Saturday, May 16, 2015

If I ran Annapolis

First, we should strike at the notion of the four-year do-as-you-please degree. Nowhere in the Code of Federal Regulations is Annapolis required to give history degrees. If you wish to study history, visit the library, which is open every day except Saturday. We will become a career-focused college, so kiss your physics degree goodbye. The Navy hires young brainiacs from MIT to figure that stuff out. You will finish three years on campus together as a class, then as you choose your warfare community, you will spend senior year learning your job. Surface Warriors will attend Kings Point in New York; Aviators will go to Embry-Riddle, and so forth. You can all come back to Annapolis for graduation day, unless duty calls. But first, second-semester seniors need to learn to keep their heads down, so we’ll give them a grand finale of tests right before graduation. Some of you like to play Division One Sports, and wish to be on campus for four years to do that. Well, let me tell you that you picked the wrong school if you’re here for sports. The needs of the service come first. Besides, you can apply all that free time to academics or the brigade.

There are a handful of exceptional midshipmen who do not enter one of the five big warfare communities. They go into intelligence, medicine, and graduate school, and will spend their senior year in Annapolis. As the last handful of seniors residing on campus, they can reminisce with older alumni about how things used to be in the past. Some of the dorm space left over will be used to house students of the new United States Public Service Academy. They’re the civilian-attired classmates in your classes. But there are benefits for you: Some more rooms will be given to midshipman officers to sprawl out. Also, If you like your roommates, you can keep them all year. Other dorms will be locked up, and become the source of ghost stories.

Month-long summer vacations are decadence that can be used to ready you for the fleet. For example, you Surface Warriors take a 6-week course after graduation. That should be completed as a midshipman, and you’ll still have two free summer vacations. To meet academic requirements from the Navy, the Coast Guard, and the United Nations, you will do some correspondence projects while on your training cruises. Make sure that your officer knows that it’s important that these projects get done; they should know not to work you more than 12 hours per day, so you have time to do your homework in the wardroom.

Plebes should learn how to handle mop and broom. You are never too busy, and there is dignity in all work. Midshipmen should say good-bye to Tricare benefits, and be required to carry their own insurance policy. They should also save up for senior year, when they might have to pay exorbitant New York rates. You should also learn how to fill out a worker’s comp. form, in case they are injured while playing sports. Be careful, though, as a bad-timed injury will cost you a fifth year at the Academy. Get used to more deep-fried food in the dining hall. It’s easier to cook, and saves money. Since you’re all active young men and women, you’ll be able to burn off the grease during the day. On that note, morning PT will be mandatory, since not everyone’s been going to the gym.

Johnson’s Rule of Scheduling states that Bancroft Hall (the dormitory) should be utilized year-round, and experience from Kings Point shows that teachers can teach 11 months per year, instead of 9 months. One-third of your class should do their summer training during Christmastime, while taking classes during the summer. Your superintendents should rotate on a 17-month cycle; likewise, other faculty and staff should retire or move on midway through the semester, since it’s easier to keep the classroom momentum going. To quickly implement changes without support of longtime staff, there are two phrases you need to know: “It’s WRONG!”, and if you need further explanation, mention the “Culture of Complicity”.

Some of these proposals are definitely controversial to those accustomed to doing things a certain way. As future military leaders, you have to adapt to changing situations. Annapolis, after all, is a leadership laboratory. That said, you also get to keep some of your quaint and arcane traditions that do not serve a training purpose, like climbing the Herndon statue. Make sure you do it in dress attire, to promote good order and discipline. As an outsider, you have to be mindful of existing institutions and cultural traditions. Risk of conflict is why it’s rare for the big-three service academies to let outsiders lead. Some of you brass captains have a length of rope, and wish you knew how to tie a knot around my neck. Here’s a deal: I’ll leave your Academy alone if you let my Academy keep doing its own thing.