As the United States confronts "perilous challenges," the new head of the Naval Academy said Wednesday, the training, facilities and curriculum at the elite school for future Navy and Marine Corps officers must evolve rapidly.
"We will keep ahead of the pace to be relevant for the future," Vice Adm. Walter E. "Ted" Carter Jr., the academy's 62nd superintendent, said during the change-of-command ceremony in Annapolis.
Carter, a 1981 graduate of the academy, relieved Vice Adm. Michael H. Miller of his command before Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, and shipmates and friends dating to Carter's childhood in Burrillville, R.I.
He comes to Annapolis from the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., where he spent a year as president of the Navy's postgraduate school for midlevel and senior officers.
"He's been working on and thinking about how we educate our officers, so he already has a sizable head start in looking over that horizon," Mabus said. "I have no doubt, knowing his career and his character, that he will be absolutely splendid in this new role."
Carter takes over an institution currently ranked 12th among national liberal arts colleges by U.S. News and World Report, and first among public colleges. The academy has expanded its training and research in cybersecurity and other fields; officials say selectivity, diversity and graduation rates all are rising.
The institution also has been roiled in the past year after three former football players accused of sexually assaulting a female midshipman — none was convicted — and the sudden deaths of three midshipmen in February and March.
Carter is a flight officer who saw service in the Iraq War, the Gulf War and in Kosovo.
He completed Navy Fighter Weapons School — the training program in San Diego known popularly as Top Gun — in 1985 ("A year before Maverick did," quipped Mabus, referring to the Tom Cruise character in the 1986 movie).
He has commanded the VF-14 "Tophatters" strike fighter squadron, the fast combat support ship USS Camden, the Nimitz class supercarrier USS Carl Vinson and the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group.
Carter has earned the Defense Superior Service Medal twice, the Legion of Merit three times, the Distinguished Flying Cross with Combat "V" and the Bronze Star, among other decorations.
Miller, who began his Navy career with four years at the academy as a midshipman, concluded it with four years as superintendent. He retired Wednesday after 40 years of service.
Mabus lauded Miller's record at the academy, which included the introduction of three new academic majors and the creation of the Center for Cyber Security Studies.
"Mike has put the academy on a 21st-century footing, with a firm sense of what the future needs of the naval services will be," Mabus said. "One of his great contributions to this place and to the country will be [the cybersecurity center], which will be a model for the rest of the military and will play a crucial role in the defense of America."
Mabus said Miller "has continued to raise the standards of admission and performance" at the academy."
"This year's incoming class is the most academically qualified in the school's history," he said. "It was on his watch that the Naval Academy was named the top liberal arts school in the country in 2012 … [and] the Class of 2013 was the most diverse in academy history."
The enrollment of women grew from 21 percent to 26 percent during Miller's assignment, Mabus said.
Miller spoke of the academy with reverence.
"The fundamentals of moral, mental and physical challenges really don't change," he said. "If you can travel high enough, fast enough, with enough inertia, even gravity, as well as disbelief, can be suspended, I believe. This place has made me a believer.
"I wake up every day in the absolute certainty that something wonderful is about to happen, and I am never disappointed. Absolutely none of this would have been possible without the finest faculty, staff and coaches this school has ever enjoyed. I take credit for none of it, but I am oh, so proud to say I was a witness to the history as it was being written."
As part of the ceremony, Miller was given the Defense Distinguished Service Award, his second. His wife, Barbara, received the Navy's Superior Public Service Award.
Miller, a member of the Class of 1974, had been the "Old Goat," the oldest academy graduate still on active duty. On Wednesday, he passed that distinction on to Greenert, Class of 1975.