PITTSBURGH -- The Matthew B. Ridgway Center for International Security Studies at the University of Pittsburgh hosted Rear Admiral James P. Wisecup for an update on the work of the U.S. Naval War College recently.
Admiral Wisecup is the 52nd president of the Naval War College, and his appointment is part of a long and distinguished career with the U.S. Navy. During his talk Admiral Wisecup shared some of the topics of concern for the Navy and how the Naval War College is preparing to address them.
Many of these seemed unconventional for the Navy, but as he pointed out the Navy by its nature has to prepare for a variety of contingencies far in advance. To this end he spoke on how the Naval War College has drawn on sources as varied as Barbara Tuchman’s medieval history “A Distant Mirror” and the zombie apocalypse novel “World War Z” in its teaching and planning. Facing a myriad of unconventional, challenges and crises during the next several decades the Navy can only prepare for the unusual through unconventional thinking.
Foremost among the issues of concern for the Naval War College are the direct and indirect consequences of climate change. These range from the melting of ice to food shortages and energy security. Admiral Wisecup sketched out some of these possible consequences and how they could potentially lead to crises, all against the backdrop to traditional international security issues. Attempting to sidestep the domestic political debate, the Navy has been studying and preparing for ‘system shocks’ that climate change could precipitate.
Admiral Wisecup pointed out that already there are two Task Forces centered on these issues within the Navy, TF Climate Change and TF Energy. . He also pointed out that disaster relief has been a growing role for the Navy and is expected to remain an important part of naval planning. At the same time as it has to think about new roles and responsibilities the Navy must maintain its primary missions of national defense, power projection, and ensuring free navigation of the seas.
All these possibilities for the medium and long term hold a special place for the Navy and the Naval War College, according to Admiral Wisecup, as Navy platforms have a long shelf life. Acquisition must always have an eye on the future needs of the Navy decades from when a decision is made.
This need for long term thinking tied together the admiral’s points about the role of the Naval War College and its many areas of research and study. One might not expect medieval European history and zombie novels to be a part of a Navy education, but examining the lessons of the past and scenarios from fiction helps develop the mindset for thinking about how to respond to possible futures.
After his presentation Admiral Wisecup took questions from the audience and expanded upon the work of various departments of the Naval War College. Some of these included the legal department’s work on the ethics of drones and the China Maritime Studies Institute’s varied views on how China will shape future geopolitics.