Not all the fighting in the war on terror is against terrorists. The U.S. Navy and Air Force are shedding tens of thousands of troops each year, in an effort remain, well, competitive. While the news is full of stories about how the U.S. Army is struggling to maintain its strength, with an all-volunteer force, in peacetime, the situation is far different in the air force and navy. There, troops are hustling to avoid losing their jobs. Their battle is for some job security. One of the primary tools used is education. For example, last year, sailors took 181,000 college courses (seven percent of them at the graduate level). Some 17 percent of sailors took these courses on their own time. For career sailors, these courses can make the difference when it comes to getting a promotion, or being able to stay in the navy at all. Over half of the senior navy petty officers (the top three ranks) have college degrees (something which is mandatory for officers.) Over the last few years, the number of sailors taking the courses has been going up 5-6 percent a year. The Department of Defense pays for these college courses, which are given by civilian universities. The military has been doing this for half a century, but in the last two decades, it has become much more popular with the troops. Even sailors at sea can take the courses via Internet access. All overseas bases have access to the college courses, even in combat zones.
In many ways, the Department of Defense operates like a large corporation. It's a highly competitive organization, it encourages additional education, and even outsources some jobs. While the outsourcing has been going on for centuries, the off-duty college courses is relatively new. But since some 90 percent of the people in uniform have non-combat jobs, it makes a lot of sense to encourage further education. If you want to be busy all the time, just join the military.