Academics have always had a hard time accepting the service academies even when they work for them. Bruce Fleming has taught English at the Naval Academy for more than two decades and makes no secret of his animosity towards his employer of record. “It’s clear that we don’t need the academies in their current form—versions of a kind of military Disneyland,” Fleming writes in The Chronicle Review. “These institutions do produce some fine officers, even some leaders.”
“But the students I respect the most tell me that those who succeed do so despite the institutions, not because of them.” Dr. Fleming points out that one-fifth of today’s military officers come from the service academies.
Moreover, “Another officer-production pipeline is Officer Candidate School, which is about as large a source of officers as the academies,” Fleming notes.” It gives a six- to 12-week training course for mature enlistees and college graduates who paid for their educations on their own (that is, did not participate in ROTC), and it costs taxpayers almost nothing.”
“It could be expanded by pitching it to college students who might want to become officers when they graduate.” He also claims that ROTC programs are a steady, if not more reliable, source of military officers: “Between 1972 and 1990 (these are the latest figures available), the percentage of admirals from ROTC climbed from 5 percent to 41 percent, and a 2006 study indicated that commissioning sources were not heavily weighted in deciding who makes admiral.”
Fleming argues that ROTC is “a federal program that produces officers—an average of twice as many as those who go to the academies (three times for the Army)—at a quarter of the cost.” We pointed out to him that near as we can figure, only a quarter of colleges and universities have ROTC.
“We would have to beef up ROTC by 50%,” he admitted. “A combination of new programs and enlarged existing programs seems plausible.”
“ROTC has been enlarged regularly for the last few decades; it can be enlarged more.”
Fleming is an interesting character, an actual independent thinker who doesn’t mind upsetting his associates whether it is politically correct to do so or not. He came out for a “realistic” approach to the question of homosexuality in the military, or as he puts it an “adult” solution that pretty much involves acceptance of lifting the ban on service.
Nevertheless, he has been fairly implacable in his opposition to so-called “affirmative action” programs in admissions to the academy.
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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