Category Archives: Civil-military relations

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.

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

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.

Re-legitimizing ROTC

GEN David Petraeus sits next to Harvard President Drew Faust at a 2009 military commissioning ceremony.

The prospect of reform of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law has raised hopes for the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps returning to those top colleges where it has been absent since the Vietnam era.  This opportunity to welcome ROTC at colleges that have shunned it offers a “blank-slate” for designing the enhanced “ROTC+” programs of the future.  However, on the road to the future there has been an attempt to re-write history in a New York Times op-ed by Diane Mazur that suggested that there are “no universities that ban ROTC”:

While Harvard is often described as “expelling” ROTC in 1969, the story is more nuanced. After the military refused to meet Harvard’s standards on academic coursework, the faculty voted to relegate the program to an extracurricular activity, and the military decided to leave.

This account is so incomplete that it is misleading.  Although it is legalistically correct to say that top colleges such as Harvard didn’t “ban” ROTC in the 1960s, the colleges knowingly created conditions under which ROTC could not remain legally.  In 1969, Harvard and other colleges, upset over the Vietnam war, cancelled faculty appointments and course listings for ROTC, thereby running afoul of the provisions in the ROTC Vitalization Act of 1964.  That law specifies:

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.

Contemporaneous accounts by ROTC professors at Harvard make clear that the 1964 law was central to the deliberations at the time.  Three months before the 4 February 1969 deliberations and vote by Harvard’s faculty, Col. Robert H. Pell, professor of Military Science at Harvard, wrote to Harvard’s Committee on Educational Policy that “reasons for wanting to destroy ROTC are patently contrived because they are exactly the same reasons that existed without challenge for 50 years before Vietnam clouded our vision and robbed our logic”.  He discussed in detail both the constraints of the 1964 law and the eagerness of the military to have courses of the highest academic quality.

Three days after the faculty vote, Capt. Thomas J. Moriarty, professor of Naval Science at Harvard, made clear that Harvard had removed the legal basis for its ROTC programs:

Moriarty said that without a professorship, NROTC could not remain at Harvard without violating a Federal law which states that no ROTC unit may be 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.”

Moriarty said that he could only interpret the Faculty’s decision on ROTC as withdrawing ROTC’s “invitation” to remain at Harvard. He added that the Faculty is mistaken if it expects NROTC to violate Federal law or to go to Congress to change the law.

Correspondence between Franklin L. Ford, Dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Nathan M. Pusey, president of Harvard on 11 February 1969 and 14 February 1969 confirm that the university understood that the faculty vote on “faculty control of curricular offerings and academic appointments” had removed the legal basis for Harvard’s ROTC programs.

In contrast, other top universities, including MIT and Princeton, found ways of dealing with the criteria in the 1964 law about faculty appointments and courses.  These universities managed to keep their ROTC programs.

On the issue of faculty appointments, MIT appoints its ROTC faculty as visiting professors, a distinction that satisfies both the regular faculty and the 1964 law.  Similarly, at Princeton, a 1972 agreement between the army and the university refers explicitly to the 1964 law and confers a special professor-level rank on the ROTC leader:

The institution will confer the title, Director of Army Officer Education Program, on the senior Army officer assigned to the Army ROTC detachment, indicating a rank equivalent to the senior academic rank of professor, including the prerogatives and privileges associated with the position of a professor or director as head of a department or program at the institution.

Harvard considered similar arrangements.  In the 11 February letter, Dean Ford raised the possibility that:

the Corporation would offer professorial appointments to the ROTC unit heads, quite outside the structure of this [Arts and Sciences] Faculty.

Nothing came of that idea, and the military complied with the 1964 law and withdrew all ROTC programs from Harvard.

On the issue of the “course of military instruction”, many ways of creating enhanced “ROTC+” programs for top colleges were discussed or implemented.  In 1958 at Harvard, the army added courses to the ROTC curriculum taught by a young lecturer in the Government department, Henry Kissinger.

The purpose of this experiment, according to [Col. DeVere P.] Armstrong [professor of Military Science and Tactics], is to give future Harvard officers a much broader viewpoint on world affairs than the straight military reserve training provides. The University’s program is considerably more difficult than the average Army ROTC course, and thus provides its students with a better quality of training.

In 2002, with Harvard ROTC students doing their military training at MIT, ROTC credit was given for a course taught by Harvard Professor Stephen P. Rosen, who had been a professor at the Naval War College and served on National Security Council before joining the Harvard faculty:

For the first time since the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) was kicked off campus in 1969, cadets this fall will be able to take a Harvard course for military credit.

Former cadet Brian R. Smith ’02 and Col. John Kuconis, who commanded the Air Force ROTC detachment at MIT before retiring this summer, led the effort to win ROTC headquarters’ approval of Government 1730, “War and Politics” to fulfill the Air Force’s sophomore military history requirement.

Smith, who had suggested the course to Kuconis, asked the University to promote such ROTC waivers in a successful Undergraduate Council bill in May, saying they would ease the travel burden on cadets while giving them the opportunity to learn from world-class Harvard professors.

Other ways of achieving joint university-ROTC credit were discussed during deliberations in March 1969 about ROTC at Columbia University.  The possibility was raised of university credit for courses taught by ROTC commanders as long as the courses were also “listed in the offerings of a regular academic department”.  Nothing came of that idea and the military complied with the 1964 law and withdrew all ROTC programs from Columbia.

Blaming the military for complying with the 1964 law after universities knowingly removed the legal basis for ROTC is unfair.  But it is entirely to appropriate to point out that in subsequent decades the military has shown some reluctance to re-engage, not only with the top colleges, but with entire regions where they are located.  Sean Wilkes, a recent ROTC graduate, reviewed this issue, and John Renehan, a lawyer with the Defense Department, described the magnitude of the regional changes:

In the past two decades, the Army has shrunk the resources devoted to its Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs — a primary source of new officers — at colleges in a number of states and large urban areas. According to public Army documents, the reductions were particularly sharp in the Northeast, which had 50 ROTC programs in 1987. That number is down to 27 today.

These closures were part of post-Cold War drawdowns and budget cutbacks, but the selective pattern of the reductions amounted to a nationwide realignment of ROTC resources.

Diane Mazur raised similar concerns in her NYT op-ed, and she argued for the importance of the military returning to top colleges:

The military may be more comfortable when it retreats to parts of the country with a disproportionate number of military installations — and where universities don’t ask a lot of questions. That sense of comfort, however, works against a military with a desperate need for a more diverse officer base and a wider variety of language and cultural skills.

Leaving out the 1964 law from the history of ROTC in the 1960s is a serious omission since it ignores the fact that many top colleges knowingly removed the legal basis for ROTC, and thereby left the military no option under the law but to leave.  However, we should also credit top colleges with planting the seeds for the enhanced “ROTC+” programs of the future.  There is much value in the ROTC+ vision of high quality courses with joint university and ROTC credit, whether taught by regular faculty or ROTC commanders.

There is much for both the universities and the military to do to bring about this ROTC+ vision, a theme discussed in some detail by recent Columbia graduate and Army veteran Eric Chen.  Universities should extend their high academic standards to cover military-related areas, upgrading their often spotty faculty expertise in such areas.  They should declare their openness to having ROTC programs on their own campuses, and giving formal recognition to participation by their students in cross-town programs if the military prefers such a consolidation, including appropriate course credit along the lines of the ROTC+ model.  The military should welcome the opportunity to learn from world-class faculty at top colleges, and use this opportunity both to enhance traditional military-related courses and to experiment with courses in areas of newly appreciated importance such as anthropology and game theory.

It is time to put the enmity of the 1960s behind us.  For universities, it is time to act upon their desire to provide top-level training in all areas, including those related to the military.  For the military, it is time to welcome the chance to have an ROTC+ “laboratory of the universities” in which to train promising young officers and develop a curriculum that can be applied more widely.

Where have all the honeybees gone? The U.S. Army and U of MT Entomologists Answer The Question

For fans of the kitschy British television show Dr. Who it is a familiar question: Where have all the bees gone to? On that front, today’s New York Times has an intriguing story about an unusual partnership between the U.S. Army and entomologists at the University of Montana:

Since 2006, 20 to 40 percent of the bee colonies in the United States alone have suffered “colony collapse.” Suspected culprits ranged from pesticides to genetically modified food.

Now, a unique partnership — of military scientists and entomologists — appears to have achieved a major breakthrough: identifying a new suspect, or two.

A fungus tag-teaming with a virus have apparently interacted to cause the problem, according to a paper by Army scientists in Maryland and bee experts in Montana in the online science journal PLoS One.

The U.S. Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground houses a collection of scientists dedicated to defeating chemical and biological threats on the battlefield. Much of their research is focused on mechanisms and techniques for the detection of dangerous viral and microbial agents in the environment, such as those that might be used as biological weapons. In this case, the Army scientists were seeking to test a new method in which mass spectrometry is used to detect the proteins present in a biological sample and then  make use of software and a large annotated database they had developed to evaluate the sources of those proteins to determine what organisms might be present. It just so happened that entomologists at the University of Montana were looking for just such a capability. With this system, the Army scientists were able to identify proteins from two microorganisms, Iridovirus and Microsporidian, in every population of dead honeybees. Based upon their evidence it is the intersection of  this virus and fungus, found in the gut of the honeybee, that is suspected to be the cause of their demise.

Posted on 7 Oct 2010

Secretary Gates speaks to students at Duke University

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates speaks to ROTC Cadets from Duke University, UNC, NC State, and NC Central

In a lecture at Duke University, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates remarked upon the ever present divide that exists between the nation and those who serve in uniform, noting that only “a tiny sliver of America” continues to volunteer for military service, and that many parts of the country are woefully underrepresented, particularly urban areas like Chicago and Los Angeles.

Dr. Gates comments that “the military’s own basing and recruiting decisions have reinforced this growing concentration among certain regions and families.  With limited resources, the services will focus their recruiting efforts on candidates where they are most likely to have success – with those whose friends, classmates, and parents have already served.”

He hones in on the disparities that exist with respect to resourcing for Officer recruitment, noting that “the state of Alabama, with a population less than 5 million, has 10 Army ROTC host programs.  The Los Angeles metro area, population over 12 million, has four host ROTC programs.  The Chicago metro area, population 9 million, has 3.” The disparity is equally as great in places like New York City which, with a population of 8 million, hosts only 4 ROTC programs, one of which is open and accessible to only 5% of the total college student population.

Dr. Gates ends his lecture with a call to serve, encouraging students at Duke and other selective universities to consider joining the military and making a contribution to the national defense. Quoting from a letter John Adams wrote to his son he notes: “Public business, my son, must always be done by somebody.  It will be done by somebody or another.  If wise men decline it, others will not; if honest men refuse it, others will not.”

Here is the full transcript of his remarks:

Thank you for the invitation and that warm welcome.  It’s a relief to be back on a university campus and not have to worry about football.  The first fall I was President of Texas A&M, I had to fire a longtime football coach.  I told the media at the time that I had overthrown the governments of medium-sized countries with less controversy.

I’d be remiss in not pointing out one major connection between Duke and the military – that Mike Krzyzewski attended, played for, and later coached at West Point.  Earlier this year the Duke Basketball team came to Washington, D.C., to receive President Obama’s congratulations for the NCAA championship.  Coach K also brought them by the Pentagon to see the 9/11 memorial and meet with some of the men and women who serve in our military.  I think I can speak for everyone they saw in saying that the visit was much appreciated.

For the undergraduates here, I know you’re well-accustomed to the challenge of staying awake through long lectures.  I promise I won’t test your endurance too much today.  I’m reminded of the time when George Bernard Shaw told a famous orator he had 15 minutes to speak.  The orator protested, “How can I possibly tell them all I know in 15 minutes?”  Shaw replied, “I advise you to speak slowly”.

As a former university president, visiting a college campus carries a special meaning for me.  It was not that long ago that my days and duties were made up of things like fundraising, admissions policies, student and faculty parking, dealing with the state legislature, alumni, deans, and the faculty.  In that last case, as a number of college presidents have learned the hard way, when it comes to dealing with faculty – the tenured faculty in particular – it’s either be nice or be gone.

Some of my warmest memories of Texas A&M are of walking around the 48,000 student campus and talking to students – most of them between 18 and 24 years of age – seeing them out on their bikes, or even occasionally studying or going to class.  For nearly four years now, I have been in a job that also makes me responsible for the well-being of a larger number – in this case, a very much larger number – of young people in the same 18- to 24-year old age group.

But instead of wearing J-Crew they wear body armor.  Instead of carrying book bags they are carrying assault rifles.  And a number of them – far too many of them – will not come home to their parents.

These young men and women – all of whom joined knowing what would be asked of them – represent the tip of the spear of a military that has been at war for nearly a decade – the longest sustained combat in American history.  The Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns represent the first protracted, large-scale conflicts since our Revolutionary War fought entirely by volunteers.  Indeed, no major war in our history has been fought with a smaller percentage of this country’s citizens in uniform full-time – roughly 2.4 million active and reserve service members out of a country of over 300 million, less than one percent.

This tiny sliver of America has achieved extraordinary things under the most trying circumstances.  It is the most professional, the best educated, the most capable force this country has ever sent into battle.  Yet even as we appreciate, and sometimes marvel at, the performance of this all-volunteer force, I think it important at this time – before this audience – to recognize that this success has also come at significant cost.  Above all, the human cost, for the troops and their families.  But cultural, social, and financial costs as well in terms of the relationship between those in uniform and the wider society they have sworn to protect.

So for the next few minutes, I’d like to discuss the state of America’s all-volunteer force, reflecting on its achievements while at the same time considering the dilemmas and consequences that go with having so few fighting our wars for so long.  These are issues that must be acknowledged, and in some cases dealt with, if we are to sustain the kind of military America needs in this complex and, I believe, even more dangerous and unstable new century.

First, some brief historical context.  From America’s founding until the end of World War II, this country maintained small standing armies that would be filled out with mass conscription in the case of war.  Consider that in the late 1930s, even as World War II loomed, the U.S. Army ranked 17th in the world in size, right below Romania.  That came to an end with the Cold War, when America retained a large, permanent military by continuing to rely on the draft even in peacetime.

Back then, apart from heroism on the battlefield, the act of simply being in the military was nothing extraordinary or remarkable.  It was not considered a sign of uncommon patriotism or character.  It was just something a healthy young man was expected to do if called on, just as his father and grandfather had likely done in the two world wars.

Among those who ended up in the military in those early years of the Cold War were people like Elvis Presley and Willie Mays, movie stars, future congressmen, business executives.  The possibility of being drafted encouraged many to sign up so they could have more control over their fate.  As I can speak from experience, the reality of military service – and whether to embrace, avoid, or delay it – was something most American men at some point had to confront.

The ethos of service reinforced by the strong arm of compulsion extended to elite settings as well.  A prominent military historian once noted that of roughly 750 of his classmates in the Princeton University class of 1956, more than 400 went on to some form of military service – a group that included a future Harvard President,  governor of Delaware, and Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for the New York Times.  That same year, more than 1,000 cadets were trained by Stanford University’s ROTC program.

The controversy associated with the Vietnam War and the bitterness over who avoided the draft and who did not, led to a number of major changes in our military and American society.  One of them was the end of conscription and the beginning of the All Volunteer Force under President Nixon.

Over the past four decades, after a difficult transition period during the 1970s, the all-volunteer experiment has proven to be a remarkable success.  The doubts – and there were many inside and outside the military– were largely overcome.  Indeed, the United States would not be able to sustain complex, protracted missions like Iraq and Afghanistan at such a high standard of military performance without the dedication of seasoned professionals who chose to serve – and keep on serving.  Whatever the shortcomings there have been in Iraq and Afghanistan stemmed from failures and miscalculations at the top, not those doing the fighting and leading on the ground.  It has taken every ounce of our troops’ skill, initiative and commitment to battle a cunning and adaptive enemy at the front while overcoming bureaucratic lassitude and sometimes worse at the rear.

A key factor in this success is experience.  Consider that, according to one study, in 1969 less than 20 percent of enlisted Army soldiers had more than four years of service.  Today, it is more than 50 percent.  Going back to compulsory service, in addition to being politically impossible, is highly impractical given the kinds of technical skills, experience, and attributes needed to be successful on the battlefield in the 21st century.  For that reason, reinstituting the draft is overwhelmingly opposed by the military’s leadership.

Nonetheless, we should not ignore the broader, long-term consequences of waging these protracted military campaigns employing – and re-employing – such a small portion of our society in the effort.

First, as a result of the multiple deployments and hardships associated with Afghanistan and Iraq, large swaths of the military – especially our ground combat forces and their families– are under extraordinary stress.  The all volunteer force conceived in the 1970s was designed to train, prepare, and deploy for a major – and quick – conventional conflict – either against the Soviet Union on the plains of Central Europe or a contingency such as the first gulf war against Iraq in 1991.  In that instance – and I remember it well as I was Deputy National Security Advisor at the time – more than half a million U.S. troops were deployed, fought, and mostly returned home within one year.

By contrast, the recent post-9/11 campaigns have required prolonged, persistent combat and support from across the military.    Since the invasion of Iraq, more than 1 million soldiers and Marines have been deployed into the fight.  The Navy has put nearly 100,000 sailors on the ground while maintaining its sea commitments around the globe.   And the Air Force, by one count, has been at war since 1991, when it first began enforcing the no-fly zone over Iraq.

U.S. troops and their families have held up remarkably well given the demands and pressures placed on them.  With the exception of the Army during the worst stretch of the Iraq war, when it fell short of recruiting targets and some measures of quality declined, all the services have consistently met their active recruiting and retention goals.  In some cases the highest propensity to re-enlist is found in units that are in the fight. When I visited Camp Lejeune last year – a Marine Corps base about 150 miles from Durham – an officer told me about one unit whose assignment was switched from Japan to Afghanistan.  As a result, about 100 Marines who were planning to get out of the military decided to sign up again so they could deploy with their buddies.

The camaraderie and commitment is real.  But so is the strain.  On troops, and especially on their families.  I know – I hear it directly during my trips to Army and Marine bases across this country, where spouses and children have had their resilience tested by the long and frequent absences of a father, mother, husband or wife.

There are a number of consequences that stem from the pressure repeated deployments – especially when a service member returns home sometimes permanently changed by their experience.  These consequences include more anxiety and disruption inflicted on children, increased domestic strife and a corresponding rising divorce rate, which in the case of Army enlisted has nearly doubled since the wars began.  And, most tragically, a growing number of suicides.

While we often speak generally of a force under stress, in reality, it is certain parts of the military that have borne the brunt of repeat deployments and exposure to fire – above all, junior and mid-level officers and sergeants in ground combat and support specialties.  These young men and women have seen the complex, grueling, maddening face of asymmetric war in the 21st century up close.  They’ve lost friends and comrades.  Some are struggling psychologically with what they’ve seen, and heard and felt on the battlefield.  And yet they keep coming back.

This cadre of young regular and non-commissioned officers represents the most battle-tested, innovative and impressive generation of military leaders this country has produced in a long time.  These are the people we need to retain and lead the armed forces in the future.  But no matter how patriotic, how devoted they are, at some point they will want to have the semblance of a normal life – getting married, starting a family, going to college or grad school, seeing their children grow up – that they have justly earned.

Measures such as growing the size of the Army and Marines, increasing what is called “dwell time” at home, drawing down in Iraq, and beginning a gradual transition next year in Afghanistan should reduce this stress over time.  Properly funded support programs to help troops and families under duress – the kind championed by our First Lady – can also make a difference.   But in reality, the demands on a good part of our military will continue for years to come.  And, it begs the question:  How long can these brave and broad young shoulders carry the burden that we – as a military, as a government, as a society – continue to place on them?

There is also a question – and it is an uncomfortable and politically fraught question – of the growing financial costs associated with an all volunteer force.  Just over the past decade – fueled by increasing health costs, pay raises, and wartime recruiting and retention bonuses – the amount the military spends on personnel and benefits has nearly doubled:  From roughly $90 billion in 2001 to just over $170 billion this year out of a $534 billion defense budget.  The health care component has grown even faster, from $19 billion a decade ago to more than $50 billion this year, a portion of that total going to working-age retirees whose premiums and co-pays have not increased in some 15 years.

To be clear, we must spare no expense to compensate or care for those who have served and suffered on the battlefield.  That is our sacred obligation.  But given the enormous fiscal pressures facing the country, there is no avoiding the challenge this government, indeed this country faces, to come up with an equitable and sustainable system of military pay and benefits that reflects the realities of this century.  A system generous enough to recruit and retain the people we need and to do right by those who’ve served – but not one that puts the Department of Defense on the same path as other industrial age organizations that sank under the weight of their personnel costs.

The political resistance to confronting these costs is understandable, given the American people’s gratitude towards their countrymen who have chosen to serve.  This nation has come a long way from the late 1960s and early 1970s, when too many returning Vietnam veterans were met with sullen indifference or worse – especially in cosmopolitan or academic enclaves.  Today, in airports all over the country, troops returning or leaving for Afghanistan or Iraq receive standing ovations from other passengers.  Welcome home parades, letters and care-packages, free meals, drinks, and sports tickets – all heartfelt signs of appreciation large and small that bridge the political divide.  Veterans of our wars are also welcomed to campuses all across America as they return to school.

It is also true, however, that whatever their fond sentiments for men and women in uniform, for most Americans the war remains an abstraction.  A distant and unpleasant series of news items that does not affect them personally.  Even after 9/11, in the absence of a draft, for a growing number of Americans, service in the military, no matter how laudable, has become something for other people to do.  In fact, with each passing decade fewer and fewer Americans know someone with military experience in their family or social circle.  According to one study, in 1988 about 40 percent of 18 year olds had a veteran parent.  By 2000 the share had dropped to 18 percent, and is projected to fall below 10 percent in the future

In broad demographic terms, the Armed Forces continue to be largely representative of the country as a whole – drawing predominantly from America’s working and middle classes.  There are disparities when it comes to the racial composition of certain specialties and ranks, especially the most senior officers.  But in all, the fears expressed when the all volunteer force was first instituted – that the only people left willing to serve would be the poorest, the worst educated, the least able to get any other job – simply did not come to pass.  As I alluded to earlier, that group would be hard pressed to make it into a force that, on average, is the most educated in history.  Where virtually all new enlistees have a high school diploma or equivalent – about 15 percent more than their civilian peers – and nearly all officers have bachelors’ degrees, many have Masters, and a surprising number, like General David Petraeus, have PhDs.  At the same time, an ever growing portion of America’s 17 to 24 year olds – about75% – is simply ineligible or unavailable to serve for a variety of reasons – above all health and weight requirements in an age of spiraling childhood obesity.

Having said that, the nearly four decades of all-volunteer force has reinforced a series of demographic, cultural, and institutional shifts affecting who is most likely to serve and from where.  Studies have shown that one of the biggest factors in propensity to join the military is growing up near those who have or are serving.  In this country, that propensity to serve is most pronounced in the South and Mountain West, and in rural areas and small towns nationwide – a propensity that well exceeds these communities’ portion of the population as a whole.  Concurrently, the percentage of the force from the Northeast, West Coast, and major cities continues to decline.  I am also struck by how many young troops I meet grew up in military families, and by the large number of our senior officers whose children are in uniform – including the recent commander of all U.S. Forces in Iraq whose son was seriously wounded early in the war.

The military’s own basing and recruiting decisions have reinforced this growing concentration among certain regions and families.  With limited resources, the services will focus their recruiting efforts on candidates where they are most likely to have success – with those whose friends, classmates, and parents have already served.  In addition, global basing changes in recent years have moved a significant percentage of the Army to posts in just five states:  Texas, Washington, Georgia, Kentucky, and here in North Carolina.  For otherwise rational environmental and budgetary reasons, many military facilities in the northeast and west coast have been shut down, leaving a void of relationships and understanding of the armed forces in their wake.

This trend also affects the recruiting and educating of new officers.  The state of Alabama, with a population less than 5 million, has 10 Army ROTC host programs.  The Los Angeles metro area, population over 12 million, has four host ROTC programs.  The Chicago metro area, population 9 million, has 3.  It makes sense to focus on places where space is ample and inexpensive, where candidates are most inclined sign up and pursue a career in uniform.  But there is a risk over time of developing a cadre of military leaders that politically, culturally, and geographically have less and less in common with the people they have sworn to defend.

I’d like to close by speaking about another narrow sliver of our population, those attending and graduating from our nation’s most selective and academically demanding universities, such as Duke.  In short, students like you.  Over the past generation many commentators have lamented the absence of ROTC from the Ivy League and other selective universities.  Institutions that used to send hundreds of graduates into the armed forces, but now struggle to commission a handful of officers every year.  University faculty and administrators banned ROTC from many elite campuses during the Vietnam War and continued to bar the military based on the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy – with Duke being a notable and admirable exception with your three host programs.  I am encouraged that several other comparable universities – with the urging of some of their most prominent alumni, including the President of the United States – are at least re-considering their position on military recruiting and officer training – a situation that has been neither good for the academy or the country.

But a return of ROTC back to some of these campuses will not do much good without the willingness of our nation’s most gifted students to step forward.  Men and women such as you.

One does not need to look too hard to find Duke exemplars of selflessness and sacrifice.  Consider the story of Jonathan Kuniholm, currently a Duke graduate student in biomedical engineering, who lost part of his arm as Marine reservist in Iraq.  Now he is putting his experience and expertise to work designing new prosthetics – work that will help other amputees in and out of uniform.

There is Eric Greitens, class of 1996, Rhodes Scholar, Navy Seal.  After narrowly missing injury himself during a mission in Iraq, he came back home and founded the nonprofit “The Mission Continues” to help wounded troops and veterans continue serving in some capacity.

And last year, when it came time to reshape and reform the half-trillion dollar enterprise known as the Department of Defense, the person whose counsel I relied on to make the toughest budget decisions was Lieutenant General Emo Gardner,  career Marine Corps aviator, Duke class of 1973.

No doubt, when it comes to military service, one can’t hide from the downsides:  The frustration of grappling with a huge, and frequently obtuse bureaucracy.  Frequent moves to places that aren’t exactly tourist destinations or cultural hubs.  Separation from loved ones.  The fatigue, loneliness and fear on a distant dusty outpost thousands of miles from home.  And then there is the danger and the risk.

Next to the sidewalk between your chapel and the divinity school there is an unobtrusive stone wall.  For decades the only names on it were your alumni killed in World War II.  Last October 54 names were added to the wall for those Duke men and women who died in the wars since then, including two who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq.

Matthew Lynch, class of 2001, champion swimmer, following in his father’s footsteps as a United States Marine.

And, James Regan, class of 2002, son of an investment banker who turned down offers from a financial services firm and a law firm to join the army rangers.

But beyond the hardship and heartbreak – and they are real – there is another side to military service.  That is the opportunity to be given extraordinary responsibility at a young age – not just for lives of your troops, but for missions and decisions that may change the course of history.  In addition to being in the fight, our young military leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan, have to one degree or another found themselves dealing with development, governance, agriculture, and diplomacy.  They’ve done all this at an age when many of their peers are reading spreadsheets and making photocopies.  And that is why, I should add, they are often in such high demand with future employers and go on to do great things – in scholarship, in government, in business – in every walk of life.

So I would encourage you and all young Americans, especially those at the most selective universities who may not have considered the military, to do so.  To go outside your comfort zone and take a risk in every sense of the word.  To expand what you thought you were capable of doing when it comes to leadership, responsibility, agility, selflessness, and above all, courage.

For those for whom military service is neither possible or the right thing for whatever reason, please consider how you can give back to the country that has given us all so much.  Think about what you can do to earn your freedom – freedom paid for by those whose names are on that Duke wall and in veterans’ cemeteries across this country and across the world.

I would leave you with one of my favorite quotes from John Adams.  In a letter that he sent to his son, he wrote, “Public business, my son, must always be done by somebody.  It will be done by somebody or another.  If wise men decline it, others will not; if honest men refuse it, others will not.”

Will the wise and honest here at Duke come help us do the public business of America?  Because, if America’s best and brightest young people will not step forward, who then can we count on to protect and sustain the greatness of this country in the 21st century?

Thank you.

Photo: defense.gov

Posted on 30 September, 2010