Military Education, Sequestered

Department of Defense

AA Font size + Print

With furloughs and reduced spending levels, U.S. military academies are struggling to live up to their own standards of excellence. By Eric Katz

Children often watch the local weather forecasts with glee, hoping with every fiber of their being the storms will grant them the most vaunted wintery gift of all: a snow day.

Less common, however, are students who gather ‘round to watch C-SPAN, hoping beyond hope that lawmakers will fail to strike a bipartisan deal to end the sequester, leading to a less celebrated occasion: a furlough day.

At the U.S. Naval Academy — and across the U.S. military academies — furlough days have become a reality. For midshipmen, this means many classes taught by civilian professors during the furlough period are canceled. For the sailors-to-be and cadets at the Air Force Academy and the Army’s Military Academy this means less training, fewer upgrades and cancelled programs. The result, university officials have told Defense One, is a fraction of the college experience typically provided to future military officers.

“We will continue to meet our mission of developing midshipmen morally, mentally and physically, but I cannot emphasize enough that sequestration and furloughs will have a very negative impact here,” said Vice Adm. Michael Miller, USNA’s superintendent.

A majority of the academy’s professors are civilians subject to furloughs. With the academic year starting Aug. 19, midshipmen will face about five weeks in which those professors must take at least one unpaid vacation day. This, inevitably, will lead to canceled classes. If and how the classes are made up will depend on each specific class and teacher.

“English lit may be different than a physics professor,” said Cmdr. John Schofield, a USNA spokesman. “It’s not like we’re going to make people come in on weekends.”

The Naval Academy will also have to close its library every Friday at least through mid-August, with the first semester’s schedule still to be determined. The academy museum will close every Monday. Meals will be cut. The list goes on.

The Army’s U.S. Military Academy will not cancel classes but will rely on military professors to take on the extra workload. Civilians make up about 27 percent of the West Point faculty. In some cases, military professors will have to double-up their class size; in others they will simply have to take on an extra session. For the military staff, the extra burden will result in an inability to participate in activities outside the classroom, such as athletics, according to West Point Chief of Staff Charles Stafford.

“For civilian faculty, it goes beyond simply teaching in the classroom,” Stafford said. Civilian professors have to reduce the number of office hours they have open to students, limit the amount of time they have for research and publications and cancel travel to present findings at academic forums.

“As we delivered our furlough letters,” Stafford said, “by far and away at a large margin, the biggest problem that people brought forward about the furlough was their inability to get the job done to the standard they expect of themselves and to the standard they expect West Point to do.”

Taken in totality, sequestration cuts have forced officials at West Point to “meet minimum requirements” required to graduate their cadets and produce commissioned officers. West Point officials have cut programs to send cadets to international Army bases for training. They are relying on private donations to fund the reduced number of semester abroad opportunities at foreign military academies. While no athletic events have been canceled, coaches cannot travel as often or as far to recruit and teams and only “starters and immediate backups” will travel to away games.

Similarly, the Air Force Academy, in Colorado Springs, Colo., will avoid class cancellations. Also like West Point, however, the Air Force is postponing maintenance to buildings and delaying upgrades to its technological infrastructure. John Van Winkle, a spokesman for the academy, said the academic schedule will be compressed and flying hours will be reduced. Programs to take cadets to active duty bases so they can identify which jobs appeal to them will be trimmed, while initial basic training will be cut by two days. “It will hurt, no doubt,” Van Winkle said, “but we will still continue the mission.”

There is one silver lining, Van Winkle said. While cadets “will see there are some fiscal pains,” they also will “see that we are still finding ways to executive the mission. They will see there is not an endless pot of money out there. That does not exist. Sooner or later we may face this again, and they will be the leaders.”

So for now, the military academies are doing what they must: getting by, and nothing more. In the future, however, the impact could become more severe.

“The best way to describe this is termites,” Stafford explained. “Right now we got a couple of termites chewing on a board. Every year there’s going to be more…Ultimately if this goes on for an extended period of time there will be a degradation in the living conditions, a degradation in our ability to deliver the education and a degradation in the ability to deliver relevant information and technology to these future college graduates.”

Close [ x ] More from DefenseOne
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from DefenseOne.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    Download
  • Military Readiness: Ensuring Readiness with Analytic Insight

    To determine military readiness, decision makers in defense organizations must develop an understanding of complex inter-relationships among readiness variables. For example, how will an anticipated change in a readiness input really impact readiness at the unit level and, equally important, how will it impact readiness outside of the unit? Learn how to form a more sophisticated and accurate understanding of readiness and make decisions in a timely and cost-effective manner.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    Download
  • Information Operations: Retaking the High Ground

    Today's threats are fluent in rapidly evolving areas of the Internet, especially social media. Learn how military organizations can secure an advantage in this developing arena.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.