The Navy is modifying its fitness reports to require officers to detail an individual’s educational accomplishments and how those pursuits will add to unit efficiency, the service announced.

Senior leadership believes the decision will show “that career-long military learning isn’t only job-related technical or tactical training,” and that a commitment to higher education will produce Navy leaders with more refined critical thinking skills, according to a Navy release.

Fitness reports submitted by each officer will document a sailor’s educational performance in the time period since the previous report, the release said. Navy selection boards are expected to adjust accordingly by placing added emphasis on educational accomplishments.

Military educational courses, civilian institution coursework, and professional and academic certifications will all be factored in, with each endeavor assessed in a similar manner as “tactical performance or military bearing/character,” officials said.

Navy leadership said additional informal efforts — reading selections from the Chief of Naval Operation’s Reading List, participation in military journals, or learning new technologies, for example — will also be encouraged.

“To deter and outfight potential opponents in a world defined by great power competition, our force of professionals is going to have to outthink them, and we can only do that through continual learning and education,” acting Navy Secretary James E. McPherson said in the release.

“Our action today will ensure that our talent management system rewards officers who advance warfighting effectiveness through intellectual development and represents an important milestone as we implement our comprehensive Education for Seapower Strategy.”

As a smaller community that can serve as a sample size, Navy officers will be the first to operate under the aforementioned changes.

Navy officials expect to make the educational emphasis a fleet-wide move that will include enlisted personnel once the criteria for educational progress are solidified.

“The value that education and continuous learning brings to our Navy team is undisputed and directly supports our ability to deliver decisive naval power when called,” Rear Adm. Jeff Hughes, deputy chief of naval personnel, said in the release.

“It is imperative to document an individual’s commitment to intellectual growth in ways beneficial to the Navy, and the extent to which these achievements increase the breadth and depth of warfighting and leadership aptitude."

Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.

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