Best Defense

Meanwhile, back at the military academies

Prof. Bruce Fleming checks in from Annapolis with this report on how officials at the Naval Academy are reacting to his charge that the academy is bending admissions standards: I’m writing now to ask if you’re interested in rattling the cage again, perhaps in your blog, as a next step on the “diversity” issue I ...

579892_091006_ricks4b2.jpg
The U.S. Navy Blue Angels aerobatic team forms the four-plane Diamond Formation over the United States Naval Academy Graduation and Commissioning Ceremony at the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium May 23, 2008 in Annapolis, Maryland. Founded in 1845, the academy will graduate 1037 1st Class Midshipmen, more than a thousand of which will go on to commissions in the armed forces.

Prof. Bruce Fleming checks in from Annapolis with this report on how officials at the Naval Academy are reacting to his charge that the academy is bending admissions standards:

I’m writing now to ask if you’re interested in rattling the cage again, perhaps in your blog, as a next step on the “diversity” issue I raised this summer. I have to assume you are up on my own contributions to this topic — first an op-ed in the local (Annapolis) paper, this was widely reported in the Post, USA Today, Navy Times etc. I was asked to post a long piece on the USNI blog, which I did. It threw the admin for a loop, apparently, and beyond: I hear my name came up at all-hands meeting(s) at the Pentagon where the CNO was asked, “What about Professor Fleming’s assertions?” He adopted what the admin has chosen to adopt as their “shut down the discussion” mantra, namely something along the lines of “Professor Fleming doesn’t have the facts.” After that I asked USNI if they were interested in a second posting by me using an internally-generated PowerPoint with facts and figures direct from the horse’s mouth to show that Prof Fleming DID have the facts, or enough to make the main points (minor procedural details may have shifted since my time on the Board, 5 years ago, but current statistics and graphs show that the basics are still there, namely what the administration itself calls “streamlined” admission for self-identified racial minorities, who come in one of only two ways, NAPS or “direct” — not true for non-athlete whites). USNI asked for this, then kept it, then now doesn’t even respond to my e-mails saying “are you running this?”

Meanwhile the Dean, a new one who just arrived, has gone out of his way to deny me both of the two merit pay steps recommended by my dept and its chair (two is the max; it’s possible to be recommended for two and get one if there just aren’t enough available to be given out, but it’s unheard of to take someone out of the rankings and move him to the bottom, as he has done). I’ve filed, last week, a federal whistleblower’s protection complaint with the OSC, on the grounds that this has every appearance of being retaliation for my saying in print that this kind of race-based admissions and two-tracking is illegal. I don’t know if this grinds slowly or fast, but it’s in the works. So they’re upset because I’m raining on their parade.

(Read on)

The larger issue is that this race-tracking is all over the military, not just the academies — it’s just that here there are civilians (well, me) and there are legal precedents for college admissions. I’ll attach the piece I wrote for USNI that now they’ve backed away from (I’m guessing they were warned off in no uncertain terms by the brass). Is this, in any way, shape, or form, something you’d be interested in re-visiting? Wading into? It’s possible the shelf life of this issue has expired; clearly the CNO wants it to go away. But I was also raked over the coals for talking to a reporter for an African-American education pub called “Diversity in Higher Education.” I haven’t actually read the article but it was clearly negative, and they’re upset at THAT too — I’m being pressured to run EVERYTHING by the PAO, something that I’m not obliged to do (obviously they only care about critical things) — when I used to do that, the then-Dean called me at l0 o’clock at night to threaten the English Dept if I didn’t withdraw the piece — an op/ed for the Post in 2005. So what they want is not just a heads-up it’s coming out, but the ability to kill it and/or disseminate misinformation about it.

It’s a stinker, but at this point I can’t tell if I’m the only one upset-to judge from the volume of e-mail from people in the fleet upset at this issue as it plays out there (preferential promotions etc), I’m not alone. Certainly it’s corrupted USNA: we now no longer throw out minorities for honor/conduct violation — the goal is l00% graduation. This seeps through to EVERYBODY. I hear honor cases are closed or delayed (one with a star football player, his Xth infraction, has been postponed indefinitely) etc.

These are serious allegations. People with views contrary to officialdom do need genuine academic freedom. I wonder if this episode will be reviewed the next time the Naval Academy’s academic credentials are examined.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. @tomricks1
A decade of Global Thinkers

A decade of Global Thinkers

The past year's 100 most influential thinkers and doers Read Now

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola