Icon for email, a simple dark blue paper plane
Dark blue phone icon

Lt. Cmdr. James Phan, USN

MS in Network Operations and Technology ‘25

Lt. Cmdr. James Phan is a native of Moore, Oklahoma. He attended the University of Oklahoma and received his commission in May 2009 via Naval Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island.  He is currently at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California working on a Master of Science in Network Operations and Technology.

Phan commissioned and attended Navy Nuclear Power School before re-designating as an Information Professional Officer in the Navy Reserves. He served in several roles and departments at Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) - Greensboro, North Carolina including Training Division Officer and Administrative Department Head and Acting Executive Officer (XO). He was then selected as the Executive Officer of Joint Mobile Ashore Support Team Pacific (JMAST-PAC) in Denver, Colorado in support of Pacific Fleet.

Following his XO Tour, Phan reported to TENTH Fleet/Fleet Cyber Command (C10F/FCC) in Fort Meade, Maryland where he served in multiple Department Head roles; initially as the Communications Department Head (N6) then he was hand selected to serve as the Administrative Department Head (N1). From 2018 to 2019, Phan was mobilized to U.S Naval Central Command Detachment Isa Air Base, Bahrain where he served as the Communications Department Head (N6), Security Manager, and the Operational Security Manager.

In 2019, Phan backfilled a critical role as the Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff for Communications (N6A) at Commander, Naval Forces Korea. From 2019 to 2021, Phan served as an Exchange Officer with the United Kingdom Royal Navy in the Information Warfare Future Interoperability Office. In 2021, Phan reported to Carrier Strike Group FIVE onboard the USS RONALD REAGAN and served as the Flag Communications Officer.

In 2013, Phan completed his Personal Qualification Standard then successfully boarded and qualified as an Information Professional; he subsequently qualified Information Dominance Warfare Officer, now Information Warfare Officer, in 2014. Phan holds Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from the University of Oklahoma. He has been awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (4), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (1), Overseas Service Medal (6), and the Mobilized Armed Forces Reserve Medal.

"The relationship between industry, academia and military is absolutely critical because it connects the cutting edge technology, innovative thinkers, and potential fielding and testing of the technology in real world situations."

Thinking about your time at NPS so far, what have been the most impactful or valuable experiences or lessons learned?

I think the most impactful experience since I’ve gotten to NPS has been interacting with other members of the Information Professional (IP) community that are in a similar point in their careers. We are a relatively small community of about 1,000 officers and there are approximately 35-40 IPs here at NPS. Learning what jobs they’ve done in the past can give me a lot of insight on where I might go next and how I can shape my academic curriculum to better prepare myself.

How does the network operations and technology curriculum support your academic interests and professional goals?

As I understand it, there is some level of flexibility in every degree track at NPS, Network Operations and Technology (NWOT) included. This allows you to choose and guide your education based on your own experiences, preferences, and skillsets. With the flexibility of electives, I am able to steer my classes towards network management and agility. Additionally, since I did not study computer science and information technology in undergrad, I am exposed to some of the more technical aspects of networking and IT that I might have learned via on the job training over the years.

As you enter the early stages of research and thesis work at NPS, what defense challenges are you considering tackling and why?

With my previous experience on an aircraft carrier and on Strike Group Staff, I have an interest in exploring ways to better improve connectivity while out to sea. There are two scopes of this improvement; first, overall connectivity, aka bandwidth, being expanded to support operational necessity as well as morale would be a huge success. Secondly, improving the way we utilize the bandwidth that is already allocated is a large task at hand. These are just some of the examples that I’m interested in researching during my time at NPS.

Why should the military services want to send their officers and NCOs to the Naval Postgraduate School? What is the value for the students and for the operational commands?

I believe that sending officers and NCOs to Naval Postgraduate School, or any higher education, is beneficial in many ways. I believe that investing in our sailors helps with retention as a whole, it gives them a break in operational tempos that have been getting more and more arduous. Graduate education provides a different perspective and another way of thinking through a problem when they return to the Fleet.

What were the most significant takeaways for you at the WEST 2024 Conference in San Diego? From your perspective, what is the value of building connections with industry, academia, and other military members?

The most important takeaway for me was the high level of integration and collaborations between the military and civilian industry. Every company that I spoke with had at least one project with the Department of the Navy or Department of Defense and in most cases, it was not just high-level research projects. Most of the companies were working on key operational problems that the fleet is facing today. I was able to speak to many company representatives with problems I faced while serving as Strike Group Communications Officer and what they were doing to mitigate many of these issues. The relationships between industry, academia, and military is absolutely critical because it connects the cutting edge technology, innovative thinkers, and potential fielding and testing of the technology in real world situations.

Can you tell us about a specific speaker, panel or interaction that stood out during your time at WEST 2024 and why it was important or impactful to you?

The Information Warfare panel on Thursday morning, that involved three Captains and a Commander from various IW disciplines talking about their experiences throughout their careers. A first hand account from our senior leaders gave me some relatability to my own career and how I could trace my path going forward. It also provided a clear direction of the IW community as a whole and what were focus items of interest for them and the more senior leadership.

Stay Engaged With The Faces Of NPS!

Nominate Someone For Faces Of NPS!

Nominate yourself or another Naval Postgraduate School alumnus, current student, faculty or staff member for consideration in a future Faces of NPS e-newsletter!

Join Our Mailing List!

.iframe-container{ position: relative; width: 100%; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; } .iframe-container iframe{ position: absolute; top:0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }