Active secretary of the Navy speaks on the importance of critical thinking in order to combat global challenges



Thomas Modly, Acting Secretary of the Navy, possess with UTEP students Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020, following his Centennial Lecture on the importance of critical thinking in order to combat global challenges.

Anahy Diaz, Contributor

Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly visited the University of Texas at El Paso Jan. 28 to deliver a Centennial Lecture focused on the importance of skepticism in order to address global challenges concerning the nation.

“Skepticism, meaning, not accepting all things at face value, challenging conventional thinking, rejecting incrementalism and, when more dramatic change is needed, rejecting it forcefully,” Modly said. “Each of you in this audience has a role to play in pushing our nation closer to that perfect union that our founders envisioned and sustaining this special republic we have, wherever your careers may take you.”

Modly, who was appointed secretary of the Navy in November 2019 following the dismissal of previous secretary Richard Spencer, stressed the need to think about the future of the nation’s defense that will be defined much more accurately by the power created between government, industry, academia and the country’s partners around the world.

“We cannot shoulder this burden for security alone, it’s far too deep and it’s changing far too rapidly,” Modly said. “It’s going to take all hands on deck to create this kind of agility and this kind of accountability, the type that we need for our future force to prevail in the security of our nation.”

Some of the challenges Modly addressed include prioritizing naval education to help regain the country’s technological edge, finding solutions to an insufficient budget to create the naval force of the future, ensuring the protection of our soldiers and remembering the significant role individuals play in the path to ensure a bright future for the nation.

Modly said that as the U.S.’ technological edge continues to decrease at a rapid rate, the country’s competitive advantage will lie in the investment of its soldiers’ education. An education that had been dismissed for a number of years, he revealed, as the Navy instead focused its attention on operational experience and tempo.

“I contend that our last competitive advantage is going to be that grey matter between the areas of our people,” Modly said. “We have to invest in that, we have to invest in them.”

President Donald J. Trump’s plan to grow the Navy’s fleet to 355 vessels from its current 275 is something Modly says has also become a tremendous challenge due to the department’s low budget. Over time, the expense of ships has increased, as the average cost of one ship has gone from  , a trend that, according to Modly, is unsustainable for the country.

“We are having to be very creative in how we address this,” Modly said. “I’m going to be going up on The Hill here in about a month to defend a budget where everyone’s expectation is that we’re going to be growing this fleet to 355 and I don’t really have a good story right now.”

Modly also highlighted the importance of addressing the difficult toll the country’s political state is having on military troops and their families, as it continues to be at war with Afghanistan.

“Our people have been at war for 19 years and we’re seeing the ripple effect of that in their health,” Modly said. “The real cause of this is that, all these years, we have been putting these people in difficult situations day after day without paying enough attention to culture. It’s not just an impact on the men,  it is also an impact on their families.”

However, according to Modly, it is through common understanding of what is good and unique about this country and honoring the lives of those who died while defending it, that the nation will be able to overcome these critical challenges.

“Ask the skeptical questions,” Modly insisted. “But as you ask these questions, please appreciate that you live in a place that allows you to ask them, protects your right to do so and welcomes them in pursuit of a greater understanding and a greater truth. Don’t ever stop believing in the extraordinary possibilities of this great nation and your opportunities to shape an even better future.”

Anahy Diaz may be reached at [email protected]