Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Nix Annapolis?

This should stir the pot (which is what WaPo wants) - so let's play.

Thomas E. Ricks (of Fiasco and The Gamble fame) on Sunday threw this red-meat into the pit,
Want to trim the federal budget and improve the military at the same time? Shut down West Point, Annapolis and the Air Force Academy, and use some of the savings to expand ROTC scholarships.

After covering the U.S. military for nearly two decades, I've concluded that graduates of the service academies don't stand out compared to other officers. Yet producing them is more than twice as expensive as taking in graduates of civilian schools ($300,000 per West Point product vs. $130,000 for ROTC student). On top of the economic advantage, I've been told by some commanders that they prefer officers who come out of ROTC programs, because they tend to be better educated and less cynical about the military.
Of course, we have all sorts of interesting reactions by retired US Army LTG Ulmer, Ed Ruggero, and retired Navy CAPT Bob Schoultz. Heck, I didn't even know it until I got the email from them, but the WaPo even has a dedicated leadership page. That I like.

I have voiced it before, and I will do it again. I think the way we do our military academies is wrong. In many ways, I agree with Ricks, but with this change. We should keep them, but turn them, post ROTC and undergrad, into something in line with the way the Brits do things - i.e. Britannia Royal Naval College - but stretch it to a year. None of this "we'll give you a Masters too..." BS either.

No. Full frontal, full time, fullbore soaking on what a Naval Officer needs to know and what he must have in his head to lead Sailors. Let the Army and the USAF do the same.

That is a recipe for quality Junior Officers. Oh, and build a metric butt-ton of YPs and another Tall Ship to go with it.

I do think he is a bit off here though,
We should also consider closing the services' war colleges, where colonels supposedly learn strategic thinking. These institutions strike me as second-rate. If we want to open the minds of rising officers and prepare them for top command, we should send them to civilian schools where their assumptions will be challenged, and where they will interact with diplomats and executives, not to a service institution where they can reinforce their biases while getting in afternoon golf games. Just ask David Petraeus, a Princeton PhD.
No, we need them but there is one change that needs to be made as soon as possible. No one should go to the Naval War College or her sisters until post CDR Command. Too many great O3-O4 and pre-Command O5s are at War College where they are best placed either working on their PhD at a civilian institution like Ricks likes, or better yet - honing and executing their tactical level warfighting skills in their prime like the taxpayer expects them to.

I know Major Staffs better than I wish I did - and there is no reason someone needs to be at a War College prior to CDR Command in order to function at a Major Joint Staff or higher in the positions a LT or LCDR or non-CAPT(sel) CDR will fill. Full stop.

That is a change that no one, no one in 10 years, has convinced me would be a bad idea.

No comments: