Monday, February 14, 2011

Trading a cow for a handful of beans at Annapolis

The military is a profession that requires a firm understanding of thousands of years of the profession of arms to succeed. Especially at war - if you don't understand the past, you are condemned to repeat it. When you repeat in at war - you are defeated, your people are killed, and the future of the nation you serve is put at risk.

Remember all the not-so-cute little fashions we have seen over the years like TQL? Well, "cyber" isn't quite that way - but like "transformation" it has become a buzzword catchall. A kind of verbal and concept shortcut that is supposed to have everyone nod their head and say, "Yes, it is important. All is new now."

"Cyber" - in its normal and even over-applied definition - is important to understand, in a fashion, but only in context. C4ISR/Cyber/IT/etc are just evolutionary developments and tools - no more revolutionary than other ones that have come along before from steam power to smokeless powder to nuclear weapons.

If you lack a historical perspective - like an ignorant savage, new things will either frighten you or cause you to worship them - especially when others above you voice them like a verbal tic.

Over at USNIBlog, co-blogg'r there and Midrats guest Captain Alex Martin, USMC, has a post that should cause everyone to pause.
Read it all; but here are the meaty bits.

First, he says it better than I can;
... the most critical function of our service academies is to imbue in the cadet or midshipman the ultimate humility: that none of their undergraduate experience is about them.

It’s up to the individual midshipman to embrace this – that they aren’t working so hard at the Naval Academy for themselves but rather for the opportunity to one day work so much harder for someone else – and it’s up to the administration to give the mids tools along the way to make their hard work pay-off.

Leadership training is one such tool. Moral and physical development are others. A rigorous curriculum of math, science and engineering are others still. But the tools learned in the study of history, and HH104 in particular – USNA’s required course in American Naval History – are some of the most important of them all.

As a matter of desired devices, history is entirely commensurate with the challenges of leading men and women in combat or at sea. A sound understanding of history provides the officer a lens to more clearly understand the mistakes and successes of the past, a framework to process the problems at hand, and a workable socio-calculus that helps approach an understanding of what tomorrow may hold.
... and now - well - read it and weep.
At some point during last academic year (2009-2010) the Department of the Navy tasked the previous Superintendant, Vice Admiral Fowler, to add a cyber warfare class to the core curriculum. No public announcement was made. Apparently, last spring a small working group, operating in the shadows, was established to come up with a plan to create introductory and upper-level cyber warfare courses. The USNA community knew nothing about the working group’s tasking and work and learned of this development only last fall. The dilemma was how to add these courses without overloading an already full plate.

Surprisingly, the working group recommended moving American Naval History to 1st Class year. Apparently, they didn’t care that this decision will leave new midshipmen adrift and ignorant of the history of their profession, and their nation, for three years. Again, no official announcement was made.

The fact that HH104 was dead only came to light by happenstance. In October, the History Department underwent a routine, external review. The review report was distributed to the Department faculty in late October and HH104’s removal from 4th Class year, buried in the report, was presented as a certainty.

As word trickled out, upset ensued. First, the military and civilian faculty who teach HH104 expressed their unanimous opposition to moving HH104. Then, a number of History faculty who do not teach HH104 registered their dismay that such a major curriculum change would occur without any serious consideration and vote by the Faculty. The general reaction of midshipmen who have heard of the HH104 shift is consternation. Most recently, the shift of HH104 has prompted vigorous and agitated discussion within the Faculty Senate.

What upsets everyone as much as moving HH104 is the way in which it was done. The military and civilian faculty members who teach American Naval History were never consulted as to the effect this shift would have on the professional and academic education of midshipmen, nor was the larger History faculty consulted as a group. This change occurred in the shadows, violated the established policies regarding curricular review, and appeared as a fait accompli.
Amazing. Simply amazing.

Once again -
Read it all.

Tsu - over to you.

UPDATE: There is a follow-on post by LCDR BJ Armstrong, USN that is outstanding. Read it too.
UPDATE II Electric Boogaloo:
USNA via their PAO has responded with more detail and background. See the link in comments.

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