Friday, May 28, 2010

Supe's defense as it appear at the New York Times web site

What is this? The freeze-dried version?


Hmmm. Anyone notice a difference between this.....

To the Editor:

I disagree that “mediocrity is the norm” at our service academies (“The Academies’ March Toward Mediocrity,” by Bruce Fleming, Op-Ed, May 21). They are designed to graduate leaders immersed in the traditions and values of their respective services, and motivated to share and sustain those traditions and values throughout our armed forces.

United States Naval Academy standards remain high, and our graduates exemplify excellence. But the ultimate measure of the academies’ value is the performance of our graduates.

Across the board, we receive feedback that when they report to their units, these young leaders are ready and are performing superbly in your Navy and Marine Corps. Recently they have been called upon to provide disaster assistance in Haiti, conduct antipiracy operations off the Horn of Africa and fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I am confident that our young leaders prove their mettle every day in defense of our nation.

Jeffrey L. Fowler
Annapolis, Md., May 27, 2010

And this...

Military Academies: A National Treasure

May 27, 2010

By Vice Admiral Jeffrey L. Fowler, U.S. Navy, Superintendent,
U.S. Naval Academy

Developing our nation’s future military officers is an important national priority. Professional military officers, and the training and education systems that prepare these leaders, significantly contribute to the armed forces’ ability to promote peace and prevail in war.

A May 21st opinion piece in the New York Times, The Academies’ March Toward Mediocrity, casts doubt on the effectiveness of our military academies in producing the qualified leaders needed to serve in our armed services. The author of the op-ed specifically states that “mediocrity is the norm” at our academies. I strongly disagree with the author’s assertions and conclusions.

My perspective on the value of our military academies emerges from 32 years of naval service to include five command tours of duty, operating with our nation’s other military branches and allied nations, and encountering the full spectrum of military operations. I have observed countless military academy graduates over my career and can say without the slightest hesitation that these graduates make significant contributions to the well-being of our forces and demonstrate their value to our national defense on a daily basis. As the superintendent of the Naval Academy for the past three years, I have been honored to guide the development process of thousands of midshipmen and can state with confidence that we provide the Navy and Marine Corps with superb young officers who prove their mettle every day in the mountains and villages of Afghanistan, and on, above and below the world’s sea lanes.
The op-ed author seems to base his opposition to the academies on three tenets. The first is academy graduates cost more than Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) graduates and this additional cost is not providing the taxpayer with a superior product. The second is that a focus on intercollegiate athletics has had a detrimental impact on the academies’ “pursuit of excellence.” And the third is that there is “an unofficial affirmative-action preference in [academy] admissions.” I will address each of these arguments in turn.

The military academies are of course not the sole source of our nation’s officers. For more than a half-century, our officer commissioning sources have included academies, university ROTC programs and officer candidate schools (OCS). Periodic discussions that frame the commissioning source debate as simply a one-or-the-other option dismiss the fact that our military benefits from the distinctive qualities offered by each commissioning source. The military academies have the unique role of providing officers who are immersed in the traditions and values of their respective services and motivated to share and sustain those traditions and values throughout our armed forces. Those who enter the military via ROTC or OCS bring their own unique perspectives and experiences, but have not had the same intense exposure to the daily routine of military life.

The cost associated with educating a Naval Academy midshipman is also far less than stated in the May 21st op-ed. When a midshipman fails to complete the academy program and is charged for their four-year education, that bill comes to $170,000, a figure established by the Department of the Navy. The costs associated with educating an academy student are in fact comparable to or less than the total realized costs of educating an ROTC student at select private or other state-funded universities. At the Naval Academy we take seriously our obligation to the American taxpayers to achieve the maximum return on their investment.
Service academies, as compared to other commissioning sources, also have the ability to quickly adapt academic, leadership and professional curricula to emerging threats and changing world conditions. Simply stated, Naval Academy programs reflect the needs of the customer – the active duty Navy and Marine Corps. Since we control what is taught in academic and professional courses, the Naval Academy has, for example, over the past three years been able to quickly increase foreign language and cultural exposure, initiate cyber warfare studies, adjust engineering and science courses, and tailor ethical decision making case studies to the reality of today’s warfare - all to better prepare our graduates to serve in an increasingly interdependent and dynamic world.

In response to the op-ed author’s concern about athletic excellence, I must stress that the academies graduate physically fit leaders, not merely scholars. All academy students are student-athletes who strive for physical development via daily fitness routines and either mandatory intramurals, club sports or varsity athletics. While it may be popular to diminish the value of athletic competition at the intercollegiate level, the military academies represent some of the best examples of student-athletes who compete at the highest levels. This commitment to excellence on the field complements the classroom, where the Naval Academy continually ranks number one or two in the nation for student-athlete graduation rates.

Our commitment to athletics also contributes to our midshipmen learning about teamwork, esprit de corps and overcoming adversity. Naval Academy student-athlete graduates are serving faithfully at all levels of the Navy and Marine Corps, from the most junior officers to 4-star admirals, including two former Naval Academy varsity athletes who between them lead U.S. military operations spanning two-thirds of the globe.

Finally, I will address our admissions process. The service academies are national institutions due to our mission to produce leaders for our nation and because our student bodies are comprised of the talent from every corner of America. We search diligently in every congressional district for candidates who are well-rounded morally, mentally and physically, and offer the experience and perspectives that enrich the life of the academy and our military. The backgrounds of these potential candidates cross all racial, gender, ethnic, socio-economic, religious and geographic lines.

I must emphasize that we admit only highly motivated, well-rounded individuals based upon their combined excellence in academics, athletics, leadership potential and community service. Applicants compete in a single, fair, structured and highly selective process. Simply stated, the Naval Academy’s admissions processes are in accordance with applicable federal laws and based on an individual’s performance and potential for future success as a naval officer.

Not surprisingly, the competition to receive appointments to the academies is intense. Every academy has encountered an increase in the numbers of applicants over the last few years. This increase in applicants goes far beyond economic reasons and reflects the fact that young Americans want to tackle the challenge of an academy, gain useful real-world leadership experiences and be part of something bigger than themselves. Witnessing the commitment to service prevalent across the nation, this generation is running toward the fire, not away from it.

We believe the Naval Academy’s reputation for excellence – both past and present – is enduring. We seek young men and women who will be able to balance a demanding academic, physical and leadership development curriculum. As a result, the military academies have been and continue to be ranked among the nation’s very top colleges. Many educators, guidance counselors, professional associations and the media recognize the academies for their challenging, progressive and effectual educational programs.

Important indicators at the Naval Academy point to a program that demonstrates excellence, not “mediocrity.” A 10-year analysis of semester GPA’s shows an upward trend in spite of an increasingly demanding curriculum and an unwavering commitment to maintain the highest of standards in the classroom. During this same timeframe, we note similar progress in our cumulative multiple that measures a student’s combined academic, physical and military performance.

The number of midshipmen achieving recognition on the academy’s very competitive merit lists has increased, including a doubling of the minority students achieving this distinction over the past 10 years. Nearly 84% of the Naval Academy Class of 2010, all completing a demanding technical course load, will graduate in four years. This achievement very favorably compares to the national average that approaches 30% and 55% for the four- and six-year graduation rates, respectively.

The ultimate measure of the academies’ value, however, is the performance of our graduates. Across the board, the feedback we receive is that recent academy graduates are performing superbly, and our Navy and Marine Corps are well served by these leaders. The senior enlisted and officer leaders of our Navy and Marine Corps are telling us that when our graduates report to their units, these young men and women are ready. And those units and our graduates in recent months have been called upon to provide disaster assistance in Haiti, conduct anti-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa and engage in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is no room for mediocrity in these operational theaters and our graduates are proving they are up for the challenge.

A recent decision by the Navy SEALS, arguably one of the most selective and demanding training programs in our military, again points to the quality of Naval Academy graduates. To head off undesirable attrition rates in training, the SEALs increased the dispersal of Naval Academy graduates undergoing SEAL training with officers from other commissioning sources. The Naval Academy graduates’ high performance and example of teamwork and drive helped to influence their peers and achieve a noticeable decrease in overall attrition within the SEAL training pipeline.
We receive additional feedback from our congressionally mandated board of visitors—comprised of elected officials, business executives and educators who are appointed by either Congress or the President. These very experienced and accomplished leaders continue to applaud the academies’ accomplishments, contributions and direction.

Lastly, the military academies continue to do more than simply graduate officers. As “leadership laboratories” for our students, the mission of the military academies has and continues to include an obligation to graduate leaders to serve the nation. Academy graduates have and will continue to contribute to the military and nation in many ways. Whether our graduates serve a career in the military, or assume positions in government, business and education, academy graduates are highly sought out for their leadership skills and propensity to succeed.

The one point upon which I do agree with the op-ed author is that the academies must always remain vigilant to maintain the level of excellence demanded by our citizens and continually assess and monitor our progress. I believe we are maintaining the highest standards, preparing our young men and women for the complex and volatile world they will face and graduating extraordinary leaders to serve our Navy, Marine Corps and nation. As we march forward, we march only in one direction and that is the direction of selfless service and professional excellence.


Did the print version have the full letter? Come on New York Times. You can do better than that.



Empirical data as concerns the worth of the Naval Academy as a source of officers




A 117 page 2008 study from the Naval Post Graduate School Very much apropos of the ongoing debate. Long, dense, but well worth a long sit and careful reading!

From the abstract:


The analysis finds that the Naval Academy has been
and continues to be the primary source of officer accessions during periods of reduced officer requirements in the Navy. Additionally, it finds that, while all naval officers perform superbly, U.S. Naval Academy graduates generally tend to have an advantage in performance during various points of their career. Due to this retention and performance differential, the larger initial cost of the education of Naval Academy graduates tends to yield a positive return to the Navy over an officer’s career. Recommendations include operating the Naval Academy at
full capacity, while maintaining the necessary flow of ROTC and OCS graduates.

The Supe responds


To the NYT editorial by Dr. Fleming..

Military Academies: A National Treasure

May 27, 2010

By Vice Admiral Jeffrey L. Fowler, U.S. Navy, Superintendent,
U.S. Naval Academy

Developing our nation’s future military officers is an important national priority. Professional military officers, and the training and education systems that prepare these leaders, significantly contribute to the armed forces’ ability to promote peace and prevail in war.

A May 21st opinion piece in the New York Times, The Academies’ March Toward Mediocrity, casts doubt on the effectiveness of our military academies in producing the qualified leaders needed to serve in our armed services. The author of the op-ed specifically states that “mediocrity is the norm” at our academies. I strongly disagree with the author’s assertions and conclusions.

My perspective on the value of our military academies emerges from 32 years of naval service to include five command tours of duty, operating with our nation’s other military branches and allied nations, and encountering the full spectrum of military operations. I have observed countless military academy graduates over my career and can say without the slightest hesitation that these graduates make significant contributions to the well-being of our forces and demonstrate their value to our national defense on a daily basis. As the superintendent of the Naval Academy for the past three years, I have been honored to guide the development process of thousands of midshipmen and can state with confidence that we provide the Navy and Marine Corps with superb young officers who prove their mettle every day in the mountains and villages of Afghanistan, and on, above and below the world’s sea lanes.
The op-ed author seems to base his opposition to the academies on three tenets. The first is academy graduates cost more than Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) graduates and this additional cost is not providing the taxpayer with a superior product. The second is that a focus on intercollegiate athletics has had a detrimental impact on the academies’ “pursuit of excellence.” And the third is that there is “an unofficial affirmative-action preference in [academy] admissions.” I will address each of these arguments in turn.

The military academies are of course not the sole source of our nation’s officers. For more than a half-century, our officer commissioning sources have included academies, university ROTC programs and officer candidate schools (OCS). Periodic discussions that frame the commissioning source debate as simply a one-or-the-other option dismiss the fact that our military benefits from the distinctive qualities offered by each commissioning source. The military academies have the unique role of providing officers who are immersed in the traditions and values of their respective services and motivated to share and sustain those traditions and values throughout our armed forces. Those who enter the military via ROTC or OCS bring their own unique perspectives and experiences, but have not had the same intense exposure to the daily routine of military life.

The cost associated with educating a Naval Academy midshipman is also far less than stated in the May 21st op-ed. When a midshipman fails to complete the academy program and is charged for their four-year education, that bill comes to $170,000, a figure established by the Department of the Navy. The costs associated with educating an academy student are in fact comparable to or less than the total realized costs of educating an ROTC student at select private or other state-funded universities. At the Naval Academy we take seriously our obligation to the American taxpayers to achieve the maximum return on their investment.
Service academies, as compared to other commissioning sources, also have the ability to quickly adapt academic, leadership and professional curricula to emerging threats and changing world conditions. Simply stated, Naval Academy programs reflect the needs of the customer – the active duty Navy and Marine Corps. Since we control what is taught in academic and professional courses, the Naval Academy has, for example, over the past three years been able to quickly increase foreign language and cultural exposure, initiate cyber warfare studies, adjust engineering and science courses, and tailor ethical decision making case studies to the reality of today’s warfare - all to better prepare our graduates to serve in an increasingly interdependent and dynamic world.

In response to the op-ed author’s concern about athletic excellence, I must stress that the academies graduate physically fit leaders, not merely scholars. All academy students are student-athletes who strive for physical development via daily fitness routines and either mandatory intramurals, club sports or varsity athletics. While it may be popular to diminish the value of athletic competition at the intercollegiate level, the military academies represent some of the best examples of student-athletes who compete at the highest levels. This commitment to excellence on the field complements the classroom, where the Naval Academy continually ranks number one or two in the nation for student-athlete graduation rates.

Our commitment to athletics also contributes to our midshipmen learning about teamwork, esprit de corps and overcoming adversity. Naval Academy student-athlete graduates are serving faithfully at all levels of the Navy and Marine Corps, from the most junior officers to 4-star admirals, including two former Naval Academy varsity athletes who between them lead U.S. military operations spanning two-thirds of the globe.

Finally, I will address our admissions process. The service academies are national institutions due to our mission to produce leaders for our nation and because our student bodies are comprised of the talent from every corner of America. We search diligently in every congressional district for candidates who are well-rounded morally, mentally and physically, and offer the experience and perspectives that enrich the life of the academy and our military. The backgrounds of these potential candidates cross all racial, gender, ethnic, socio-economic, religious and geographic lines.

I must emphasize that we admit only highly motivated, well-rounded individuals based upon their combined excellence in academics, athletics, leadership potential and community service. Applicants compete in a single, fair, structured and highly selective process. Simply stated, the Naval Academy’s admissions processes are in accordance with applicable federal laws and based on an individual’s performance and potential for future success as a naval officer.

Not surprisingly, the competition to receive appointments to the academies is intense. Every academy has encountered an increase in the numbers of applicants over the last few years. This increase in applicants goes far beyond economic reasons and reflects the fact that young Americans want to tackle the challenge of an academy, gain useful real-world leadership experiences and be part of something bigger than themselves. Witnessing the commitment to service prevalent across the nation, this generation is running toward the fire, not away from it.

We believe the Naval Academy’s reputation for excellence – both past and present – is enduring. We seek young men and women who will be able to balance a demanding academic, physical and leadership development curriculum. As a result, the military academies have been and continue to be ranked among the nation’s very top colleges. Many educators, guidance counselors, professional associations and the media recognize the academies for their challenging, progressive and effectual educational programs.

Important indicators at the Naval Academy point to a program that demonstrates excellence, not “mediocrity.” A 10-year analysis of semester GPA’s shows an upward trend in spite of an increasingly demanding curriculum and an unwavering commitment to maintain the highest of standards in the classroom. During this same timeframe, we note similar progress in our cumulative multiple that measures a student’s combined academic, physical and military performance.

The number of midshipmen achieving recognition on the academy’s very competitive merit lists has increased, including a doubling of the minority students achieving this distinction over the past 10 years. Nearly 84% of the Naval Academy Class of 2010, all completing a demanding technical course load, will graduate in four years. This achievement very favorably compares to the national average that approaches 30% and 55% for the four- and six-year graduation rates, respectively.

The ultimate measure of the academies’ value, however, is the performance of our graduates. Across the board, the feedback we receive is that recent academy graduates are performing superbly, and our Navy and Marine Corps are well served by these leaders. The senior enlisted and officer leaders of our Navy and Marine Corps are telling us that when our graduates report to their units, these young men and women are ready. And those units and our graduates in recent months have been called upon to provide disaster assistance in Haiti, conduct anti-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa and engage in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is no room for mediocrity in these operational theaters and our graduates are proving they are up for the challenge.

A recent decision by the Navy SEALS, arguably one of the most selective and demanding training programs in our military, again points to the quality of Naval Academy graduates. To head off undesirable attrition rates in training, the SEALs increased the dispersal of Naval Academy graduates undergoing SEAL training with officers from other commissioning sources. The Naval Academy graduates’ high performance and example of teamwork and drive helped to influence their peers and achieve a noticeable decrease in overall attrition within the SEAL training pipeline.
We receive additional feedback from our congressionally mandated board of visitors—comprised of elected officials, business executives and educators who are appointed by either Congress or the President. These very experienced and accomplished leaders continue to applaud the academies’ accomplishments, contributions and direction.

Lastly, the military academies continue to do more than simply graduate officers. As “leadership laboratories” for our students, the mission of the military academies has and continues to include an obligation to graduate leaders to serve the nation. Academy graduates have and will continue to contribute to the military and nation in many ways. Whether our graduates serve a career in the military, or assume positions in government, business and education, academy graduates are highly sought out for their leadership skills and propensity to succeed.

The one point upon which I do agree with the op-ed author is that the academies must always remain vigilant to maintain the level of excellence demanded by our citizens and continually assess and monitor our progress. I believe we are maintaining the highest standards, preparing our young men and women for the complex and volatile world they will face and graduating extraordinary leaders to serve our Navy, Marine Corps and nation. As we march forward, we march only in one direction and that is the direction of selfless service and professional excellence.


The Birddog weighs in on the great service academy debate


The Birddog is an excellent blog centering around Naval Academy athletics. Over the years, his discussions of football strategy have been excellent, and for the non-expert fan, a great primer in the complexities of the game. Anyway, he is also known for composing lengthy posts on other matters germane to the Naval Academy. So, it was bound to occur. We now have the Birddog's take on the worth of the service academies. HERE

Key graphs:

Fleming mentions the rise of ROTC units during World War II, but there is more to the story than just the numbers. With the American public’s isolationist sentiment after World War I, and with the Great Depression putting a strain on government resources, military spending was kept to a minimum. The National Defense Act of 1920 authorized an Army of no more than 300,000, but that number was never approached. From 1922-1936, the active Army consisted of only 137,000 people, including 12,000 officers. The explosion of military growth caused by World War II was so great that by war’s end, 16 million Americans had served in the Armed Forces. The government needed to train officers in a hurry to lead its new military leviathan, and ROTC units were part of that solution. As the military wasn’t going to retain its wartime strength in perpetuity, ROTC graduates weren’t expected to be fully indoctrinated into military culture; they were expected to provide sound, competent leadership during a crisis, returning to their civilian lives once the crisis had passed. Since then, military service hasn’t only been the realm of the professional soldier or sailor; it has been used by millions of Americans as a means to jumpstart their civilian careers.

There is still the need for those who are dedicated to a lifetime of service, of course, and that is where the service academies fit in. Obviously there are ROTC graduates who decide to make a career out of the military, just as there are Naval Academy graduates who do not; but over time, it’s the academy graduates who are more likely to stick around. While Fleming points out that service academies are responsible for only 20% of new commissions, their graduates make up 50% of those who achieve flag rank. It takes more ROTC graduates to produce one career officer than it takes their academy counterparts. So yes, it’s cheaper to produce ensigns through ROTC, but it’s cheaper to produce admirals through the Naval Academy. It makes sense, if you think about it. The more one has invested into an enterprise– whether with time, money, or anything else– the less willing that person is to give up on it. Total immersion into the military lifestyle for 4 years is one hell of an investment. That is also why there is no art history major at the Naval Academy, despite Fleming’s lament. The school offers majors in disciplines that best serve the interests of career officers. Engineering, mathematics, and the sciences are the principles behind the systems these future officers will one day use to fight their ships. The humanities provide fundamentals that future officers will use in their roles as the nation’s front-line ambassadors, as well as in their future dealings with government. Yes, one can major in art history at other schools and probably do just fine as a junior officer. Those ascending the ladder into more complex roles, however, are better served by having something else to draw upon.


Be sure to read the whole thing, then scroll down a bit, and you will find a response by Dr. Fleming in the comments section. All well worth the time.