The Naval War College announced the appointment of two faculty members as Chairs endowed by the Naval War College Foundation. Dr. Peter Dombrowksi of the College of Naval Warfare Studies (CNWS) was chosen as the William B. Ruger National Security Economics Chair, and Dr. Christopher Jasparro of the National Security Affairs Department was chosen as the Captain Jerome E. Levy Chair of Economic Geography and National Security.
For Dombrowski, the selection is a “back to the future” opportunity for him. When he was hired by President of the Naval War College VADM Arthur Cebrowski in 1998, his focus was on the field of political economy. As his tenure at the College progressed and the needs of the Department of the Navy (DoN) changed, his work moved away from purely economics to focus on the broader research needs within CNWS. That research has been vast and has included developing strategy and analytics for the Navy, as well as designing war games to support DoN and Department of Defense initiatives. The selection as the Ruger Chair allows Dombrowski to once again focus on political economy while still staying connected to his research work at CNWS.
Dombrowski notes that there is a lot of overlap between his recent efforts related to analysis of the defense industrial base and his plans for the Ruger Chair, citing the question about whether the presence or absence of the U.S. Navy has an impact on global commerce as an example. “This type of question is of great interest to the Navy and ties directly into the Navy’s strategy, including the types of ships we build,” stated Dombrowski.
In his work, Dombrowski also plans to examine the health of the American economy and how it affects the U.S. position in the world. Recently, Dombrowski and co-author Simon Reich wrote a piece in the journal International Affairs entitled “The Consequence of COVID-19: How the United States moved from security provider to security consumer” in which they argue that COVID has exposed “a new reality: in a world where both naturogenic and anthropogenic threats pose immense national security challenges, decades of mistaken assumptions and policy choices have created a new environment, one where the United States has been redefined as a security consumer, at least in terms of international public health issues associated with the spread of deadly infectious diseases.”
Dombrowski is collegial in his vision for his tenure as the Ruger Chair. “I have an ambitious agenda, but there are two key principles underlying it. I want to share the wealth with my colleagues in the faculty who are interested in this kind of work and the students that we support here at the College.”
Jasparro is also embracing his selection as the Levy Chair as a chance to focus on his academic roots. In the past, the position has typically been held by political scientists and economists; Jasparro is the first geographer to hold the Chair, allowing him to bring a different perspective to the field. “The National Security environment is pretty complex, and with any complex problem, the more perspectives you bring to it, the better chance you have of dealing with them,” said Jasparro. “I don’t think any one discipline has the answers to the issues we’re facing, but the more ways we can look at problems, the more opportunities we have to help.”
As a geographer, Jasparro examines the interactions between the human environment and the physical environment and how issues play out across spaces. For example, climate change can be examined as a human activity interacting with environmental systems, but the effects are different depending on the location you are dealing with; for geographic reasons, African countries will deal with climate change differently than Rhode Island. Another example of bringing a geographic perspective to a national security issue is China’s interests in international infrastructure. The impacts of these efforts differ greatly from one country to the next, or even within different parts of the same country. Again, Jasparro notes that an interdisciplinary approach to these questions is particularly valuable. “If a political scientist, an economist, a geographer, and an anthropologist each separately look at Chinese infrastructure development, they will likely come up with separate conclusions, but if you have them all looking at it together, you are going to get a much different and hopefully more robust assessment.”
As the Levy Chair, Jasparro intends to bring more exposure to the fields of geography and economic geography and how they apply to the work done at the Naval War College. He plans to bring in guest speakers to discuss their research in these areas, and he is interested in expanding the networking opportunities between geographers and DoD personnel — two fields that don’t frequently interact. And since geography is, at its core, a field discipline, he plans to encourage opportunities for field study through a geographic lens. Jasparro is also investigating means to introduce more geospatial analytical techniques into the work that faculty and students are doing at the College.
The goals shared by Dombrowski and Jasparro are reflective of the original intent of these endowed Chairs — to support the research of the accomplished faculty at the U.S. Naval War College and to encourage collaboration with their colleagues around the world. The Naval War College Foundation congratulates them on their selection.