Green Room

Hasta, West Point! Later, Annapolis! Don’t Let The Door Hit Your Air Force Academy!

posted at 10:38 am on April 19, 2009 by

Tom Ricks at Washington Post recommends closing the service academies, says we’ll get better buck bang in officer production out of expanded ROTC. Makes a couple of interesting points, but also misses a couple.

For starters, some of the finest universities in the country not only don’t have ROTC programs, they actively disparage them.

More discussion here.

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Another disadvantage with the typical university ROTC program is that the midshipman is likely to be living in a dorm or going to classes with civilians. I don’t mean that as a knock against civilians, but if the purpose of this is to grow good officers, doesn’t that offset the financial savings of sending them to a university where they would face more (or different) distractions?

LastRick on April 19, 2009 at 11:41 AM

my family is a Virginia Military Institute family. Closing the service academies is truly a stupid idea.

if that idiot wants to see “bang for a buck”, he should see how these young men & women operate when faced with the enemy.

kelley in virginia on April 19, 2009 at 11:47 AM

For full disclosure, I am a USAFA grad. This is one of things that come up regularly, and gets shot down for many good and some not so good reasons. This comes up when people start thinking about ways to spend money “more responsibly.” This is typically the guns vs. butter argument that those who feel every dollar wasted on defense is money that could have been better spent for “the poor.”

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to quantify the difference in the product of a service academy and ROTC. (Texas A&M is the exception to the rule. But culturally, its Corps of Cadets was always as hard core as the Academies). I would just say that expecting normal universities to produce a cadre of professional officers is the same as expecting them to produce professional clergy or physicians. There is an ineffable difference in the 24/7 that you have at the Academies.

Whether you think that is a good thing is a completely different argument.

Spike72AFA on April 19, 2009 at 1:07 PM

I would just say that expecting normal universities to produce a cadre of pI would rofessional officers is the same as expecting them to produce professional clergy or physicians. There is an ineffable difference in the 24/7 that you have at the Academies.

You are so right, Spike. Imagine the Berkeley grad I know, in fact, the valedictorian of the class circa 1990. Was actually taught that the reason Africa is designated on maps as relatively tiny as opposed to the United States is because of racist, supremecist views. Number one in the class had never been taught about the simple shortcomings of Mercator projections, had never been taught in a geography class…that when you flatten out something round, areas on the upper and lower ends quite naturally are distorted and seem smaller.

While this is admittedly a problem for geographers, and still remains so, that a major university ascribes xenophobic motivation to an inherent difficulty in mapping something round on to something flat is rediculous. That the best and brightest are deliberately taught erroneous motivation for mapping strategies is unconscionable.

Add to this that ROTC is either actively discouraged or reduced to level of geekdom, I don’t see how any young person could see their country as meritorious or worthy enough to actually give one’s energy much less one’s life for.

Higher education in the United States has been hijacked by political correctness to such an extent that closing down the service academies would be clataclysmic.

marybel on April 19, 2009 at 1:38 PM

Sure! Let’s send our children to University of California at Berkley, for example, so the faculty can instill in them a sense of ‘Duty, Honor, Country’.

alwyr on April 19, 2009 at 6:07 PM

Tom Ricks is yet another short-sighted pundit.

Let’s disband all advanced medical schools, while we are at it. Let’s let the schools that train EMT’s be the baseline for turning out medical doctors, instead. Does that make sense to you, Ricks?

[While there have been exceptions along the way, the overall breakout as to the purpose of the service academies versus ROTC and OCS programs is such: The service academies are designed to ultimately produce General staff officers and leaders; ROTC and OCS is designed to produce company grade and field grade officers. Not every academy graduate makes it to general; not every ROTC/OCS officer remains solely company or field grade.

But, the concentration of curriculum of each program has an intent. Citizen soldiers all.

coldwarrior on April 20, 2009 at 3:06 AM

There is something missing from the discussion…the Service Academies not only produce professional military officers, but they create the countries best citizens….that is not a claim the nations university system can make with a straight face.

JIMV on April 20, 2009 at 10:11 AM


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