Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Funny Math of Service Assignments at Annapolis

What does it take to have the best success in aviation? What value is the word from those you trust? Time to return to a topic we've discussed a couple of times a year here; the Navy's unnecessary institutional bias against non-technical majors. We've plowed this field before - so I'm just going to hit the high points.
Yes, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math majors are good to have in the wardroom, and are nice to have to keep your Engineering Duty Officers, NAVSEA, SUPSHIPS etc with enough mellon-heads to keeps things running, I guess. Thing is - that is not something that necessarily makes the best officer, and if unbalanced, creates and intellectually unbalanced officer corps. Too many EE majors is bad; too many Art History majors is bad. From USNA to NROTC - the bias entering the door is well documented. Before I go on though - ponder this with me. In the war we have been engaged in over the last decade-plus; what have we been the most in need of? Has this been a war of cutting edge engineering or tactical needs that made a math-nimble mind almost a requirement? (VAQ NFOs ... get back in your box, I'm not talking to you) From the PRTs in AFG to Arabic FAO, to the need to think deep on how a Navy responds to budgetary crisis ... shouldn't there be a little more intellectual - dare I say - (d)iversity? There is another issue too - once people get through the door, shouldn't there be an expectation that there will be fair treatment? Shouldn't we have a system that reflects if not our values ... then at least our words? Aviation. Something that people plan for years to just get an opportunity, shouldn't we at least give them the outline to success so if they really want it - they can follow that line and improve their odds to reach their dreams? Well - read the below - and if it does not come up on your system, you can get it here.

Aviation OOM

I'll let one of my spies at Annapolis flesh this out for you. For those in the know - if you have a different take - let me know. I'll change some of his/her email to anonomize it and shorten - but here are the meaty parts.
Something is and has been rotten at USNA about service assignments to aviation for 1/C midshipmen.

This all came out within the few weeks when an excerpt of the guidance for ranking aviation candidates surfaced. Apparently, this guidance has been used for at least two years, if not longer.

There is a very good chance that this weirdly skewed aviation ranking system was unknown to the deputy commandant, commandant, and superintendent.

Some highlights:

Midshipmen are told repeatedly by the administration (academic and military) that academic majors are irrelevant when it comes to screening midshipmen for service assignment. However, like the animals in Orwell, Animal Farm, some are apparently more equal than others when it comes to Wings of Gold.

Engineering majors (Division I), including those who flunked their way into the General Engineering major, are awarded 20 points in their rankings but math and science majors receive only 15 points.

Humanities majors, which include history, English, economics, political science, and languages & culture (Arabic, Chinese, etc)‚ the bastions of those things like historical and cultural knowledge touted as necessary in, "Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower." These hapless midshipmen receive only 10 points.

So, lets look at the aviation ranking matrix and have some fun with some hypothetical Airedale wannabes.

All other things equal, an Arabic major with a 4.00 GPA equals a

- General Engineering major with a 3.50 GPA and one honor offense

- General Engineering major with a 3.50 GPA and one major conduct offense (e.g., sexual assault)

- General Engineering major with a GPA of 2.50

- General Engineering major with a GPA of 2.0 but a PRT score of 90 (when our Arabic major missed a few seconds on the run and only scored an 89)

Apparently, the instruction/note (COMDTMIDNNOTE 1301) that sets up the service assignment review boards (SARB) for each warfare specialty leaves the ranking system up to each community.

One wonders why the need for engineers in aviation. This isn't the AEDO selection board. It also brings to mind veteran combat aviator and VCNO ADM Stan Arthur's comment in
The New Yorker about 15 years ago that flying was "... nothing more than monkey skills."

What is also ironic is how the current USNA Superintendent, VADM Mike Miller, a veteran, combat-decorated, tactical aviator, would have fared under the current, secret, and biased aviation SARB guidelines. He was an international relations major and would have been 10 points in the hole because of it.

It's time for VADM Miller to take steps to insure that all midshipmen not live in an Orwellian world and are indeed equal when it comes to their academic major and opportunities for service assignment.
Fair. If this is a policy - it should be in the open. I am sure even the most engineering minded but fair 13XX would like to discuss the weighted measures, because whatever it is being used for - honors offenses and majors have little to do with success in aviation - or any warfare specialty - from what I've seen.
UPDATE: As a perfect match to this discussion, I highly recommend the post at USNIBlog from last year by LCDR BJ Armstrong titled, HH104, WWATMD….
UPDATE II - Electric Boogaloo: I would also recommend an episode of Midrats from last year discussing the general topic of how you educate leaders. Our guests were Vice Admiral Michael H. Miller, USN, the 61st Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy, for the first half of the show.

For the second half, Dr. Victor Davis Hanson, PhD, author, professor, nationally syndicated columnist, and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio


Anonymous said...

As an aviation selectee from the class of 2011, I can say for certain that the above "Aviation OOM" equation was not used for our class. Consideration was given to CQPR, PRT, prior flight time, and class ranking/aptitude, but no consideration was given to major. Of course, the ASTB was also a major factor in selection. As a "group 3" major, it boggles my mind that USNA has decided that STEM majors make better aviators, but that's USNA for you...

...I forget which Naval aircraft has the nuclear reactor.

-One Lucky SNA

Anonymous said...

They asked for all that info, it doesn't mean they used it.

-one lucky SNFO '11

Anonymous said...

This is USNA finally recognizing that engineers get shafted at every turn at the Academy. I'd love to see that arabic 4.0 try for a 2.5 in engineering, or even still get the 4.0 while taking actual technical courses.