Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A new Supe - perhaps new focus ....

Don't worry - we won't have a post a day on the USNA ... but there was a lot out there today. This should, hopefully, be it for awhile.

When we left Rempt behind and moved to Fowler as Superintendent of the Naval Academy; ya'll know I had great hopes and my first few posts on him were very positive. He is/was a great professional with a superb record of service to his nation. Since that first promising start, well ... it seemed like at about the six month mark someone put a pod under his bed or sump'n.

I still hold firm that VADM Fowler is/was a great professional and public servant. I just happen to believe that when he was brought to a fork in the road - athletics vs. academics; integrity vs. diversity - that for reasons best known to himself he took the easier (and in my opinion) wrong path. Good people can make wrong decisions. Good people can make mistakes. I could be wrong here - but if the United States Naval Academy truly wishes academically to be an elite institution and a meritocracy based on objective criteria, fairness, and leadership building - then it needs to act like it in word and deed.

As VADM Fowler leaves the campus, he also leaves evidence as to why so much remains to be done to make Annapolis the institution that it can be. Look at
the transcript from his 12 MAY 2010 press conference and weep. Look at the priorities he left.

There are some nice things in the speech - but you need to look deeper to see what is there and what is not there. You can also see how definitions have become lost in a fuzz of bad advice. Just look at paragraphs 30-32 to see what is given top billing as defined as "... wide range of speakers and leaders ...," sadly lost.

For now though, let's focus on the academics for a bit and look what he thinks the focus of an institution that desires to be "World Class" should be .... and weep. It's easy. Just a word count:
Times Supe mentioned "diversity or diverse": 4
Times Supe mentioned "football": 3
Times Supe mentioned "classroom": 0
Times Supe mentioned "learning": 0
Times Supe mentioned "teaching": 0
We should all give the new Superintendent, RADM Michael H. Miller, USN, a good solid chance to reflect and focus. We should hope that in the end - what was once such promise does not end in self-parody.

I would offer, if I had five minutes, that he needs to focus on fundamentals. What do you need to best intellectually build tomorrow's leaders of the Navy and Marine Corps? Outside the classroom, what tools does a leader need? How do you refine character? How to you reinforce the importance of honor? Equally important - how do you rebuild the credibility of the uniformed leadership and the institution it serves?

All else is vanity.


Anon said...

If you want to see what happens when you put athletics first, here's what you get in the fleet (or the Fleet Marine Force in this case):

DeltaBravo said...

It's like watching a cancer metastasize.  Wow.  :(

There is a problem when a football player who supposedly is in a program to become a military officer has to let his academics get in the way of a heavy football schedule.

Combat NFO said...

There are some other words that were used more than 3 times, but that might take away from your intended message.

Word Counts:
Midshipmen: 26
Leadership: 17
Cyber: 16
Class: 15
Brigade: 14
Navy: 14
Marine: 13
Leaders: 11
Development: 11
Midshipman: 10
Team: 9
Academic: 9
National: 8
Honor: 8
Corps: 8
Students: 7
Service: 7
Security: 7
Programs: 7
Government: 7
Experience: 6
Command: 6
Women: 5
Ethical: 5
Defense: 5
Win: 4
Strategic: 4
Professional: 4
Classes: 4

Dave said...

Oh, were the other 11 Marines athletes too?  I din't see that in the article.

USAF Mike said...

Maybe you're unaware of this since you're an Academy grad, but there is a HUGE difference between JRTOC and "actual" (N)(AF)(A)ROTC.  One is the military themed equivalent of Boy Scouts, the other is responsible for training the future leaders of our nation's military (a helluva lot better and cheaper than the Academy system, but that's just my opinion).

So trying to equivocate the two makes you look a tad bit foolish.

Combat NFO said...

So JRTOC isn't affiliated with the military?  I thought they were federally funded programs.  Odd that they so readily use the insignia of the services.  

I guess you view this as a debate between USNA and ROTC.  In my opinion both are necessary and complement each other quite well.  I understand the bitterness that I see from ROTC Officers, and their desire to shut down the Naval Academy and other Service Academies.  The inadequacy complex is troublesome.  Just because ROTC Officers want to shut down USNA, doesn't mean that I want to shut down ROTC.  Academia and the military are tied together in many ways, from ROTC to Federally Funded labs, to the GI Bill.  Those relationships make our country stronger, just as the Service Academies make our country stronger.

Ground Sailor said...

Wanna fix USNA? Here are my suggestions, as a former dirty blue, now Green/Black/Brown/Tan shirt.

Eliminate all non combat/maritime oriented sports that require a budget that exceeds $5K a year per competitor, minus travel cost. This includes football in particular. Sports not eliminated: fencing, sailing, marksmanship (does Navy have a Marksmanship team?), endurance sports (tri, track, cycling), combatives, and small scale sports. Take all the facilities formerly used for the dead sports, set 'em up for crossift and tactical training.

I'v gotten the impression that plebes are the simulated enlisted at USNA, based on their covers, uniforms etc. So have 'em live like enlisted- get rid of the stateroom, put them in open bay berthing. This accomplishes a couple things; first the kids start out living as their future charges do, giving them an idea of what it's like, and second, much more impotantly, keeping an open bay clean is a true team effort. All hands have to participate. While we're on the subject of plebes... I doubt there's any way to get rid of the MIDN run Basic Training, but lets add some things- first, lets have some experienced RDC's and DI's come from Great Mistakes and Parris Island and oversee the process. Give them the authority to immediately relieve any Cadre member who "isn't doing it right" Leave them some leeway, but if the kids are messing it up, stop them then.

Eliminate the pointless hazing stuff that plebes do, too- like having them recite the daily menu,  eyes in the boat, etc. Can someone (anyone) please explain how this trains the officer that may order me, or my brothers and sisters, into harms way in a few years?

Ground Sailor said...

Part II:
I'd much rather they learn marksmanship, navigation and rules of the road, damage control, land nav, tactics (ground and sea based) and all the other basic skills they'll need as commisioned Naval/Marine Officers, then learn the importance of football, or any other stuff. Learning this early, from the ground up, as members of hose teams, squads (say, aren't they already in squads? How well planned!) or other real teams of the sort they're likely to encounter in the fleet would make me very happy indeed. Also, unless they make a mistake that can kill someone, don't say "if you do x, people die!" One of my sailors is about to graduate, and she says that they were told that every day, 8 times a day.

One more thing- in the admissions process- eliminate mention of the following: sports, sex, religion, sexual orientation (not that it's there, but it's coming), and race.

The first one should be covered by the naval academy fitness test, and the rest are utterly irrelevant to our future officers.

This is just the opinion of a Sailor in a combat zone, not some cush ready room. I'd like to see the academy producing the types of grade A officers it apparently used to, but I'm not holding my breath. Not as long an the football field is still on the Yard.

Anon said...

Doesn't matter - one bad seed ruins sets the headlines for everyone.

Anon said...

Doesn't matter.  One bad seed sets the headlines. In the 24/7 newscycle world once word is out......

RiverRunner said...


<span><span>   </span>Oh please – it doesn’t matter? <span> </span>So why did you even say it? <span> </span>2 of the 13 were called out as athletes. <span> </span>Five were women, eight were men – all were cheaters. <span> </span>Gee, you could have said ‘</span><span><span>see what happens when you put WOMEN first, here's what you get in the fleet’…..cause 5 of 13 is much better than 2 of 13. It wouldn’t have been any more true, but at least the numbers were better…</span></span><span></span>
<span> </span>
<span><span>   </span>What’s the real problem? Is it athletics? Is it football? Or is it really the sense of entitlement some athletes have due to the preferential treatment they’ve been groomed to expect since they started ball (basketball/football)? <span> </span>I’d argue it’s the latter. <span> </span>You need to refine your targeting before you start slinging da mud.</span>


C-dore 14 said...

From the link it appears that another bunch of 2nd Lts decided they didn't need to learn about land navigation because it was a pain and they'd always have a GPS signal available anyway.  The former football players being involved is just icing on the cake.

Don't know about the rest of you but I'm happy that none of these clowns is going to be my son-in-law's platoon leader.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

"<span>Don't know about the rest of you but I'm happy that none of these clowns is going to be my son-in-law's platoon leader."</span>

You said a mouthful, Commodore.

Old Salt said...

The biggest problems at USNA are simply manifestations of problems in the fleet.  They are simply magnified at USNA.  I would submit that the overwhelming majority of graduates will do a fine job in the fleet and that they are receiving an excellent education.  I would also argue that the few farkups that are athletes are dwarfed by the number of athletes who graduate and become leaders whose leadership skills benefitted by participating in varsity athletics.  For every Ballard, Eckel and Curry, there is a Zembiec, Blecksmith and Winchester.  Between those two extremes are lots of officers who are doing a fine job in the fleet.

Over-the-hill-spook said...

The Supe defends his honor... er, the Academy:

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
The writer, a vice admiral, is superintendent of the Naval Academy.

>:o >:o >:o

USNA Dad said...

I agree with many of your point but football is important to many of the mids; you can be good at both without compromises.  It is a truism that some will turn out bad but that holds for any population just as some will turn out good and some great. 

As far as "diversity" goes I am with you all the way.  I have a certain sympathy for office holder however because he is not dancing to his own tune.  And while this is supposed to be a capstone there are still honorable inhibitions that many of these men have regarding their end-of-career perogatives.  I put Adm. Rempt in that category based on my (admittedly limited) iteraction with him.  I am not an alumnus, but I am an admirer and would be sorry to see these excellent instutions lose out.  As an outside observer I witnessed the change that Col. Allen brought to the mindset of the brigade and so I wonder if the time hasn't come for a marine superintendant?  That would shake things up...

cdrsalamander said...

I can agree that you can be good at both ... but USNA isn't.  It could be if it didn't sell its soul for D1.  Why not play with the same kind of players Brown, Harvard, Yale and such recruit from?  Why compromise the way we do? 

Anime is important to many MIDN as well - but we don't get rid of courses in Engineering and Math so they can take "Anime as Social Commentary" courses.