I’M NOT AN ENGLISH PROFESSOR, BUT…

Man, just when I think I’m going to get caught up on all the stuff I’ve been meaning to write, I get an avalanche of garbage to respond to that takes up all my time.

I have only myself to blame for this. Bruce Fleming, USNA’s outspoken English professor and self-appointed military expert, trots out more or less the same op-ed every year or two questioning the nature, and occasionally the existence, of the Naval Academy. A refined opportunist, he tweaks it slightly each time to maximize its effect, relating to whatever recent events he can use to suit his purpose before shopping it around to various publications. This time he exploits the Marcus Curry situation in the New York Times, telling readers that the service academies have “lost their way” and should either be “fixed or abolished.” If I was a smarter and more productive person, I would have had a canned response ready for his canned commentary. Unfortunately, my lack of foresight means that I have to start from scratch. So be it. Fleming’s argument that the service academies are on a bullet train to mediocrity is specious, relying on extrapolations based on anecdotal evidence and unfairly blaming athletes. His conclusions illustrate a fundamental lack of appreciation for what service academies are supposed to be.

The op-ed really doesn’t contain anything new to those of us who are tuned into these matters. “Football versus faculty” is a debate as old as the college game itself, taking place almost every year from private academic hotbeds like the Ivy League, Vanderbilt, and Rice, to the larger public universities of the Cal State system. The ROTC vs. service academy cost-benefit analysis is almost as ancient, and it is here that Fleming begins stating his case. Other commissioning sources are cheaper, he says– and it’s true. It’s also true that the service academies are no longer the primary source of officer accessions, and haven’t been for decades. Furthermore, according to Fleming (or more accurately, according to random people in the military he says he knows), the product of a Naval Academy education isn’t worth the premium that taxpayers invest; junior officers from service academies are “no better” than those of, say, Vanderbilt ROTC. And you know what? They probably aren’t better. I’m sure that some USNA graduates like to think of themselves as “better,” but officers are supposed to be adequately trained to do their jobs regardless of their commissioning source. How well they do those jobs is a matter of personal pride and work ethic, not where one receives their degree. In this, Fleming is right… But he completely misses the point. The role of the service academies is to produce the bulk of the career officer corps of the nation’s military. Officers from the service academies aren’t supposed to be “better,” a nebulous term that Fleming fails to define. They’re supposed to serve longer.

Fleming mentions the rise of ROTC units during World War II, but there is more to the story than just the numbers. With the American public’s isolationist sentiment after World War I, and with the Great Depression putting a strain on government resources, military spending was kept to a minimum. The National Defense Act of 1920 authorized an Army of no more than 300,000, but that number was never approached. From 1922-1936, the active Army consisted of only 137,000 people, including 12,000 officers. The explosion of military growth caused by World War II was so great that by war’s end, 16 million Americans had served in the Armed Forces. The government needed to train officers in a hurry to lead its new military leviathan, and ROTC units were part of that solution. As the military wasn’t going to retain its wartime strength in perpetuity, ROTC graduates weren’t expected to be fully indoctrinated into military culture; they were expected to provide sound, competent leadership during a crisis, returning to their civilian lives once the crisis had passed. Since then, military service hasn’t only been the realm of the professional soldier or sailor; it has been used by millions of Americans as a means to jumpstart their civilian careers.

There is still the need for those who are dedicated to a lifetime of service, of course, and that is where the service academies fit in. Obviously there are ROTC graduates who decide to make a career out of the military, just as there are Naval Academy graduates who do not; but over time, it’s the academy graduates who are more likely to stick around. While Fleming points out that service academies are responsible for only 20% of new commissions, their graduates make up 50% of those who achieve flag rank. It takes more ROTC graduates to produce one career officer than it takes their academy counterparts. So yes, it’s cheaper to produce ensigns through ROTC, but it’s cheaper to produce admirals through the Naval Academy. It makes sense, if you think about it. The more one has invested into an enterprise– whether with time, money, or anything else– the less willing that person is to give up on it. Total immersion into the military lifestyle for 4 years is one hell of an investment. That is also why there is no art history major at the Naval Academy, despite Fleming’s lament. The school offers majors in disciplines that best serve the interests of career officers. Engineering, mathematics, and the sciences are the principles behind the systems these future officers will one day use to fight their ships. The humanities provide fundamentals that future officers will use in their roles as the nation’s front-line ambassadors, as well as in their future dealings with government. Yes, one can major in art history at other schools and probably do just fine as a junior officer. Those ascending the ladder into more complex roles, however, are better served by having something else to draw upon.

Replacing the Naval Academy with ROTC units would necessitate a substantial increase in the number of ensigns produced each year to make up for the higher attrition rate. This puts a greater strain on fleet units already hard-pressed to find meaningful billets for JOs to fill; the more new ensigns that are showing up to overmanned wardrooms, the more likely it becomes for them to have things like “Junior Vice Assistant for Coke Machine Public Affairs” etched onto their name tags. This deprives junior officers of the well-rounded leadership and technical experience they need for their department head tours, and ultimately, command. Far from the 19th-century anachronism that Fleming describes, the Naval Academy is very much a modern and vital component of the nation’s defense infrastructure.

Even if you accept the importance of the Naval Academy’s role in officer accessions, closing the school was only one option presented by Fleming. If we aren’t going to abolish it, then he believes it must be “fixed.” Again, though, Fleming’s USNA to-do list reflects a skewed vision of the institution. The midshipmen that talk to him are disillusioned, he says; Annapolis is not the “military Camelot” that they expected. Really? Who exactly does Fleming think is coming to the Naval Academy? What 18-year old coming straight out of high school has enough knowledge and experience with the military to even know what a “military Camelot” should look like? Hell, I’m not even sure that I do. The idea that the average plebe shows up on I-Day gung-ho about the Navy and ready to do his 20 years, only to have his dream crushed by his Annapolis experience, is beyond preposterous. The reasons people come to the Naval Academy are as varied and numerous as the midshipmen themselves. Some come because it’s free. Some come for the school’s prestigious reputation. Some come for academics, some for athletics, and some because their parents want them to. I’m sure there are some who do come in thinking they’re going to make a career out of it, but how can they truly know if they have no concept of what life as an officer in the Naval Service means? Of course there are those who are disappointed, but if they didn’t think that there would be seemingly arbitrary and petty rules at the Naval Academy, maybe the problem was with their expectations.

Plenty of things seem petty and arbitrary to mids, but that doesn’t mean that they are. Let’s use Fleming’s example:

The students quickly see through assurances that “people die if you do X” (like, “leave mold on your shower curtain,” a favorite claim of one recent administrator).

No, unless you’re dealing with some toxic mold you only hear about on episodes of House, nobody will die if they leave mold on their shower curtain. They do die, however, when those in charge of dozens of people and multi-million dollar equipment lack attention to detail. The Navy isn’t about to give midshipmen multi-million dollar machines to maintain, so the lesson is taught using the tools available to them; personal appearance and room inspections. Hell, of all the examples Fleming could have used, I’m not sure I can think of one that’s more applicable in the Fleet, between maintenance spot checks, safety inspections before dangerous evolutions, berthing inspections, FOD walkdowns… You name it. Of course prior enlisted midshipmen find these things tedious. Having come from the Fleet, they already understand these lessons. The fact that Fleming complains about the way these duties can potentially conflict with time that could be spent on academics shows that he does not.

Waxing cars : Karate tournament :: Cleaning showers : Fleet

The first lesson taught during plebe summer is that before you can lead, you have to learn how to follow. When these mids get out into the real world, they are going to find that there are lots of things that might seem pointless and arbitrary to them. They will be expected to give the same level of effort on these tasks even if they don’t understand why. It’s the commanding officer’s butt on the line if the mission is not accomplished, so if he or she feels something is necessary, it’s the junior officer’s job to do it. Would an explanation be nice? Sure, but they aren’t always going to get one. That’s what learning how to follow means. Fleming criticizes the Naval Academy for not grasping the “big picture” because he listens to those who see less of the big picture than anyone: midshipmen. The difference is that they’re not supposed to know the big picture yet. Fleming is. Furthermore, his current attempt to sympathize with prior enlisted midshipmen rings incredibly hollow considering how, in the past, he was their most outspoken (maybe only) critic. In 2005, Fleming published a commentary in the Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine entitled “The Academy Can Do Better” in which he labeled mids with Fleet experience as one of the academy’s “set-asides”– groups who receive special consideration during the admissions process. Back then he thought they were part of the problem, but now that he wants to use them to make a point, he’s the sympathetic ear they tell their troubles to? I doubt it.

Not all of Fleming’s “set-asides” have received the benefit of his apparent change of heart. Athletes remain his favorite target. Two paragraphs after dismissing the school’s Rhodes, Marshall, and Truman scholars as mere outliers in his supposed norm of academic mediocrity, Fleming contradicts himself by using two football players’ scandals to cast all Academy athletes as pampered rebels who “know they’re not going to be thrown out” (apparently missing the incongruity of using two players who were thrown out to make his point). One could just as easily point out recruited athletes that have risen to leadership positions in the Brigade, like Zerb Singleton and Rashawn King. If Fleming needs two football players to use to paint them all with his broad brush, wouldn’t these guys do? How about Ross Pospisil, Craig Schaefer, and Greg Zingler, who were inducted into the 2010 Hampshire Honor Society earlier this month? Can we use them? What about graduates like Terrence Anderson– I’m sorry, Doctor Terrence Anderson– or Brian Stann, who received the Silver Star in 2006? And these are just football players. With a little effort, one can find example after example of Navy athletics success stories. But that’s the problem– it actually takes a little effort, because these aren’t the kind of people the Navy Times likes to write about. They also don’t like to report on the shortcomings of random mids in the Brigade; they don’t have that celebrity element that sells newspapers. To the casual observer, it can seem as if football players are the only mids getting into trouble, making it easy for someone like Fleming to paint the picture he wants.

Scratch the anecdotal surface, though, and a different picture emerges. Fleming speaks of midshipmen who say that athletes “often have little commitment to the military itself,” yet the school’s Office of Institutional Research found that letter-winning athletes, on average, actually serve longer than those who aren’t varsity athletes. Athletes are like everyone else; they all have their individual motivations coming to Annapolis, and maybe some don’t think they’ll make a career out of military service. Along the way, feelings change. Maybe it’s because athletes have even more invested into their USNA experience. Fleming tries to give the impression that varsity athletes have it easy at USNA, avoiding some of the “onerus duties” that others are required to fulfill. Yet how many midshipmen would be willing to skip these tasks in exchange for giving up their weekends? How many of them want to give up Christmas, spring break, or summer vacation? That’s what varsity athletes do, especially when in-season. Do a couple of parades per week compare to the rigor of a Division I practice? Hardly. Varsity athletics provide midshipmen with a chance to learn leadership skills they won’t get in their company areas. Earning the respect of your peers is far different than receiving respect by virtue of rank. Varsity athletics, especially at the Division I level, also teach midshipmen how to deal with high-pressure situations, how to handle media scrutiny… Things you don’t get from intramural softball.

Couldn’t these things be learned through competition at a level lower than Division I? Perhaps. But a move to Division III, as Fleming suggests, would make it impossible to fund these opportunities in the first place. Division I-A football is the revenue engine that makes 30 varsity sports possible. There are I-AA schools that sponsor as many sports programs, but most of them draw money from the school’s general fund–an option not palatable to a taxpayer-funded institution. Football does more than just pay the bills; it gives the school the ability to cast the widest possible net in reaching potential applicants. The “Flutie effect” is very real; while Fleming mocks the football team’s wins over Notre Dame, those two singular events probably single-handedly increased the number of applications the Academy received. Then again, they might not be from the kind of applicants that Fleming wants.

And that is the real issue here. Fleming speaks of creating a “military Camelot,” but that isn’t really what he wants. His bemoaning of admissions stantards and study time being consumed by other duties demonstrate his true goal– an academic Camelot. Not that there is anything wrong with academic pursuits; they just aren’t the primary purpose of the school. The school is tasked with producing well-rounded graduates to lead the men and women of the Naval Service. Academics are certainly a large part of that. They are not, however, the only consideration. The most important role that football serves at the Naval Academy is keeping it in the mainstream alongside household names like Notre Dame, Maryland, Missouri, and Stanford. The Navy and Marine Corps draw people from every corner of the country and from all walks of life. They protect people in every corner of the country and from all walks of life. The officers leading them need to be from every corner of the country and from all walks of life. That includes athletes, minorities, and prior enlisted– Fleming’s “set-asides.” To do otherwise– to take the Naval Academy out of the mainstream and turn it into some reclusive, elitist, academic monastery– would create the very military/civilian divide that Fleming writes books about closing.

Fleming talks of excellence “abandoned,” but doesn’t say what was so much better about past generations of midshipmen. I suspect that if he compared the past to the present using more than just the sea stories of a few select individuals, he would find that academy graduates are serving the nation just as honorably and effectively as they always have. Not that service academies are perfect; no institution can make that claim, let alone one run by the government. They are not sacred cows that should be immune to criticism; the “Alternative Service Option” debate of the last two years is evidence enough of that. It is important, however, to distinguish between good-faith suggestions for improvement and misguided sensationalism meant to sell books.

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71 Responses

  1. Nicely done, Mike.

  2. Wow. Just wow. Awesome read.

  3. Ditto. Thanks for taking the time to write this.

  4. WOW. Great response.

  5. Good work. Way to bring out the details.

  6. Good post Mike. Two observations; 1. Don’t just look at Flag rank officers as career %, when you include O6’s then the number is even higher making the investment better. 2. I have read several of Fleming’s rants and I always wonder why he isn’t a prof at some Div III school or better yet Colorado. Finally, I hope you send your post to the NYT as well as other rags. Keep up the good work.

  7. Your cogent and persuasive post angers and confuses me.

  8. lol

  9. :slow clap:

  10. Add my thanks for taking the time to write this. Let’s hope that someone tapes a copy to Fleming’s office door – not that he will “get it” if he actually reads it.

  11. Frank, Mike, what are the numbers of USNA v others at the O6 & O7+ ranks, exactly? I like the post, but I’m not seeing hard numbers.

  12. Mike, fantastic article….

  13. Great reply; especially adding recent examples of inspiring scholar-athletes!! Go Navy; Beat Maryland!

  14. Herbal, take a look at this http://edocs.nps.edu/npspubs/scholarly/theses/2008/Mar/08Mar_Lehner.pdf and head down to page 63 of the PDF and start reading.

  15. Herbal. I don’t have current numbers but a few years ago the number I was given by the alumni Assn was 67.5 percent

  16. I’ll skip the name-calling and sarcasm and look at some of the points here.

    First, let’s be clear that we’ve conceded that academy people aren’t better. That means that all the mold on the shower curtain business, along with chow calls and the rest, DO NOT PRODUCE BETTER OFFICERS AND DO NOT TEACH LEADERSHIP. If you remain within the Academy bubble it’s easy to say, as many students have said to me, “Sir, we have to be better; we go through so much more.” What’s on the table by the academies most of the time are the assertions that leadership can be taught at all, and that furthermore this is the way to teach it. We’ve conceded that neither is true.

    Do USNA people reach higher ranks and stay in longer? See the Navy Supply School study of these things, to which I refer in my upcoming book “Bridging the Military-Civilian Divide.” It finds that there is NO difference between speed or % of retention at JO ranks. There IS a preponderance of USNA grads at Flag Officer Ranks. But it also notes that this is based on many decades (like 40s-50s) where ROTC was vestigial. And it notes that this % is constantly falling. It also suggests this could be due to the old-boy network. Besides, it’s clear that the Navy promotes the people it wants to promote: all of a sudden it’s women and minorities. Are they better? We say they are to justify promoting them. Historically true? Sure. Going to continue at the same rate? Absolutely not. Going to continue at all? Doubtful.

    Retention in general: I’m perfectly willing to believe that notwithstanding this, there’s a tendency for USNA people to stay in longer–though I’ve never seen stats. Many mids have family military histories and are used to the idea. Dad did it, so can they. But if we close the academies (note we’ve conceded they’re expensive and don’t produce better products, or even better leaders) THESE PEOPLE WOULD GO TO VANDERBILT OR WHEREVER. Are we saying they would blow cold on the military? Evidence? The people wouldn’t be different, in other words. So it’s not necessarily the academies.

    Athletes. Ask Craig Shaefer for starters, since you mention him, what he thinks of me. I had him as a plebe when he spent hours in my office, and then as a 2/c, when he produced one of the most devastating parodies of Fleming I’ve ever seen, including the UnderArmour heatgear shirt and one-armed pushups on the table. I just gave a congratulations hug to a graduating football player today (graduation tomorrow). And so on. Of course some of the athletes recruited for “problematic” sports (b.ball and football; squash and sailing are not “problematic”) are stellar. The point is that they are wildly over-represented in honor violations. According to the Annapolis Capital they’re 29% of the brigade and offer 47% of honor violations. My examples ARE representative, your snideness and name-calling aside (you know those liberal English professors, and besides “it’s well known Fleming hates football players!”….right).

    As for income generation, we are paid for by tax money. We should not be hooked up to a lifeline of $ from Div I sports. I actually doubt that we need football $ to pay for our teams. Did we need that $ during the 90s when we couldn’t win a football game to save our souls? Sure, it buys some frills, at least I’d accept that it did. But if we don’t have the basics, we’d get it from our paymasters–civilian tax money. Besides, if we lacked certain sports we’d make up the effect other ways. Our job is to create officers, not win games against civilian schools who don’t give a rat’s ass whether their guys and gals graduate (even Georgetown is below 50%–ours is so high because we a) remove people in trouble from the team and b) make them take the class over until they pass and c) can put them in easier majors). That’s why no, I’m not just a whiney English prof who thinks “academics are all that matter” (as the administration charged in 2005). Academics do matter (check out my columns for http://www.military.com under “Bruce Fleming archives”) but of COURSE they are only part of the larger package. Saying that tilting so egregiously (like that big word? That’s to show I’m a Ph.D.) towards Div I athletic prowess is saying “academics is the only thing that matters” is like saying because I say don’t eat that l0th Twinkie I want to starve you to death.

    My point is that when we admit people for specific big-time sports skills AND REJECT THE ALL-AROUND ATHLETES WITH A STRONGER BASKET OF PREDICTORS, INCLUDING ATHLETICS we are misusing taxpayer money. The writer here got in. Does he ever wonder who didn’t so he could? Lots of fabulous guys and gals who never got a chance to be at USNA. I know because a) I was on the Admissions Board and b) I get e-mails from them. The question is not, is MIDN X better than nothing? It’s “is s/he better than the person we could have had?”

    The application system ranks applicants on academics, leadership AND ATHLETIC, gives scores–we then set these aside for recruited athletes. A non-blue-chip has to be strong in all things; a blue-chip has only to play ball. (To put numbers on it, we take blue-chips with SAT scores down to 400 for NAPS and 500 for USNA; 600 is minimum for non-blue-chip whites). In other words, we fill a HUGE % of our slots with one-sided people, rejecting the all-around studs good at everything. AS good as a Div I football player? How translatable to the fleet is the ability to crash through a line? We’re not going to play football against the bad guys, after all–and most footballers get chits to allow them to be overweight during their 4 years.

    Sure, they sacrifice to play. I’m not saying do away with sports. I love sports and they’re important. I’m saying STOP COMPETING WITH SCHOOLS THAT DON’T HAVE TO COMMISSION THEIR GRADS, OR EVEN GRADUATE THEM, TO PLAY AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL. Everybody knows that college sports have become quasi-professional in recent decades. And yes, all profs complain about the perversion of the mission of colleges–rightly so. We can have a football team without dipping as low as we dip. Like Vanderbilt. Do they win? Nah. Does it matter? I’d say nah, given our mission.

    I’ve taught remedial (trucker) English to classes where 16/18 were NAPSters, exactly 1/2 recruited athletes and 1/2 racial minorities. I love these guys and gals personally, but the fact is that to get them to USNA we REJECT AT LEAST ONE PERSON WITH MUCH STRONGER OVERALL PREDICTORS. This self-congratulatory “I’m a football player and I did fine” stuff shows no realization that behind each guy or gal at USNA there are several WITH MUCH HIGHER PREDICTORS who were rejected.

    Well, no, Mike, you’re not an English prof. No problem. I guess that was meant to be sarcastic, but actually I have to admit I don’t much like most English profs either. Only if you ever meet me you’ll have to change your tune, I think. My evals are about 10% hate Fleming, 90% really love Fleming: a motivational stud who talks to us about leadership. (That includes the athletes: last semester I had all the plebe lax guys plus two football players; this semester I had two more football players and half the plebe wrestlers. Ask them. )

    So I can understand you’d feel attacked. Only I’m not attacking you personally; I’m pointing out that all the academies are run with taxpayer $ and we have to justify that use. We’re not doing so; we’re assuming we’re entitled to use it without ever justifying it. Anything can change about the academies,even the fact of their existence.

    Ever checked out the football pictures of the class of say 1933 in Ricketts? I use the RIcketts weight room all the time and look at these. Funny little leather helmets, normal sized guys. Football has changed. There’s nothing that says we have to follow it.

    I don’t usually comment or even read comments, but a former student of mind (class of l990) sent this to me and said, you’d better read this! So I did. Problem with comments is it’s largely an echo chamber saying attaboy. I say attaboy too: love your spirit, OOHRAH.

    I’ll be sitting there tomorrow watching “my” guys and gals graduate with my chest busting out of my academic robes.

    R/
    Dr. Bruce Fleming

  17. You, sir, are the Jack Thompson of Academy academia.

  18. Great post Mike. You nailed it. Opportunist promoting his next book. Based on his reply, I’m glad to join the name-calling, so we might as well add thin-skinned.

  19. I lost count how many plugs Prof. Fleming made for his books and other articles. ShockAr.

    However, for one who claims to know so much about the military, you somehow missed along the way that Junior Officer promotion is TIME based, not merit. You make O-2 after 2 years, O-3 after 4 years. You don’t start to see divergence until the O-4 and O-5 promotions – or your career officer corps, since they have cleared the retirement hurdle.

    I don’t think Mike or any of us expect to change your mind because you’ve been so wedded to your stance for so long. However, for one dedicated to teaching and developing free thinkers, you sure do take great pains to insult and discount opposing opinions. Bully pulpit, indeed.

  20. in all fairness i am a bit snarky. on the other hand, while the good prof is far from the first person to mock my usage of every arrow in my vocabulary quiver, as an english prof he’s certainly the last person i’d expect it from.

  21. Fleming,

    You are a whiner. If you hate the way the Naval Academy does business, why don’t you quit?

    I’ll tell you this, as a black female who was not a recruited athlete, but instead accepted on the “higher predictors” you so cherish, you have no clue what the fleet is like and what impact race/gender make up of the officer corps has on the enlisted crew. After years of white male division officers, my presence in the Engineering Department changed the way female engineers thought about leadership. I overheard one of my sailors on the phone to her mother, and she said, “Mom, we got a new division officer…and she’s BLACK.” It matters. This particular sailor was one of my best techs and leaders, and when she put in her commissioning package she told me that she never thought about leadership until I was her divo.

    And, as I walk the halls of the Pentagon today, I see the pictures of the leadership. All white, all male. But, instead of thinking that’s the way it will always be, I know that soon, even the highest ranks of leadership will reflect the diversity of our nation. A desire to serve knows no race and no gender.

    The bottom line is that academic predictors are irrelevant in the fleet. The smartest person might not be the best leader.

    Looking back now, I don’t know what I expected from the Naval Academy. At 17 or 18 (or even 20 or 21), who does? Maybe a military camelot. But would that have been helpful? No.

    In fact, most of the people I know who went in expecting a “military camelot” and planning on serving 20 years are out now, after just five years. Why? Because they had a closed mind about what they wanted from the Navy. The people who stay in have an open mind about what to expect. Perhaps a trait found in people who don’t always get what they want, who have to work for academic and athletic achievement? I wonder, is this one of your treasured “predictors?”

    I take pride in our football team and love it that they’re succeeding. My parents live in Annapolis and sponsor football and basketball players, and those students sacrifice more than a “regular” student. Not just free time, but study time, too. Yet, they still must graduate. And without the chance of going into the NFL or other pro leagues.

    The Naval Academy is a complex place trying to feed an even more complex Fleet in support of an ever more threatening world. I am in favor of selecting those who have a desire to lead and to serve, whether they’re an athlete, minority or book worm. Maybe it’s time you open your mind, too.

  22. You guys might want to check out the comments on http://www.caaflog.com under the article about the 13 2ndLts kicked out for cheating at the Academy. Charles Gittens, Class of ’79, seems to think thinks are too easy these days due to “inclusiveness.”

    Also, if Prof Fleming thinks the school is doing such a bad job, and has thought so for quite a long time, why doesn’t he quit and go work at Vanderbilt? I could buy “to change it from the inside” for a bit. But for as long as he’s been singing this song?

  23. Almost forgot to add, love the original. Great work Mike!

  24. Prof Fleming, we do not have to “check out my columns http://www.military.com under “Bruce Fleming archives” because you rehash the same, tired garbage over & over & over.

  25. Andy, thank you for the link to the NPS study. I read from about page 63 to about page 90 and learned a lot about the cost of producing officers from each of the main three commissioning studies. Interesting to see that it is actually cheaper to produce 100 O5 aviators and submariners by a significant amount. Since the fleet is manned by officers across all ranks, it shows that the combination of all three sources is actually beneficial in order to fill all the requires billets. It is also refreshing to read an academic document void of the strong bias this subject tends to generate.
    tends to generate.

  26. Anyone who refers to himself as a “motivational stud” and cites the fact-challenged Annapolis Capital creates some serious doubts about his credibility.

  27. Another grad beat me to the comment about junior officer promotions being time based but I’ll mention another quibble. When answering the comment about the high numbers of USNA grads at the flag level, Professor Flemming ascribes it to ROTC being “vestigial” back in the 40’s and 50″s. Doctor Flemming, the grads from the 40’s and 50’s retired a ver very long time ago. The bulk of the flag officers today are from the 70’s and 80’s when NROTC was actually the same size or even larger then today and the percentage of officer accessions from USNA was certainly not larger then it is today. USNA continues to provide the predominant share of 06’s and flags.

  28. Mike and Bruce, thanks for keeping alive the wonderfully entertaining controversy about who should matriculate at Annapolis and who should be allowed to comment on the process. As a retired senior flag officer, USNA language major, married as a MIDN 2/c, I have served with all kinds. At the end of the day, it’s the individual that matters, and yet the commisioning source does matter. Early commitment is different from deciding later that “this isn’t such a bad life.” You’re both clearly , genuinely, and deeply committed to the volunteers who enter the Academy and discover themselves in the experience, while wondering what they’ve missed in doing so. Those of us who serve long careers learn that, at the end of the day, life exposes its purpose after all.

  29. For Mr. Fleming:

    “United States Naval Academy Mission
    The Mission:To develop Midshipmen morally, mentally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty in order to graduate leaders who are dedicated to a career of naval service and have potential for future development in mind and character, to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government. ”

    Maybe this has something to do with why USNA mids tend to stick around longer? Why don’t you offer some concrete recommendations for measurable improvement (and not in some book that requires us to pay you and your publisher the privilege of reading) or have the courage of your convictions and GTFO of my school. I will have 20 years of commissioned service in 3 days from now, and I had no clue at 17 years old when I raised my right hand and took the oath of office on 6 Jul 1986 that I would stay for 20 (and want to retire @ 30). Looking back, if I had gone to ROTC I would have been 5 and done. Furthermore, your comments about Officer promotions are a slap in the face. My best CO (Class of 90-6) was a woman and she got to where she was despite the “old-boys club” you lament. To suggest she got to where she was otherwise is ignorant and insulting.

    For the record – great post Mike!

  30. Herbal, glad to help. To be honest, I cribbed that link from another poster on GoMids. It was the first time I had seen statistical analysis (and i’m a stats nerd, so I ate it all up) of the promotion and retention.

    Professor Fleming, I highly recommend you follow Herbal’s lead and go read that paper. I find it a little disturbing that you could write a book that you profess addresses things like promotion and retention and not have a grasp of the reality that exists in your subject matter.

  31. Well, GL, if you’re a stats nerd, you must have eaten it up. Now that I’m home (and not messing up my reply from an iPhone keypad), I’ll have to go back and reread some of the info on the studies and confirm some definitions I saw in there for discounted costs, etc. It wasn’t easy to read with an iPhone while using an elliptical machine, either. Another thing that I found interesting was how recent the studies are. It’ll go in the google docs folder.

  32. That’s hard core reading that on an small screen during a workout. Yeah I geeked out with it – would have been the kind of stuff I would have loved to do if I went to PG school in the service.

    The lack of a competitive edge in the SWO community between the commission sources comes as little surprise, given the inherent ease of five and diving from it (or for previous ROTC officers, 4 and diving).

    Of course, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics, so I’d be careful of looking towards it as the holy grail of Academy defense. But it is a very nice stein.

  33. I have one simple question for Prof Fleming-You believe to have found a problem, great. How about a suggestion about how to fix it? If you could be the Supe for a day, what changes would you make to adjust the shortcomings of the Academy. And from the perspective of a Commanding Officer, what are those shortcomings? How are we “wasting” money on USNA midshipmen whereas we are not on ROTC mids? Finding a problem is only a small sliver of the process, tell me how to solve it.

  34. Mike,
    You have spent a whole lot more time than I was interested in paying attention to this guy.

  35. I find it interesting that the same Mids that Prof Fleming believes shouldn’t even be at the academy (the ‘set asides’ in trucker english) are the ones whose comments he chooses to believe when he calls himself a motivational stud. If they aren’t good enough to attend your institution, what value do their comments have in evaluating your ability to teach at that institution?

  36. How does the Capital know that the 29% of the Brigade that’s varsity athletes commits 47% of the honor offenses? I’m pretty sure honor stats aren’t public information, much less demographics of who committed them. Plus there’s a big difference between “allegedly committed” and “found in violation”…as was pointed out in the Adam Ballard story, he “committed” a few honor offenses at the Academy that he was found not guilty on.

    And not that anyone else needs to pile on with the promotion rates for junior officers, but the Marine Corps does it essentially the same as the Navy, albeit a month or two slower when it comes to promotion to captain. Merit is not considered at all (unless you get a DUI or sleep with your CO’s wife)–time in grade based on commissioning date is all the board looks at.

  37. I don’t buy the line that ROTC is cheaper. I may be wrong, but the price tag of a USNA mid includes summer training and a ROTC mid does not. Is that correct?

    Also, fixed vs. variable costs. How much does it cost to admit 1 more mid? Food and a rack.

    ROTC- 4 years of tuition. approx 120-160K. I’m willing to bet expanding the brigade to a point just before new facilities or substantial new staff needs to be hired would save a ton of dough.

  38. Does anyone know what the upshot of trucker English is? Nuclear English? Calculus based English? :-)

  39. Sailor English?

  40. VARGOTE Inglish?

  41. I would like to thank Mike and Prof. Fleming for their thoughts. I would hope that we can all agree that Prof. Fleming makes some valid points. I am sure that we leave some candidates with higher predictors “on the table” in our admissions process. And the Naval Academy and Navy is a better for it.

    USNA with D3 sports would be like a Herndon Ceremony without greasing the monument.

  42. I understand and appreciate Prof. Fleming’s thoughts and views on USNA. He has been there a long time, and he teaches a required plebe course, so his class roster is a pretty broad brush. He rocks the boat at an institution that teaches everyone to keep their eyes in the boat.

    That being said, I vehmently disagree with his entire viewpoint. Navy Football rules! Beat Maryland!

  43. I guess I am one of those “set asides” that the Professor feels the Academy should have passed on. Even though (as a minority) I was very successful and active in community activities in high school, I had low SATs and I wasn’t a recruited athlete. Looking back, I have no idea how I was accepted. I was on academic probation for most of my 4 years, when I tried out for varsity sports teams, I got my butt kicked, and ended up being a mediocre company jock. I never was a “striper”, and graduated in the bottom third of my class. Looking at how brilliant and talented my classmates were, I wonder who was left out with the roster spot that I took?

    However, I did very well at TBS, had almost a perfect academic record in flight school, and had a crazy amount of “net aboves” in my flight evaluations. After a 20 year career in the Marines, I wouldn’t give any of it back. I had a blast.

    I think it was the principles and discipline that I learned at the Naval Academy that made me what I am today. If I went to Podunk U. with my “successful, arrogant, I can do anything without having to work for it” attitude that I had as a high schooler, I would probably be still stuck in my hometown, and shoveling sh*t for a living with my third wife and a dozen kids living in a trailer park, still waiting for my President to fill up my gas tank and pay my mortgage for me.

    I think I am but one example, among many, why Professor Fleming’s theories don’t hold up in reality.

  44. Oops. That was me. Forgot to log in.

  45. Just a comment on Division 1 athletes performance in the fleet. My experience from 5 commands is that the Division 1 atheletes were all consitantly ranked at the top of their paygrade and the so called booksmart or higher class ranked officers (USNA/ROTC) were ranked well below. Dr Flemming needs to have some operational military experience before he begins commenting on leadership. Reading all the leadership/management books in the world and being a “leader” in a classroom doesn’t give you one ounce of credibility when it comes to commenting on leadership ability in the “fleet”.

  46. Professor Fleming,

    If the Naval Academy is so terrible, and you end up teaching remedial English, or “trucker” English perhaps you should go teach at a school with a focus on liberal arts. You might be more satisfied at St. Johns, but you wouldn’t be able to sell books criticizing the institution.

    Perhaps you should read the NPS study of cost and quality.

    The Midshipmen that see the problems with the place, don’t understand how it fits into the larger picture, and how they fit into the larger picture. I was admittedly one of them. You’re not seeking to develop English Majors, you should be seeking to develop the whole person.

    You’re teaching your students that they can’t trust their chain of command, and you’re teaching them to write to the papers when they have problems. You’re teaching poor leadership habits, and encouraging students that don’t know better to go outside the system.

    Yes, your complaints are tiresome. They’re getting old. With every Administration decision that you don’t agree with you write an article for a paper, or a book. Instead of looking at the bottom 5% of the class, perhaps you should be writing about the stories of heroism from Naval Academy graduates in combat. Perhaps you should be writing about the students that dedicate themselves to a life of service instead of constantly criticizing the institution that pays your bills.

    if you don’t enjoy teaching “trucker” English, go teach somewhere else. Perhaps you should look at it as an opportunity to develop skills in Midshipmen that desperately need skills improvement, instead of an opportunity to strike at the admissions committee and the Admiral.

    You may not know the entire picture from your position as English Professor, even though you have 20 years of experience teaching English. Have you ever had to balance English, Systems Engineering, Military Leadership, a sport, and Systems Engineering at the same time? Until you’ve taken a semester in the shoes of a student, shut up and perform your duties to educate your students the very best you can.

    If you’re too bothered by the low entry level education of your students, go teach at University of Maryland, St. Johns, or Haverford College (if they’d have you). Perhaps Navy would be better served by professors that are looking to actually improve the students in their class instead of complain that the school is providing them substandard clay to mold.

  47. it’s funny, in discussing (rather, arguing) with my dad about all this last night, he threw some stuff at me that i complained about as a mid. he asked me why i didn’t agree with fleming because, after all, i had said the same stuff when i was there and wholly miserable at times

    and i told my dad that just like fleming, I didn’t know what the heck I was talking about at the time. once i got into the fleet as a DivO, it all made sense. it especially made sense when I did a 6 month stint as the 1st LT on my DDG.

    I took over for a ROTC grad who simply couldn’t control the division. don’t get me wrong, deck division is a hard tour – some undesignated seamen could make the “trucker engilsh” students at the Academy look like Rhodes Scholars. But when I got to the division, I understood what it’s like to have to do crap like chip paint or neverdull the capstan top, because I spent 4 years hand waxing my dorm room floor and scrubbing out a shower for class alphas.

    I was able to educate the unhappy seamen as to why what they did was important. did scrubbing a shower keep people from dying? nope, but it did keep us from getting athlete’s foot, which would have impaired our ability to fully function in sports. did painting the superstructure keep us from getting shot? nope, but it did keep the rust at bay and prevent the ship from having to do an early yard period because the maintenance had slipped by.

    suddenly my dad understood – I had no clue wtf I was talking about as a mid. i wonder if Fleming could be bothered to follow up with those students of his who he thinks reflect poorly on the school’s admissions about what it all meant in the long run.

  48. Wow, I wish i said that! Extremely well written piece. I loved it!

  49. GoalieLax, I swear to you I was about to write the same sentiment, relating similar lessons learned on different ships, almost always saying to myself, “So that’s why Black Jack was so hard on us Plebes”. On another note, GoalieLax, will be cheering for a better year next year for the Lax Team. But we beat Hopkins!!!

  50. Mike, very well done. With any luck, your response will get some attention out there in cyber space.

    A few points. First, Prof. Fleming referred multiple times in his rebuttal to rejected candidates who had stronger “predictors” than candidates who were athletes. If the selection process were that simple, then admissions would have only to rank candidates base on their relative “predictors” and, voila, we would have an new class of Plebes. That’s naive at best.

    Second, I seriously doubt that he has never seen the stats which support that USNA alums stay in longer than other commissioning sources. That one has been around for years. It’s real simple. While USNA alums make up 20% or so of new ensigns, they make up 50% + of O6s and flags. That’s a very troublesome statistic when one has Prof. Fleming’s point of view.

    Third, I recall Arliegh Burke making the sage observation that if we really knew at the outset which candidates were going to be outstanding leaders 20 to 30 years from now, then the Naval Academy would have the smallest student body of any undergraduate institution in the country. Problem is we don’t know that.

    Finally, I received a bunch of emails regarding the good professor’s article in the NY Times. My response to them was simple. Ask yourself two questions: 1) If Prof. Fleming weren’t controversial, would he be able to sell any books? 2) If Prof. Fleming wrote an article extolling the many virtues of USNA and how it shaped the lives of young men and women in such a positive way, do you really think the NY Times would publish it? I think we all know the answers to those two questions.

  51. Mike…..Thanks for taking the time to make a terrific reply to the professor. You have exposed his narrow point of view as flawed. Once again your analysis is right on!!! Jim

  52. Here’s a good (albeit unintentional) rebuttal from the West Point side of things from Sports Illustrated.

    Love this quote: “Ferrara was being completely honest recently when the Commandant—a one star general—put forth the idea of ending team lunch tables and he replied, ‘I’ve learned more about leadership from the track team than in any activity with the Corps of Cadets.'”

  53. Professor Fleming doesn’t talk about the fact that, had his arguments been more cogent and persuasive when he was on the Admissions Board, then he could have won over a majority of the members, won admission for his favorites over the others, and prevented USNAs “drift into mediocrity.” It is majority rule on the Board. Maybe if he brushed up his game a bit…….

  54. Well, since so many others have already thoughtfully and convincingly rebutted Dr. Fleming’s points of view, I’ll merely add that my favorite part of Mike’s excellent piece is that Fleming was threatened enough by it to climb down into the gutter with the rest of us digital peons and post a rebuttal here; and in doing so, he reduced the value of his contribution to this “issue” to the same level as mine:

    SUCK IT, FLEMING

  55. Look, the article and it’s timing are all about one thing — Fleming has a book coming out, and he’s pimping it just as hard as he can. His reply to Mike certainly makes that clear.

    So you’ve got a guy who’s an attention whore to begin with, rehashing old crap to whore for more attention and try to make a buck at the expense of an employer who can’t fire his ass. Total piece of shit.

  56. Look, the article and it’s timing are all about one thing — Fleming has a book coming out, and he’s pimping it just as hard as he can. His reply to Mike certainly makes that clear.

    So you’ve got a guy who’s an attention whore to begin with, rehashing old crap to whore for more attention and try to make a buck at the expense of an employer who can’t fire his ass. Guy’s a total piece of shit.

  57. ADM Fowler’s response–

    https://www.usna.com/SSLPage.aspx?RSS=whatsnew&referrer=&pid=10554

  58. Excellent response, Mike.

    Regarding ” You don’t start to see divergence until the O-4 and O-5 promotions – or your career officer corps, since they have cleared the retirement hurdle.” Even then the promotion rate to O-4 is something like 90% and to O-5 70%. SO the real divergense starts at O-6, which is about 50%, and by then much of the “chaff” has been weeded out.

    And the ‘predictor’ stuff Prof Fleming mentions is only valid to a point, from my 26+ years of experience in the Fleet. I saw some of the least likely guys and gals blossom once they hit the age of about 25 or 26 (not speaking from personal experience, of course!). I saw many of my more intellectual colleagues not hack it in the leadership department, although I did see some of our brightest, most intellegent guys reach the uppermost tier because they had the full package 0 truly awesome individuals and Naval Officers.

    Having the service academies compete successfully at Div 1 level means a great deal more than money or bowl games – it shows us as a top tier school in every respect. Perfect? Of course not. And we all know that the biggest room in the Navy is the room for improvement.

  59. USNA 97 @ “You guys might want to check out the comments on http://www.caaflog.com under the article about the 13 2ndLts kicked out for cheating at the Academy”

    I believe they were kicked out of The Basic School, not USNA, for cheating on the land navigation final. So far, I think we only know that two were Naval Academy grads, right?

  60. @ Gonavy81. Exactly right sir. It’s amazing how someone who wants to be taken seriously in a debate about USNA v. (all other comm sources) doesn’t know that JOs and O-4s are almost a lock for promotion.

  61. Prof Fleming–

    I’m not sure if you’re still tuned in, but I’ll reply anyway.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond. First, a few things to get out of the way… You seem to have misinterpreted the title of this post as meaning that I have something against English professors in general. As an unapologetic Group III major who thinks that the ability to write is the most immediately applicable yet undervalued skill in the junior officer’s arsenal, nothing could be further from the truth. As regular readers here can testify, my schtick alternates between self-deprecation and ironic self-aggrandization to laugh at the somewhat pathetic existence of the stereotypical blogger. The title was just an example of the former; I know I’m nothing more than a random, useless noise generator in the internet hinterland, with no obvious credibility other than that which I’ve earned from the readers who have inexplicably subjected themselves to my thoughts for the last few years. Now, if over the course of my post you felt that I was poking fun at the idea of an English professor being the expert to break down the Navy officer corps for the public at large… Well that’s probably true. That doesn’t reflect my opinion of the profession as a whole, though. I’m sorry you don’t like your colleagues much, but I can’t say the same.

    I’m sure that the typical knee-jerk reaction you probably see when you write about these things involves the phrase “liberal professor” in some form, so maybe it’s excusable that you would assume that is where I am coming from. Trust me, it isn’t. I said nothing in my post to indicate a disdain for academia, and while I don’t think too many people would identify me as liberal, I’m so far left on some issues that I make GoalieLax look like Ronald Reagan. (I know that means nothing to you, but GoalieLax is probably really pissed right now). I don’t mind sarcasm– I fully expect to reap what I sow– but don’t say you’re going to skip it if you really aren’t.

    I apologize for resorting to bullet points for the rest of this, but it’s a long weekend and I’m lazy:

    — You’re getting way ahead of yourself on what I’ve conceded. What I said was that the main determinant of junior officer success is effort, a trait that is hardly exclusive to Naval Academy graduates. It’s quite a leap to go from that to saying that leadership cannot even be taught. I’m not sure if I learned leadership from clean showers and chow calls, but I certainly learned some valuable lessons, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. Just because I don’t think that makes me better than the next guy doesn’t mean that they are worthless. And again, being “better” isn’t the point anyway.

    — As several others have already pointed out, there is no difference in the speed of JO advancement vis-a-vis commissioning sources because it isn’t competitive; it’s based strictly on time in rank. Even O-4 advancement is pretty close to 100%, so Academy graduates don’t have the chance to separate themselves statistically until the O-5 and O-6 level– which they do. It’s a bit disingenuous to attribute this to ROTC being in its formative stages in the ’40s and ’50s when 1) NROTC was established in 1926, and 2) you just touted the post-WWII rise of ROTC in your op-ed. There aren’t any officers commissioned in the 50s left on active duty now, anyway, and I’m sure the ROTC officers of the last 30 years are no longer at that supposed disadvantage.

    — Only 66 out of the 1,251 members of the USNA class of 2013 are the children of alumni. I’m sure more are the children of non-alumni servicemembers, but I can’t imagine that the number is so great each year that the higher retention rates among USNA grads is due solely to these people. Besides, I think it’s safe to say that there are children of servicemembers among the ranks of ROTC cadets and midshipmen as well.

    You believe that if the Naval Academy is shut down, those who would have attended USNA– the ones you say are predisposed to becoming career officers– would simply make their way to an NROTC unit somewhere. Since those people were career-minded anyway, retention wouldn’t be affected, and the Navy would be just as well off. But that completely contradicts your claim that the admissions board is accepting the wrong people. If the higher retention rates of USNA officers are merely the result of who USNA decides to let through its gates, then the admissions board must be finding the right people. If the admissions board is accepting the wrong people, but USNA still has better retention rates, then the USNA experience– clean showers, chow calls and all– must be effective. It’s possible that both are true. The one thing that can’t be is that neither are true.

    — I’m sure you get hugs and that you like to do one-armed pushups, but I never said anything about your popularity among mids (or anyone else) as it has nothing to do with either of our points. I only brought up Schaefer and the others to show the fallacy of anecdotal evidence.

    — The school is paid for by tax money. The athletic program is not. If you doubt that football revenue is what fuels the NAAA operating budget, then I HIGHLY recommend you talk to just about anyone within the organization, who I am sure will tell you all about it. You shouldn’t really have to talk to anyone though. I mean, where exactly would their money come from if not from football? None of the other sports on the yard make money, and it would take one hell of a bake sale to get enough donations to provide for them all. Yes, this was true even when the football team was bad. They still sold 20K+ tickets to every game, and still played Army and Notre Dame on TV every year. If part of your argument for closing the Naval Academy is the high cost, then how can you advocate for adding to that cost by downgrading NAAA from a self-sustaining Division I program to a Division III program that relies on taxpayers? Winning games and creating officers aren’t mutually exclusive. If you say that we’d make up for a loss of sports in other ways, I am curious as to what you acknowledge we would lose, and how we’d make up for it.

    — No, I don’t wonder about who got left out of the Naval Academy because I got in. Should I? According to you, that person just ended up at Vanderbilt or wherever, joined the NROTC unit, and served happily ever after. Shoot, as dystopian as you say the Naval Academy is, not getting in is probably the best thing that ever happened to that guy and his art history dreams.

    Of those who applied to the Naval Academy, how many gained their first exposure to the school through the football team? Is there anything that even comes close to the Army-Navy game for getting the word out about the school and its mission? Maybe the Navy-Notre Dame game. When the football team hits the road for places like Texas, California, and Ohio, newspapers spend a week writing stories about the team and the school they represent. You say that USNA should not compete against schools that don’t commission their students, or those that don’t graduate enough of them. The opposite is true. The last thing we want is to shutter away the Naval Academy, to avoid mainstream competition. Indeed, we should embrace it. The midshipmen are by far the greatest asset the school has.”I am a Division I athlete; I could have gone anywhere, but I choose to serve,” is an extremely powerful message with which to promote the esteem and value of service. To keep that message from reaching the public– and potential candidates for admission– would be a disservice to the Navy, and to the country. The best interests of the Navy are more complicated than simply picking the 1000 applicants with the highest predictors.

    I’ll do us both a favor and pretend that the “OORAH” never happened.

  62. Very well-penned response Mike tbd.

    If it was just based on the academic predictors, my younger brother and I possibly would have never gained an appointment to USNA I’m sure, … And if not for Navy Football my son had little chance (even with outstanding H.S. grades).
    Prof Flemming seems to have no clue about just how difficult it is to achieve/sustain academic excellence in the Academy classroom while playing (and representing USNA) a varsity sport like football.

    Go Navy!

  63. Ditto Mike. If not for football I would never have received my appointment. I almost bilged out, graduated in the bottom 1/3 of the class, played two varsity sports every year, was the first in our class to earn my wings, made O6, 5 commands including an A7 squadron, and by the way am a minority. If it were up to me, the good Prof should be given a desk in a small windowless room with a disconnected phone and allowed to exist without students until he decides to leave to teach at South Herndon Institute of Technology.

  64. What’s wrong with south herndon tech!?

  65. Hey Mike don’t say you’ll pretend that OORAH never happened if you aren’t : )

    My money is that the good professor so loves to see his words in print that he’ll be back.

  66. I really like your response and I think you’ve brought up some very interesting evidence against Fleming’s original article.

    However, your main point: that the academies are better investments for career officers neglects one crucial thing that I see, and that is aren’t those who are more likely to spend a career in the military going to want to attend one of the academies?

    This could be for a multitude of reasons, maybe they want to get indoctrinated into the military lifestyle, or maybe they are practical and have read the same statistics you have that they have a better chance of attaining flag officer rank through the USNA.

    For the sake of argument, let’s say that the academies are abolished, those same people are going to now go through OCS or ROTC, changing their commissioning source but not their commitment to the military.

    It’s just like in the Army, where my experience lies. I’ve heard from many wannabe career officers who want to become Generals someday and they think it’s almost impossible to do so without being a Combat Arms officer (generally Infantry). Looking at the top leadership of the Army, this definitely is the case.

    But is it the Infantry that makes great generals, or is it the future generals who are drawn to the Infantry?

    At any rate I don’t think the academies should be abolished just yet, but I do think this subject does need to be investigated.

  67. I addressed that both in the original piece and in my response to Fleming’s comment. I think you’re giving way, way too much credit to 18-year olds coming out of high school. Their reasons for attending the Naval Academy are far more wide-ranging than simply wanting to be a career officer. The fact that it’s free is probably the biggest draw. Even those that think they want to be a career officer have little concept of what that truly means at that point, so their ambition is somewhat meaningless.

  68. I am not going to comment very much on the content of Mike’s posts or Prof. Fleming’s – I think that has been done many times. I’m just glad to be able to follow a site where the discourse is ‘on topic’ and respectful. Too many sites devolve within a couple of posts to nasty, personal attacks – a sign of the coarsening of our culture, sadly. To his credit, I thought Prof. Fleming’s response was, likewise, topical and respectful. I disagree with him, but I am glad there is a place where conflicting ideas can still be traded with civility. I think Prof. Fleming wold agree with THAT, if nothing else on these pages. A bit ironic that it is on a site whose readers are nearly exclusively the alumni of the very institution he would abolish if he could.

  69. I’m not sure what’s better… Mike’s article or the fact that the good Prof. actually posted a response. i wonder if there is any way to prove it was actually him. Mike, your rebuttal was also right on.

    NavyUSMC86 – This is a refreshing blog. It actually contains intellectual debate 98% of the time.

  70. Is everyone forgetting that most Army ROTC program cadets DO NOT get scholarships? There are some folks doing it because of their patriotism and refused to take government money. If you were to average out the number of soldiers on this path, ROTC costs a fraction of the academies. I’m not sure if this is the same for the AFROTC and the NROTC, but that’s how it works with the US Army.

    I’m not trying to assault or defend the Academies. I’m merely stating a fact that seems to be overlooked by so many of you folks.

    • Considering that this post was made four years ago, I’d say that everyone forgot a lot of this stuff.

      I’m not sure what your point is or how it relates to the topic. The costs of each program are already well established, so you aren’t introducing any new data. No need to get offended, Captain America.

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