The Economics Department supports the mission of the U.S. Naval Academy by producing graduates who can think critically, and who can understand, explain, and apply the core principles of economic reasoning including the economic approach to resource allocation problems, the functioning of economic institutions and the decisions of policy makers and other economic agents within a society.
Majoring in Economics
There actually are some vocational reasons for a midshipman to major in Economics:
Students at New York Stock Exchange
OECD Trip (Paris, France)
First, the most fundamental lesson of Economics is that resources are scarce relative to potential uses, so that choices must be made -- that is what it means to "think economically." The Naval Officer can invariably say that "...if I had more people, or more ships, or more planes, or more supplies, or more time, the task would be easy," but of course the officer doesn't live in that kind of world. Instinctively thinking in terms of alternative uses of scarce resources -- thinking economically -- tends to make an effective officer.
Second, an economics program provides understanding of the economic institutions and economic system each officer is pledged to defend.
Third, an officer operates in an international arena. Knowledge of world resource endowments, industrial patterns, trade flows, and the nature and the interdependency of the world's diverse economic systems is useful background for dealing with the citizens and representatives of other countries that U.S. officers will inevitably encounter.
Finally, an Economics major provides a strong set of mid-career skills. In particular, it prepares a midshipman well for (1) attendance at service schools such as the Naval War College, (2) staff billet assignments on fleet, joint and combined staffs, (3) postgraduate training in management, national security affairs, and intelligence, and (4) future subspecialty designations in management and politico-military or strategic planning. In short, there are plenty of reasons why having an Economics major is useful to a Naval Officer.
The economics faculty at USNA consists of 13 tenure-track professors, including 5 full professors, 5 associate professors, and 3 assistant professors. This group publishes in a broad array of economic journals including the Journal of International Economics, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Public Economic Theory, Journal of Applied Econometrics, Economic Inquiry, International Economic Review, Contemporary Economic Policy, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, the Southern Economic Journal, Experimental Economics, and the Journal of Human Resources, to name a few (see the Publications list under the Faculty page for a more complete list). In addition, Associate Professor Brendan Cunningham co-edits the Journal of Media Economics. The robust research atmosphere in the department is augmented by faculty experience spending time at the Federal Trade Commission, Rand, and the Department of Agriculture, to cite a few examples. Also, recently associate professors and co-authors, Pamela Schmitt and Kurtis Swope, received a National Science Foundation grant to continue work in their already established research agenda in game theory and experimental economics. And in 2009, assistant professor Melinda Miller won the Allen Nevins Prize for best Doctoral Dissertation in American Economic History, for her dissertation, “Essays on Race and the Persistence of Economic Inequality.”
In the midst of time spent on research, the faculty upholds the department's rich tradition of outstanding teaching. Aiding in this tradition is a stellar collection of military officers, all of whom are central to not only teaching courses within the department, but add to the dynamic and diverse faculty atmosphere. Their experience as Navy and Marine officers proves instrumental in the instruction of the Midshipmen who choose economics as their major.