New England’s Own

In light of our most recent military victory in the global War on Terror, we as a nation cannot forget that there is work still to be done. Members of our armed forces are deployed around the world doing exactly what they were doing yesterday: routing out terrorists wherever they may hide.  In fact, units across the nation are still mobilizing for yearlong tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Just last month, on April 15th, 2011, orders were sent to members of the 1st Battalion, 25th Marines, Fort Devens, Massachusetts.  This proud US Marine Corps Reserve unit, known as “New England’s Own,” has already mustered and shipped out for training. Our nation’s best and brightest are among these hometown heroes; fire fighters, police officers, doctors, lawyers, and even a banker or two are listed among our troops. These men and women from all walks of life truly exemplify the citizen-soldier ethos.

In the wake of this latest call-to-arms, the Armed Forces Alumni Association  at Harvard Business School (HBS) presented a Blue Star Banner in honor of Daniel Gwak, a current HBS Student in the Class of 2012 who reported for duty at Fort Devens on Thursday, April 28th. His orders are scheduled to end in June, 2012.

The history surrounding the Blue Star Service Flag extends back to the First World War. Since World War II, the Service Flag has been the official banner authorized by the Department of Defense for display by families or organizations that have members serving in the Armed Forces during any period of war.  The Harvard Business School community is proud to fly the Service Flag for Lance Corporal Daniel Gwak.

After immigrating to the United States from Korea, Mr. Gwak become a naturalized citizen and graduated from Cornell University in 2005. He then spent two years in Mergers & Acquisitions at Credit Suisse and continued to hone his financial skills at the Carlyle Group. While his Wall Street career blossomed, a desire to do more and to be a part of something larger than himself, even larger than Wall Street, grew inside Gwak. Like thousands of immigrants before him, Gwak wanted to serve the country that provided so much.

In 2008, Gwak joined the world’s strongest brotherhood. He enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves, completed basic training, and returned to civilian life. Shortly after, he was accepted into the full time MBA program at Harvard Business School and began classes last September as a member of the Class of 2012. And today, one year shy of his graduation date, Lance Corporal Gwak has been called to action.

A current HBS student and military veteran commented, “Dan is a selfless American and we’re tremendously proud of his courage. Displaying this banner until he returns to his academic studies will serve as an important reminder to the entire community that one of our own is currently in harm’s way.”

Throughout the school’s long history, students have periodically received similar orders, highlighting the close relationship between HBS and the U.S. Military which began during the First World War and is steeped in mutual respect. By World War II, HBS became a virtual service academy as it prepared entire classes to support the war effort. Today, veterans, reservists and active duty personnel make up approximately 5% of each class.

Being a true citizen-soldier, Lance Corporal Gwak is an important reminder that the strength of our military stems not from high tech weapons and computers, but rather from the hearts and minds of those brave souls who wear the uniform.  Aswe enjoy Memorial Day, let us all take a moment to thank those who serve or have served in the military and commemorate those who sacrificed everything so we can enjoy the freedoms unique to this great nation.

Why student groups matter: the Harvard Committee on American Foreign Policy claims victory, 36 years later

The Harvard Committee on American Foreign Policy was an undergraduate organization founded in 1975 with the ambitious goal to replace the Kissinger “realism” approach with a very different approach of “democratic realism”: empowering nations of the world through democracy.  The Committee’s manifesto declared:

The Committee believes in the conjunction of interests between the support of democratic movements around the world and the long-term interests of the United States.  In the past, support of dictatorships has led to the erosion of America’s prestige and leadership in Asia (by the support of the Thieu regime in South Vietnam), in Africa (by relations with South Africa), in Latin America (by the intervention in the Dominican Republic), and in Europe (by the support of the Greek junta).  By a radically distinct commitment to democratic governments and democratic movements, the United States can assume the leadership of the struggle against totalitarianism and the suppression of human rights.

The support of democratic movements is intimately linked to the Committee’s advocacy of the right to national and cultural self-determination for all peoples – with due respect for the rights of national minorities.

The Committee focused on applying these principles to the Middle East conflict.  Thirty-six years later, in the “Arab Spring” of 2011, we’ve seen the first wide-scale application of democratic realism to the Middle East, a region long-dismissed as not yearning for democracy.

The full manifesto of the Committee is reproduced here.   The handwritten comments in the margin give a sense of the prevailing views of the time.  The comments were written by Gerald Segal, then a graduate student in International Relations at the London School of Economics, and later one of the leading experts in the United Kingdom on International Relations.  Although Gerald Segal’s comments reflected the prevailing views, he didn’t dismiss the Committee’s ideas, but instead challenged it to resolve some of the difficult issues.

The manifesto was largely written by Martin Kernberg ‘76.  He and committee chairman Michael Segal ’76 both spent their teenage years as Americans outside of the USA, growing up with a sense of how Americans are seen by others, a theme now familiar from the presidency of Barack Obama JD’91. Faculty advisors included Harvard Prof. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who despite jumping from UN Ambassador in 1975 to US Senator in 1976, was a major inspiration to the group.

The students grappled with issues very much like those raised in the handwritten notes on the manifesto.  Dealing with a controversy of that year, the United Nations’ “Zionism is Racism” resolution, they declared that Zionism was not racism; it was self-determination.  They wrote a petition opposing the UN resolution and got it signed by 76 Harvard professors and over 700 students, publishing it as an ad in the Harvard Crimson on 12 November 1975.  The petition declared:

Zionism is the historic struggle of the Jewish people for national self-determination and national liberation in the face of two thousand years of pogroms, genocide, and wars of annihilation.

All national liberation movements ask for self-determination for their people in their homeland.  By singling out for condemnation the national liberation movement of Jewish people, this resolution represents a virulent form of racism and anti-Semitism.

Israeli officials, wary of the implicit message that Palestinian Arabs would also have a right to self-determination, sent diplomats to try to convince the Committee to abandon the petition, an overture the Committee rejected.  The ad was paid for by members of the Committee with the hope that alumni would eventually cover the cost, as occurred months later.

The Committee’s role was one of being visionary in sketching the future of the US role in the world, rather than a powerful force to bring it about.  But much is learned when undergraduates run an organization dedicated to grappling with important problems.

One direct result was that some members of the committee remained involved with the theme of democratic realism, most notably, Eliot Cohen ’77, who went on to deal with these issues as a faculty member of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and as an influential voice in the administration of President George W. Bush MBA’75.  Michael Segal kept stressing the democratic realism approach, for example challenging Rashid Khalidi, now a professor at Columbia University, to agree that the PLO should move beyond terrorism, writing in the New York Times on 20 February 1978:

Rashid Khalidy of the P.L.O. says: “If the Israelis had any brains they could neutralize Palestinian irredentism just by giving back the West Bank.”  Well, if the Palestinians had any brains they could neutralize Israeli opposition to the P.L.O. by adhering to principles of democracy and peaceful coexistence.  Perhaps a deal can be worked out.

Looking back on the activities of the Committee provides concrete examples of why student groups matter, both in learning how to grapple with important issues and in having the experiences that make it second-nature to encourage the next generation to do the same.  Looking back 36 years also gives a sense of just how long it can take for change to be achieved.

Posted on 16 May 2011

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Clearing up the Fog of War (Spending)

For the past few weeks, it seems like all the national security geeks in Washington have been hotly anticipating Defense Secretary Gates’ new five-year budget for Defense spending.  Now that it’s out, the conversation has turned to what it all means and what the implications are to the services, their contractors, and normal civilians.  Sometimes, that conversation gets confused when terms and concepts are misused or used without explanation for the uninitiated.  Here, I offer a few thoughts shedding light on how the military gets their technological systems from concept to deployment and offer some resources on where to find out more.

Words have Meaning

When a service wants to “buy” something, whether that be a new Ground Combat Vehicle or 300 Playstations, it is participating in the act of procurement. But tanks aren’t bought the same way as sandbags, and with good reason.  Used colloquially, the term procurement generally refers to a “commercial off the shelf” (COTS) purchase or to when a military organization buys additional units of an already existing item, such as helmets.  Sometimes, however, the military wants to buy things that don’t yet exist, so it has to invent them.

The term “acquisition” can refer to one of two systems within the Defense world.  “Big A Acquisition” refers to the interaction of three systems – responsible for deciding what military equipment is needed, how to build it, and how to pay for it respectively.  More on identifying needs and funding later.  “Little A Acquisition” is a euphemism for the Defense Acquisition System, the formal, tightly controlled system that manages the development of new technology for the military.

In Defense lingo, a new platform or system under development for the military is known as a program.  This nomenclature seems self-explanatory, but gaining program status is no small occasion for a fledgling weapons system.  Believe it or not, the military doesn’t like spending money on things it doesn’t need.  Ironically, it often costs a lot of money to prove that a given capability actually deserves the funds needed to be developed.  The process that helps refine what capabilities the military needs is known as the Joint Capabilities Integration Development System (JCIDS), another part of “Big A Acquisition,” from above.  JCIDS defines how the military writes and tweaks the documents that define what a new piece of gear must be able to do to meet a given need.

Only once plenty of brass from all over the Pentagon agree that a new technology should be developed does it become known as an acquisition program.  This process lends itself to irony, since it means programs don’t actually become programs until they make it through a large chunk of the defense acquisition system (remember – that’s the system that’s supposed to regulate the activities of programs).  It’s only after a program gets funded in the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP), a DoD accounting database, that it gets known as a program of record.  Here’s where things get really complicated: programs do get funded before they get punched into the FYDP and become programs of record, they just reach into a different pot of money.

Follow the Money

I’ve talked briefly about the Defense Acquisition System and JCIDS.  The final system that makes up Big A Acquisition is the Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution (PPBE) System.  It outlines how the military requests funds for various initiatives from Congress.  The complexities of PPBE largely escape me, but I will touch on a few points of nomenclature that I have seen confuse dialogue about acquisition.

Federal funds for the military are broken into five broad categories: Research, Development, Test & Evaluation (RDT&E), Procurement, Operations and Maintenance (O&M, sometimes seen as Operations and Sustainment, O&S), Military Construction (MILCON), and Military Personnel (MILPERS).  Splitting costs into these categories allow leadership to make tradeoffs between future capabilities and current affordability; between designing for maintainability and hiring more maintainers.  It’s important to note here that procurement budget does not mean the same thing as procurement as I had defined it above.  No doubt this mismatch has created significant confusion within the acquisition community, whether they know it or not.

What’s important to remember about the cost categories is that the pots of money do not touch.  While an acquisition can draw funds from multiple pots, it can only use money from each pot for specific purposes.  For example, RDT&E funds can be used to build functioning units of a new system, but only if those units are to be used for “test and evaluation”.  Judging by the headlines, the Marines’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program seemed to be capable of staying within a reasonable RDT&E budget.  So why was it ultimately deemed unaffordable?  Because its cost per unit would have eaten up an unacceptable amount of the Marines’ procurement budget.

Other examples abound.  The RQ-4 Global Hawk faced opposition in Congress.  Why?  It was a new technology, so its RDT&E costs skyrocketed.  The F-22 was partially nixed, despite years of sunk development costs.  The culprit?  Replacing the bird’s stealth coating after every flight drastically drained the Air Force’s O&M budget.  When the people about the “Defense budget”, they are usually citing some combination of the five money pots, either service-specific or general to the military.

What does it all Mean?

In this short post, I’ve tried to clear up some misconceptions surrounding the dialogue about defense spending and also to spark curiosity in you, the reader, to find out more and question more.  There are over 133,000 professionals currently in the defense acquisition workforce and the President wants to hire more.  To assume that acquisition and defense budget issues are only relevant to national security geeks would be a mistake; the military-industrial complex is alive and well.  The processes and systems I’ve discussed here pretend as though outside influences don’t exist, as though program managers can read official doctrine and know how to navigate their programs through the competing interests of contractors, congress, and the public.  Sites like http://www.kc45now.com, which I hear radio ads for all the time, reveal how naive that notion is.

I’ve written previously on this blog about the role of contractors.  Nowhere is that role more apparent than in defense acquisition.  The services like to believe that every system they develop can be traced to vetted battlefield requirement and that when programs get funded it is because no other means of achieving a capability is viable.  In reality, one cannot discount the role of contractors.  Contractors dream up our military’s technology, they create it, and they sell it.  They know the ins and outs of the defense acquisition better far better than the average serviceman and are incentivized to use that knowledge to generate profit.  That is not to say that contractors are not patriotic or do not give their all to create quality products for warfighters, but their motives must be understood.

The DoD’s guide to understanding the Defense Acquisition process recently won the honor of being crowned the “Pentagon’s Craziest Powerpoint Slide”.  The title is actually a misnomer, as that poster is meant to be mounted on a wall, which is why most acquisition types refer to it simply as “the wall chart”.  The wall chart gives some perspective on why understanding Defense acquisition can be so challenging.  Secretary Gates is widely respected for trying to reform Defense Acquisition, but then again, all of his predecessors since Donald Rumsfeld (the first time) have tried their hands at reform as well.  Here’s hoping he succeeds in clearing things up.

Don’t take my word for it… Reference these helpful resources the next time the military budget stumps you

The Defense Acquisition Guidebook

Defense Acquisition University Glossary

Defense Acquisition System Portal

And for you nerdy/wonky types…

DoD 5000.02, Operation of the Defense Acquisition System

Joint Capabilities Integration Development System (JCIDS)

Wikipedia article on JCIDS

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Blueprint for Columbia ROTC

ROTC Cadets and Veterans raise the flag on Columbia's campus during Veterans Day

“I invite you to consider whether the right question may no longer be “How could we ever formally recognize ROTC on our campus,” but, instead, “How can we not welcome them back?””
Columbia College Dean Michele Moody-Adams, October 2, 2010

Columbia ROTC was once a special institutional partnership that educated generations of Columbia students in the civil-military leadership tradition of alumnus and founding father Alexander Hamilton. The partnership was severed when ROTC was effectively barred from Columbia University in 1969. Since 2002, students, alumni, and faculty have organized to restore ROTC on the Columbia campus. The majority of responses to ROTC in the Columbia community have been positive, but Columbia’s acceptance of ROTC has been delayed by opposition to the “don’t ask don’t tell” law (DADT).

Columbia ROTC after DADT

“[The repeal of DADT] effectively ends what has been a vexing problem for higher education, including at Columbia — given our desire to be open to our military.”
Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, December 18, 2010

On December 18, 2010, Congress repealed DADT. On the same day, Columbia President Lee Bollinger declared that the end of DADT is “the opportunity for a new era in the relationship between universities and our military services.” On December 20th, the Student Affairs Committee of the Columbia University Senate, the governing body that must decide whether the university will elect to restore ROTC, announced the formation of the “Task Force on Military Engagement.” The University Senate, which last considered ROTC in 2005, will take up the ROTC issue in the Spring 2011 session.

The repeal of DADT makes all the difference in Columbia welcoming ROTC. Much like the November 2010 Yale student survey on ROTC, a majority of Columbians have expressed support for ROTC on campus but not if having ROTC meant importing DADT. The repeal of DADT means a majority of Columbians now favor having ROTC on campus, period.

For Columbia officials, the question after DADT is whether an ROTC program fulfills the civic responsibility of an American flagship institution and the University’s mission to furnish “a distinctive and distinguished learning environment for undergraduates and graduate students in many scholarly and professional fields.”

Military officials currently judge ROTC programs using an accounting standard, i.e., whether an acceptable number of second lieutenants are produced at an acceptable cost, with some consideration for factors such as the host school’s comity with the military, racial diversity, and regional coverage. The effect of current ROTC metrics has been to view the suppressed cadet numbers, long estrangement, and other suspected challenges at Columbia as drawbacks, whereas Columbia’s preeminent institutional strengths have not been judged as countervailing advantages.

Since the repeal of DADT, skeptics have challenged the practicality of an ROTC program at Columbia from the military’s perspective. However, the issue is not whether the military is able to add an ROTC program at Columbia; since the Columbia ROTC movement was organized in 2002, ROTC programs have been granted to other host schools. The issue is whether university and military officials will determine that a new Columbia ROTC partnership is feasible and worth the cost.

If the evaluation of Columbia as an ROTC host school is limited to the military’s current accounting standard, then Columbia will continue to be doubted as a candidate to host ROTC. Realizing ROTC at Columbia depends on university, government, and military leaders who can see beyond current ROTC metrics and envision the benefits of an institutional partnership that invests Columbia’s strengths in the military and vice-versa.

An ROTC+ vision for Columbia

“Future Army forces require lifelong learners who are creative and critical thinkers with highly refined problem solving skills and the ability to process and transform data and information rapidly and accurately into usable knowledge, across a wide range of subjects, to develop strategic thinkers capable of applying operational art to the strategic requirements of national policy.”
The United States Army Operating Concept 2016-2028

“A healthy force must maintain high standards. Recent analyses emphasize the need for officers who are even more agile, flexible, educated, skilled, and professional.”
The Final Report of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel

Leaders in all fields often stress that a vision is important, but 90% of the effort is in implementation. Simply adding ROTC to Columbia would fill an important gap at Columbia, but our goal goes beyond simply adding an ROTC program. We envision Columbia ROTC as the leading, state-of-the-art ROTC program in the nation. Much depends on the degree to which the university, the military, and the alumni are willing to implement an ROTC+ vision at Columbia.

The military’s evolving 21st Century mission aligns the military with Columbia’s global outlook and raises the potential of a Columbia ROTC+ with course offerings that are a plus both to the university and the military. In an increasingly complex global security environment, America needs military leaders able to adapt on a full spectrum, which means officers who are “lifelong learners” and “creative and critical thinkers” with the best possible academic foundation. Columbia University’s gifted students and combination of top-tier academic and New York City resources offer ROTC an ideal setting for innovative programs to attract qualified young men and women, recruit personnel with specialized skills, and prepare officers for a full range of complex missions with enhanced pre-accession training. Columbia already hosts innovative crosscutting programs that rely upon the special reach and multi-dimensional resources of a flagship university in a world city – Columbia ROTC+ would be a rare opportunity to rise to the needs of the nation with an evolutionary officer program that draws upon everything Columbia University in New York City has to offer.

Columbia ROTC+ would take advantage of Columbia’s large diverse pool of top-quality undergraduate and graduate students, a world-class research and learning environment that already trains students in a wide range of scholarly and professional fields, and the unique resources of a world capital. Columbia has top language, anthropology, and civil engineering programs that should immediately interest the Army and Marines, as well as excellent engineering and science programs that should attract the Air Force and Navy.

Navy ROTC is a promising match for Columbia. Columbia owns strong historical ties to Naval officer training. An NROTC program at Columbia would provide the Navy with much-needed access to New York City. NROTC favors strong engineering programs and Columbia’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) is one of the best in the world. For New York City, a home for NROTC at Columbia would advance Mayor Bloomberg’s initiative to make the city an “applied science and engineering hub.”

ROTC at Columbia would help solve the military’s absence of ROTC within Manhattan — which has poor access to ROTC despite having the highest concentration of college students in the country — and affirm to Columbia students their nation-building responsibilities in both military and civilian life. The return of ROTC to Columbia University, the flagship academic institution in New York City, would have a positive wider cultural and public relations impact on the military and the university.

Any new ROTC program at Columbia would join a distinguished military heritage and find a fraternal community ready to support the program. Columbia’s military tradition dates back to the students who joined the fight for a new American nation. Indeed, the standard bearer for Columbia officership is founding father Alexander Hamilton and his lifetime of visionary leadership in and out of uniform. The Hamilton Society, the student group for ROTC students and Marine officer candidates founded in 2002, has consciously sought to revive General Hamilton’s Columbia military lineage. Columbia enjoys an active and growing population of over 300 student-veterans, the largest by far in the Ivy League, as well as numerous active-duty officers in the graduate programs. Alumni group Columbia Alliance for ROTC has the express purpose of promoting and supporting ROTC at Columbia. Alumni have served in all the military branches, though none more than the Navy, where Columbia Naval officers once rivaled Annapolis’s output.

Beyond Columbia’s military community, ROTC would find a supportive environment on campus. Since 2005, University leaders have consistently cited DADT as the only significant obstacle to the university welcoming ROTC, and DADT is no longer relevant. The ROTC movement has grown within Columbia from students, alumni, and professors supporting the military on campus. The steady trend on campus has been to support the military, as expressed by University leaders such as Trustees chairman and Army veteran Bill Campbell and Columbia College Student Council president and ROTC advocate Learned Foote, multiple Columbia Spectator staff editorials calling for ROTC at Columbia, Columbia’s outreach to recent veterans with robust participation in the Yellow Ribbon program, the unveiling of the Columbia War Memorial, and highly visible commissioning ceremonies on campus. In 2006, Columbia even amended the university non-discrimination policy to add “military status” as a protected category.

The devil is in the details

As stated earlier, since DADT ended as the justification for separating Columbia and ROTC, skeptics have challenged the practicality of an ROTC program at Columbia from the military’s perspective. Issues cited include student interest, providing satisfactory physical facilities, granting ROTC instructors faculty status and titles, and granting academic credit for ROTC courses. As with any ambitious institutional change, the devil is in the details, but all the issues cited are resolvable:

a. Student interest in ROTC

Skeptics point to the current low number of ROTC students at Columbia in order to claim that student interest is too low to sustain an ROTC program on campus. However, their contention is impossible to prove or disprove without an ROTC program on campus. The damaged status of ROTC at Columbia after 1969, alienation from poor exposure, distance and poor access in urban terms, and lack of institutional assistance likely deter most Columbia students from seriously considering ROTC. It’s simply unfair to judge Columbia students for not joining an ROTC program that isn’t there. We first have to plant the seed in order to grow the tree – building up ROTC student numbers at Columbia first requires ROTC on campus. Then, as Columbia ROTC is nurtured into a fully integrated and supported part of the university, Columbia ROTC student numbers will grow over time. That’s just common sense. Roughly one-fourth of the undergraduate population is renewed every year. After ROTC is established on campus and properly advertised, eventually every student applying to Columbia will know about the ROTC program on campus.

Of course, financial incentives help attract students from elite – and expensive – universities like Columbia to any career field. In order for the military to compete for the best students, the Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel recommends:

To attract more youth to military careers and recruit from the nation‘s top colleges, the services should offer full scholarships on a competitive basis, usable anywhere a student chooses to attend, in exchange for enlisted service in the reserves (and summer officer training) during schooling, and 5 years of service after graduation, to include officer training school.

It is worth noting that, of the three ROTC programs, Navy ROTC is viewed by many as the ROTC program most likely to succeed at Columbia. The undergraduate NROTC survey of 2008 originated from SEAS students requesting the pathway to Naval officership, and in spite of the unpopularity of DADT, SEAS students voted in favor of Navy ROTC at Columbia. Unfortunately, despite the demonstrated student interest, Columbia students have zero access to NROTC. The absence of NROTC at Columbia is made doubly tragic by the storied history of Naval officer training at Columbia. Many alumni supporters are Navy veterans who would be particularly supportive of a Navy ROTC on campus.

b. Physical facilities for ROTC

ROTC campus space needs are relatively modest and could reasonably be met at Columbia under current conditions. ROTC-friendly neighboring spaces such as Grant’s Tomb and Central Park would augment the space available for ROTC. Furthermore, the projected timeline of the Manhattanville university expansion coincides with the likely timeline for starting an ROTC program at Columbia, which should increase the space available for ROTC on the main campus.

c. ROTC instructors’ faculty status and titles

A key constraint is the law governing ROTC, the ROTC Vitalization Act of 1964. Its provisions should not block efforts at Columbia to restore ROTC; they include the following:

No unit may be established or maintained at an institution unless the senior commissioned officer of the armed force concerned who is assigned to the program at that institution is given the academic rank of professor… and the institution adopts, as a part of its curriculum, a four-year course of military instruction … which the Secretary of the military department concerned prescribes and conducts.

The faculty appointment issue has been solved well at universities comparable to Columbia. At MIT, for example, ROTC leaders are designated as “visiting professors.” At Princeton, ROTC professors are assigned “a rank equivalent to the senior academic rank of professor.” Both these formulations satisfy the law without undermining the status of regular tenured professors and accord with Columbia’s instructional appointment policy.

d. Academic credit for ROTC courses

The courses of instruction issue has also been solved in ways that fit with the values of comparable universities. Although it has been claimed that “the University would also have to grant credit for ROTC coursework” there is no such requirement in the law. Indeed, Princeton has announced that “credit would not be provided at Princeton” for ROTC courses, despite language in the 1972 Army-Princeton agreement that “academic credit for military professional subjects will be judged by the institution under the same procedure and criteria as for other institutional courses.” Similar conditions for ROTC courses may be observed at MIT.

The Princeton arrangement demonstrates a basic model on which the university and the military can agree. More importantly, efforts at Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia have pointed the way towards an ROTC+ model that builds on the basic model by making available high quality courses valued by both the university and the military. These ROTC+ efforts have been of two types:

Regular faculty arranging ROTC credit: Professors at comparable universities such as Harvard have taught courses that were coordinated with the military and received ROTC as well as university credit. This model can be expanded, especially as the subject areas relevant to military leadership continue to expand. Although universities may have significant gaps in areas of interest to the military, departments are glad for opportunities to hire top scholars to cover important areas.

ROTC faculty arranging university credit: Columbia has discussed having regular university departments co-sponsor ROTC courses deemed worthy of academic credit. With a similar vision, the Army has sent ROTC leaders with PhDs to Princeton, positioning them to have joint appointments in regular departments.

Under these models, some courses could be offered with joint Columbia and ROTC credit. Creating an ROTC+ model in which ROTC students get courses such as military history, international relations, game theory, and anthropology provides to the military a “laboratory of the universities,” and also enhances the course offerings of the university. ROTC+ offers capabilities that are a plus both to the university and the military.

The next steps to Columbia ROTC

“Now, as anyone who has been involved in transformation knows, change can be hard. It can be challenging. And it can be frustrating. Inevitably, all institutions resist change to some degree–even when all recognize that change is needed.”
Army General David Petraeus, May 6, 2010

President Bollinger’s encouraging statement immediately following the repeal of DADT was the necessary first step towards restoring the Columbia ROTC partnership.

The next step is for the University Senate to deliberate, then approve ROTC. Input from the Columbia community will be vital to the University Senate’s decision. If the University Senate approves ROTC, university officials would then reach out to the military to start negotiating an ROTC program at Columbia. In order for the military and Columbia to negotiate constructively, it is important that the two sides deal with each other in good faith, are motivated by compelling interests and tangible benefits, and judge Columbia ROTC by a standard that favors Columbia’s institutional strengths. The intervention of political leaders to break through bureaucratic deadlocks may be necessary. Alumni will also be crucial. Columbia alumni have a strong voice in both the university and in government. Alumni are crucial in encouraging students to apply to Columbia and encouraging them to try ROTC. Alumni are also crucial in transcending bean-counter arguments and providing resources to achieve important goals.

A call to action

“The moral compass of the Army is the P.L. [platoon leader, usually a lieutenant] and the C.O. [commanding officer]. I told every one of my P.L.’s that they have to set that moral standard, that once you slip to the left, you can’t pull your guys back in.”
Army Captain Dan Kearney, February 24, 2008

Few causes are as manifestly impactful as advocating for Columbia ROTC. As it is today, much of the weight of future missions will be borne by young officers. They must be able to lead their soldiers in any combination of homeland defense, disaster relief, crisis stabilization, ministerial training, conflict prevention, security and stability, counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, essential government services, emergency infrastructure, and humanitarian aid. In the short term, young lieutenants and captains prepared by Columbia ROTC will be better equipped to rapidly innovate and adapt to unpredictable challenges. Over their careers, a strong academic foundation will help Columbia officers to master their duties with a commensurately greater acquisition of faculties. Pentagon budget cuts that may lead to leaner capabilities on the ground and the forecast of politically sensitive missions that rely on smaller numbers of forces further point to a heightened need for the exceptional individual officers that Columbia can provide the nation.

The challenges facing America are great, but so are the opportunities. At this crossroads in our history, Columbia must choose: are we an “Ivory Tower” disconnected from the needs of People and nation, and only good for insular thinking and selfish pursuits? Or, are we truly America’s producer of vanguard leaders who pursue the greater good and the improvement of all parts of our society, including the military?

The challenge of our time demands the best leaders from our generation. As Dr. Martin Luther King said in another time of pressing need in American history:

Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge, to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.

As Columbians and Americans, it is again time for us to stand with a greater determination, for the sake of People and nation. The decision we make for ROTC at Columbia is about more than just ROTC. We are shaping our generation’s vision of Columbia University and of ourselves as fellow citizens.

Recommended reading:
Blueprint for Harvard ROTC
The Changing Landscape of American Higher Education — Panel on the Military and Academe

Photo: columbia.edu

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DADT Study Data Argues Against One-Size-Fits-All Approach

The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Comprehensive Working Group report was briefed by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and JCS Chairman ADM Mike Mullen on Nov. 30, 2010."

The Pentagon study on “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was designed to study how to welcome openly gay Service members into 100% of military units.  However, it elicited information that argues against such a one-size-fits-all approach.  The study identifies military units in which welcoming gays would be problematic, and it sheds light on what privacy infrastructure will be best to accommodate gays more widely.

The survey, conducted by the contract research organization Westat, is the raw data.  It is 324 pages long, and dwarfed by its large appendices of statistics and documents.  It is accompanied by a report consisting of the Pentagon’s interpretation of the survey.  But much can be learned by focusing on Question 71a in the survey:

If Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is repealed and you are working with a Service member in your immediate unit who has said he or she is gay or lesbian, how, if at all, would it affect your immediate unit’s effectiveness at completing its mission… In a field environment or out to sea?

For the military as a whole, 44.3% responded that the effect of DADT repeal would be negative; 44.4% said neutral and 11.4% said positive (appendix E).  Most striking is the difference in numbers for different units.  For the Navy, negative was 35.3%, but for Army combat arms it was 57.6% (appendix J) and for Marines it was 59.4%, rising to 66.5% for combat Marines (appendix L).  Furthermore, Marines were prepared to act on their concerns at twice the rate of other services (volume 1, p. 6 and table 4.24):

Among all Service members, Marine Corps members were most likely to say they will consider leaving sooner or will leave sooner than planned (38.1%) if repeal occurs.

From the Pentagon study it is clear that implementing DADT repeal overall will be far from trivial, and for Marines, implementation is likely to involve particular difficulty.  Members of all service branches focused on the same underlying issue (volume 1, p. 141, volume 1, p. 135 and volume 2, p. 64):

Privacy concerns were the most frequently commented upon issue, regardless of a respondent’s Service.

… respondents appeared to be most concerned about the possibility of showering or rooming with someone who was known to the respondent to be gay or lesbian.

“If my roommate turns out to be homosexual, I feel like I am part of his target audience. It is a violation of a social norm; for example you wouldn’t have me room with a female.”

Why are the Marines so different from other service branches?  Part of the difference may be that Marines are exempt from a Defense Department rule for troops to have private living quarters; Marines have two people in each room to promote a sense of unity.  Marine commandant Gen. James Amos alluded to such concerns when he said of DADT repeal:

There’s risk involved … I’m trying to determine how to measure that risk … There is nothing more intimate than young men and young women — and when you talk of infantry, we’re talking our young men — laying out, sleeping alongside of one another and sharing death, fear and loss of brothers.

A second factor distinguishing Army and Marine combat units from other units may be the lack of privacy inherent in such combat situations.

Department of Defense General Counsel Jeh C. Johnson and U.S. Army Gen. Carter Ham chaired the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Comprehensive Working Group.

Proponents of DADT repeal have not ignored such “opposition in small pockets of the force“.  But they suggest that such problems will be transitory, and give two reasons why across-the-board DADT repeal will work better over time.  However, both reasons seem unconvincing:

Generational change: Reform proponents suggest that “resistance within combat arms groups is likely higher because of older commanders” and therefore the situation will improve as older commanders retire.  However, the age data in appendix H for Question 71a shows little effect of age.

Familiarity: One of the key implications being claimed from the study is that when straights and gays get familiar with one another, concerns about gays in the military will go away.  However, information in appendix P for those who “Served With Gay or Lesbian Service Member” shows the familiarity effect to be tiny.  For Question 71a, negative responses drop from 49.5% for those who haven’t served with gays to 43.0% for those with such familiarity.

The size of the familiarity effect is so small that it may be due not to familiarity at all, but instead due to ascertainment bias.  As documented in appendix E Question 85, “Shared a room with a person believed to be homosexual” is 46.9% in the Navy and 26.8% for Marines.  People in units in which gays are effectively “out” are more likely to be in units in which there is no problem with gays being “out”.  Therefore, a sample weighted towards people in such inherently gay-friendly units would be biased towards underestimating the difficulties in other units such as combat Marines. (A simple example of such an ascertainment bias is the “full airplane” fallacy: if half of flights are 90% full and half are 10% full, the average load factor is 50%, but the average load factor experienced by fliers is (0.1 x 10%) + (0.9 x 90%) = 82%.  Similarly, the posited familiarity effect may be a result of the lower percent of perceived homosexuality in the Marines.)

What does the Pentagon study tell us about how we can accommodate gays in the military?

The data suggest that a one-size-fits-all approach is not wise. We can open many units to gays quickly but we need to be careful not to require 100% of units to welcome gays quickly.

We shouldn’t be pessimistic, however, about changes in familiarity and generational attitudes.  Rather than wait passively for familiarity and generational changes to influence behavior, we can improve the underlying problem with advances in privacy infrastructure and thereby lead to genuine change in familiarity and generational attitudes.

Infrastructure changes need to be done correctly, however (volume 1, p. 135 and volume 2, p. 102):

The need to address the housing and showering arrangements was also the most frequently raised implementation issue in this sample of comments.

“I recommend not trying to make segregated facilities. You’d end up with straight men’s heads, gay men’s heads, bisexual men’s heads, plus the female counterparts. My sub doesn’t have room for 6 different types of bunkrooms and heads.”

A better approach is to do what has been implemented at universities over the past few decades: giving everyone more privacy, with widespread availability of single rooms, separate shower stalls and so forth.  Much infrastructure of this type has already been added in the military to accommodate women, who are now welcome in 80% of units (volume 1, p. 28).  Adding such infrastructure will be practical in some situations and less practical in others, providing another argument against the one-size-fits-all approach to DADT reform.

We don’t need to choose between 0% or 100% of units being open to gays.  Indeed, both extreme positions are demonstrably silly since there is no good reason to bar gay lawyers from the military and there are clear problems with opening submarines and some Marine units to gays, given current infrastructure.

Congress should give the Pentagon the authority to open up units to gays based on the Pentagon’s assessment of their infrastructure for sexual privacy.  Using appropriate infrastructure changes we can continue to move forward, as we have for women in the military, to push openness closer and closer to 100%.

Jumping right to 100% of units welcoming gays is not the best strategy.  It would be particularly tragic if such a push for 100% created a deadlock that left us stuck at 0%.

Posted: 1 Dec 2010

Photos: defense.gov, by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

The Army’s new MRAP Ambulance

New Caiman MRAP Ambulance

The office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, or ASA(ALT), recently announced production of a new prototype Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected Ambulance. Vehicles of this class, known as MRAPs, are specially designed with heavy armor and V-shaped hulls to deflect any explosive force that hits them from below. The new ambulances will be based upon the Caiman MRAP chassis and will have room for as many as four litter as compared to three in previous models. It will also host improved electrical and oxygen distribution capabilities, significantly improving the resources available to medics for en-route emergency care.

Interior of an older MaxxPro MRAP configured for three litter casualties.

Published: 24 NOV 2010

Photos: army.mil

Blueprint for Harvard ROTC

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff addresses the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard Univeristy in Cambridge, Mass. on Nov. 17, 2010. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released)

Harvard President Drew Faust and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen made strong statements of support for Harvard ROTC on 17 November 2010.  Their support raises two important questions: what do they mean by support for Harvard ROTC, and how can we translate such support into reality.

Faust began by introducing Mullen before his talk at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  She gave a strong endorsement for having an ROTC program on the Harvard campus:

It is my personal belief that Harvard has a responsibility to this nation and its citizens, a responsibility it has embraced since the earliest days of the Republic, with a long tradition of service and more Medal of Honor recipients than any other institution of higher education other than the service academies.  We continue to honor that tradition through initiatives like the National Security Fellows here at the Kennedy School and in our tuition assistance for more than 75 veterans across the university in the Yellow Ribbon Program.  It is my belief that as a further embodiment of that tradition an ROTC program open to all ought to be fully and formally present on our campus.  For it is also my belief that gays and lesbians should have full rights as citizens, including the privilege and the honor of military service … I want to be the president of Harvard who sees the end of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” because I want to be able to take the steps to ensure that any and every Harvard student is able to make the honorable and admirable choice to commit him or herself to the nation’s defense.

After Mullen’s speech, he was asked how the military would respond, and said:

I think it is incredibly important to have ROTC units at institutions like this.  I think President Faust has made it very clear and I certainly would do all in my power to make that happen.

Both of these statements are very important.  Faust’s statement is important because it address the question of whether opposition to the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” law was merely “a smokescreen for antimilitary bias” on campus, a concern voiced by Harvard professor Ruth R. Wisse.  Wisse is undoubtedly right about some faculty members, but President Faust has now made clear that she and others are sincere in their support for ROTC and intend to act on that support.

Similarly, Mullen’s statement is important because there are doubts about whether the military would offer ROTC units to Harvard.  It costs more to educate an ROTC student at Harvard and there are concerns about how many Harvard students would join ROTC.  Furthermore, the military remembers that Harvard effectively barred ROTC in 1969 and remembers “Harvard’s 40-Years of Anti-Army ROTC Rhetoric“.  Mullen’s statement is important in announcing that he is willing to work with Faust to transcend that bitterness.

Mullen is not alone recognizing the value of graduates of top colleges serving in the military.  Gen. David Petraeus has spoken many times of the key roles played by Harvard ROTC graduates in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Barack Obama, in a 11 September 2008 campaign appearance at Columbia University, stressed the importance of service by graduates of top colleges.  In response to a question about whether elite universities that excluded ROTC should invite it back on campus, he said “Yes … the notion that young people here at Columbia or anywhere, in any university, aren’t offered the choice, the option of participating in military service, I think is a mistake”.

To implement the vision of Faust, Mullen, Petraeus and Obama, we need to flesh out the specifics by outlining a blueprint for Harvard ROTC.

A key constraint is the law governing ROTC, the ROTC Vitalization Act of 1964.  Its provisions should not block Faust’s efforts; they include the following:

No unit may be established or maintained at an institution unless the senior commissioned officer of the armed force concerned who is assigned to the program at that institution is given the academic rank of professor… and the institution adopts, as a part of its curriculum, a four-year course of military instruction … which the Secretary of the military department concerned prescribes and conducts.

The faculty appointment issue has been solved well at universities comparable to Harvard.  At MIT, ROTC leaders are designated as “visiting professors”.  At Princeton, ROTC professors are assigned “a rank equivalent to the senior academic rank of professor“.  Both these formulations satisfy the law without undermining the status of regular tenured professors.

The courses of instruction issue has also been solved in ways that fit with the values of comparable universities.  Although it is claimed that “the University would also have to grant credit for ROTC coursework” there is no such requirement in the law.  Indeed, Princeton has announced that “credit would not be provided at Princeton” for ROTC courses, despite language in the 1972 Army-Princeton agreement that “academic credit for military professional subjects will be judged by the institution under the same procedure and criteria as for other institutional courses”.

The Princeton arrangement demonstrates a basic model on which the university and the military can agree.  More importantly, efforts at Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia have pointed the way towards an ROTC+ model that builds on the basic model by making available high quality courses valued by both the university and the military.  These ROTC+ efforts have been of two types:

  • Regular faculty arranging ROTC credit: Harvard professors such as Henry Kissinger and Stephen Rosen have taught courses that were coordinated with the military and received ROTC as well as Harvard credit.  This model can be expanded; although universities have significant gaps in areas of interest to the military, departments are glad for opportunities to hire top scholars to cover important areas.
  • ROTC faculty arranging university credit: Columbia has discussed having regular university departments co-sponsor ROTC courses deemed worthy of academic credit.  With a similar vision, the Army has sent ROTC leaders with PhDs to Princeton, positioning them to have joint appointments in regular departments.

Under these models, some courses could be offered with joint Harvard and ROTC credit.  Creating an ROTC+ model in which ROTC students get courses in military history, international relations, game theory and anthropology provides to the military a “laboratory of the universities”, and also enhances the course offerings of the university.  ROTC+ offers capabilities that are a plus both to the university and the military.

Faust spoke of ROTC “on our campus” and Mullen spoke of ROTC “at institutions like this”.  Although that could mean an ROTC building at Harvard, in the nearer term it could mean formal recognition of the participation of Harvard students in ROTC at MIT and implementation of the ROTC+ vision.  It could also mean an intermediate option such as suggested by the military in 2004 to “post a Captain and a Sergeant on campus, in the Yard, with access, and University support”.  What happens will depend on the number of ROTC students, and the number of ROTC students will depend on what happens.  The warm endorsements of ROTC by Faust and Mullen are an important step in the “virtuous circle” towards ROTC+ at Harvard.

Military leaders often stress that a vision is important, but 90% of the effort is in implementation.  A lot depends on the degree to which the university, the military and the alumni are willing to implement an ROTC+ vision.

The university is unlikely to move towards the ROTC+ vision until there is some reform of DADT.  It is difficult to predict what Congress will do when it receives the Pentagon report on DADT on 30 November.  Most discussion has focused on the position of some key stakeholders that 0% of military units should be gay-friendly and and on the position of others that 100% of units should be gay-friendly.  However, some on Capitol Hill prefer a centrist option in which the Pentagon would be given authority open up units based on their infrastructure for gender privacy, an approach similar to that used for integration of women into units.  If such an incremental centrist approach is taken, the universities will need to decide whether to accept that in the spirit that they’ve accepted the non-100% solution for women in the military.  A lot will depend on follow-through by people such as Faust in moving the issue forward.

The military will have people who say not to bother with the costs or “high maintenance” of top universities.  A lot will depend on the follow-through by people such as Mullen, Petraeus and Obama in stressing the benefits of ROTC+ and service by graduates of top universities, and a lot will depend on calls from leaders in all areas of society for students at top universities to serve.

Alumni will also be crucial.  Harvard alumni have a strong voice in both the university and in government.  Alumni are crucial in encouraging students to apply to Harvard and encouraging them to do ROTC.  Alumni are also crucial in transcending bean-counter arguments and providing resources to achieve important goals.  Many alumni feel strongly about ROTC.  When Harvard restored an ROTC option in 1976 by allowing students to do ROTC at MIT, the Harvard Crimson wrote an editorial opposing ROTC, but an impressive group of 10 editors, including Steven Ballmer ’77 and Grover Norquist ’78 wrote a dissenting editorial supporting ROTC.

Senator Robert F. Kennedy ’48 often cited a George Bernard Shaw quote “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’”  We need a similar attitude in preparing a blueprint for Harvard ROTC.  We need to move past the bitterness of 1969 and look past the DADT issue of today.  We should dream of having a “Steven Ballmer professor of Game Theory” who teaches a course that gets ROTC credit.  We should dream of what such new faculty can do for Harvard, and how such an ROTC+ approach can benefit the military and the country.

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