Education as important as weapons

May 25, 2014

Adding new technology to our armed forces’ arsenal is a critical national security strategy. New weapons – like the U.S. Navy’s Laser Weapon System – will redefine naval warfare. Using lasers instead of gunpowder, these weapons will help the U.S. Navy remain the most capable and sophisticated naval power in the world.

Leading-edge military equipment, however, is only as good as the men and women operating it. That is why I find a Department of Defense report troubling that shows 75 percent of young Americans are unfit for military service because they are either too poorly educated, have serious criminal records or are obese. This level of ineligibility among our young adults presents a real recruiting problem for the armed forces and a potential national security challenge.

It is obvious to me and my fellow admirals and generals that we must do much more to adequately prepare our children for the future, whether they join the military or pursue civilian careers. Research is clear that the education process should start early with high-quality pre-kindergarten that capitalizes on a child’s most rapid period of brain development. It also shows this high-quality start results in improved long-term academic performance and can increase graduation rates by as much as 44 percent.

Unfortunately, less than 30 percent of Pennsylvania’s 3-year-olds and 4-year olds have access to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs. When state lawmakers return to Harrisburg in June, they should ensure that more kids are served by accepting Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed increase to Pre-K Counts as part of the final budget.

Like futuristic weapons, investing in future human capital is also a critical national security strategy.

Thomas J. “T.J.” Wilson III


Wilson is a retired rear admiral with the U.S. Navy and serves on the Executive Advisory Council, Mission: Readiness: Military Leaders for Kids.


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