great synergy. It is a great environment to carry out such research due to the diversity of faculty, access to DOD and our students,” who are the officers leading agencies or units dealing with operations and logistics issues, she adds.

“I believe this research area will continue to be vital to both the civilian and military logistics sectors. I know that our accomplishments would not have been realized if we did not have the resourceful and flexible environment of NPS,” she stresses.

Gates is quick to note that this sentiment is at the heart of what truly sets GSBPP apart. Rather than the programs, degrees and certificates that are available, or where the students take them, the NPS business school is about the application of high-level academia to the needs of senior Navy and DOD officers.

“We don’t define ourselves by the degrees we currently offer, but by the diversified set of management skills that span several disciplines,” he says. “As we talk with potential sponsors, we work to understand their particular needs and tailor programs to meet those needs, if they do not already exist … Our unique niche is that we offer a defense and federal government focus and have the flexibility to provide the specific mix of skills, outcomes and delivery modes that best meet the requirements of interested sponsors.

“Our mission remains largely the same today as it did when that first degree was awarded a half-century ago,” he continues. “As our capacity allows, the GSBPP expects to continue meeting the requirements of our customers in the public sector. And I suspect that primary mission will remain the same for the next 50 years.”

Posted February 15, 2013

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