Should We Keep West Point?

Discussion in 'Military Academy - USMA' started by Michaelangelo, Apr 14, 2014.

  1. Michaelangelo

    Michaelangelo New Member

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    Since its founding in 1802, West Point has been the leading source of commissioned soldiers and top-notch leaders for the US military. It is one of the hardest schools to get into in America, and it offers a vigorous curriculum of academics, military strategy and physical training. The school’s results are proven by the fact that some of the highest positions in the US military, past and present, are held by West Point graduates; but is this type of training the most efficient and cost effective? Avid military types and West Point graduates that are proud of their education would call this question “heresy” while some progressive types might think it’s time to move away from this type of training.

    Tom Ricks, the Washington Post’s military correspondent responsible for the article “Why We Should Get Rid of West Point,” would say “no” to that question because he doesn’t believe in the foundation that West Point, or any of the other military institutions are founded on. Rick’s claim is that eliminating these academies, West Point (Army), Annapolis (Navy), and the Air Force Academy, will save the country money that could be put into more ROTC scholarships that develop the same quality leaders. He also supports ROTC education by playing off the faults of West Point such as their lack of educators with doctorates and the cynical approach to training. An approach that makes a cadet into a neat freak for four years with uniform, grooming, room standards, that doesn’t make someone into a better leader. Ricks puts forth some solid arguments, but he is only one side of the coin in this debate.

    Three West Point Graduates and past/current US congressman, Geoff Davis, Brett Guthrie, and John Shimkus tell the other side of this argument in a direct response entitled “Why We Should Keep West Point.” The focus of this article is to fend off the claims and assertions made by Ricks, while at the same time illustrating what sets West Point apart from any other Military institution and source of commission in America.

    As a current ROTC cadet on scholarship and a past and current applicant to West Point, I agree with parts of both sides of this argument. Eliminating West Point, one of the most prestigious secondary education institutions in the US and offering those cadets ROTC scholarships would save the government money and it would develop the same quality leaders that the US army had before, as Ricks states. However, I do not agree with his stance on the type of training West Point offers; which leads me to agree with the USMA Graduates on this topic. I also believe that West Point is valuable in the way it accepts and denies students admission. This is due to a personal experience I had when going through the USMA admission process.

    What is the cost to put a student through West Point? Ricks presents statistics that it cost more than twice as much to get a cadet to commission at West Point ($300,000) than it does through an ROTC scholarship ($130,000). That is the price to get one cadet to graduate and join the army as a 2nd LT (Officer). The government is willingly paying twice as much to get the same result? It sounds like they are throwing money out the window, but it’s not a waste of money because West Point grads are better than ROTC grads, right? Wrong, and that is one of the problems Ricks sees in the West Point system. West Point graduates are no better ROTC graduates because they get equal educations and enough training to lead a Platoon once they graduate. Some, not all, of the grads have this sense of entitlement because they graduated West Point and that’s why “some commanders say that they prefer officers who come out of ROTC programs because they tend to be better educated and less cynical about the military.” A graduate of West Point is no better than a graduate of an ROTC program because they are both going to be 2nd LT’s, and in the army your rank is what people see, not where the rank came from.

    The other side of the argument from the Congressmen/USMA graduates refutes Rick’s claim on the West Point educators. The Reps insist “The men and women of West Point are given the unique opportunity to learn from civilian faculty with doctorates and active duty service members with advanced degrees and military experience. Thus, West Point graduates are educated by instructors with knowledge of their academic field and the battlefield.” This combination of teaching from civilian faculty as well as officers with real world experience in their field adds a factor that is essential to both of these commissioning sources. An ROTC cadet receives training in their major from member of the schools civilian faculty, and only the military curriculum is taught by Military Staff at that school, like the West Point cadets. Both institutions offer training from officers with real military experience, which enables cadets to get the real picture of what’s going on in the real world. West Point isn’t better than ROTC in this category, which makes me disagree with Rick’s stance that West Point Cadets don’t get the same quality education from a diverse staff as ROTC cadets.

    That education system is an advantage for students that get accepted into West Point, but there can also be value for a cadet to be denied from West Point. The only reason I know that this denial is of value is because it happened to me. Early in my junior year of high school I decided I wanted to join the military and apply to West Point. For the Next year I went through the entire application and nomination process, which brought me to September of my senior year. To make my application stronger I tried to show the school I was solid in my intent of joining the military. To accomplish this, I was advised to apply for an ROTC scholarship as a “back-up” plan if I didn’t make it into West Point. It was my dedication to the goal of getting accepted to USMA that led me to that scholarship, and when I didn’t get my bid into West Point I had that scholarship waiting for me. I shot for the stars, only I landed a little bit lower. My point is that ROTC scholarships offer students who have the drive to become an officer - an equal alternative because not everyone who wants to be an officer can get into West Point. It’s that drive that also pushes them to reapply.

    There’s no doubt that West Point is one of the most prestigious colleges in America, up there with Harvard, MIT and Annapolis, and it’s that prestige that lures students into the system, but the question is: should we keep West Point? Ricks would say a definite “no” based on his beliefs and statistics on the cost of training a cadet, and the type of cynical officer that West Point produces. The Congressmen Geoff Davis, Brett Guthrie, and John Shimkus would never dream of eliminating such a important and historic institution based on the fact that West Point develops and produces “the top tier of our nation’s future military, science, business, and political leaders.” Although I believe that West Point is a more costly system, not all graduates are cynical as Ricks asserts, and the cost of the system is worth it for the government. West Point is an institution that students and even the enlisted can strive for, and the system is designed to push students away from complacency so they can make it to the top. America’s cadets need this to drive them to be the best. America’s future leaders need West Point.




    Works Cited

    Reed, John T. "West Point versus Other Sources of Commission." Weblog post. West Point
    versus Other Sources of Commission. John T Reed, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.

    Ricks, Tom. "Tom Ricks--Why We Should Get Rid of West Point." Washington Post. The
    Washington Post, 19 Apr. 2009. Web. 19 Mar. 2014.

    Roe, Karen. “ROTC: ’Leadership Experienced.’.” Army Communicator 34.1(2009); 12-13.
    Military & Government Collection. Web 19 Mar.2014.

    Shimkus, John, Geoff Davis, and Brett Guthrie. "Why We Should Keep West Point." Congressman John Shimkus. N.p., 9 May 2009. Web. 19 Mar. 2014.

    Winerip, Michael. "The R.O.T.C. Dilemma." The New York Times. The New York Times, 31 Oct. 2009. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.
     
  2. candidate2014

    candidate2014 Member

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    As someone who was recently appointed to USMA, I believe the United States as a country does not truly need West Point. I think the institution continues mainly out of tradition's sake. ROTC at civilian colleges produces officers of equal caliber. However, military academies are a very key tradition to any nation--almost every country with a good military has a few (e.g. Sandhurst in the UK). So we don't really NEED West Point or any of the service academies for that matter, it's just kind of nice to have it.
     
  3. Spud

    Spud BGO

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    This argument is as old as the Academies. In the 1800's a cost saving congressman thundered about the "spoiled and pampered pets of Uncle Sam" and now the Midshipman at Annapolis use those words in a football fight song.

    It is also a cyclical argument. If a congressional fairy godmother could wave her magic wand and make all Academy graduates 4 times better than an ROTC graduate, there would be a hew and cry that we are developing an elitist officer corps where the only good ones come from the Academies and they, by sheer competency, force the ROTC officers out in the promotion parade. Because the Academies cannot produce all the officers the armed services need, then therefore, in the name of economy, we need to eliminate the Academies and put that money towards better ROTC. The poor Academies just can't win whether they produce great officers or not.
     
  4. 845something

    845something Member

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    If cost were the driving factor, we'd only have OCS. It's quicker and much less expensive than either USMA or ROTC. They all have degrees and some level of Army experience (at least basic training, but in some cases like one of my LTs a former Infantry Ranger MSG).

    Then let's look at ROTC: would you say a Princeton ROTC graduate is equal with one from some unheard of satellite school that attends ROTC at the State U ROTC Bn. In military education, they may be the same because of the ROTC instructors, but what about rigor and quality of education. One is going to cost the Army around $40k per year while the other maybe $4k. How do you expand a model that not all schools even want ROTC (think back to Vietnam and how popular ROTC was on campus), and the Army probably doesn't want graduates from all the ones that would have ROTC (accreditation, majors offered, strong political ideologies of the school/professors). Not all ROTC get a four-year ride (plenty of 3 and 2 year scholarships as well), so that $130,000 average cost may not be the true cost, especially in an environment when ROTC may have to offer more to entice the caliber of Cadets it needs. The academic rigor, quality versus cost, and size is pretty steady at West Point.

    How about commissioning - WP is geared towards producing combat arms officers (80%). ROTC, while producing many more officers, doesn't have the same focus - Reserve, National Guard, Nurses, plus all of the active duty branches as West Point with a greater share of the Army's non-combat arms officers compared to West Point. While that has nothing to do with the caliber of the individual filling those roles, there is benefit in focused training around a central goal.

    Finally, when 2/3rds leave active duty after their initial service commitment, where are their loyalties going to lie? To their alma mater or to putting money back into those Cadets in those ROTC programs? WP grads send their money to their alma mater which is the same as funding those Cadets. The Army and ROTC don't really have a way to take those donations. There is a long term return on investment that many fail to quantify, not just to the Cadets but the Army in general from the institution and graduates of West Point in terms of finances and prestige that pays out in their civilian careers as well as their military careers.

    You and many critics also fail to include some of West Points other direct benefits that would disappear or become much less fiscally possible without West Point. The professors, the second graduating class of West Point, are mid-grade officers with graduate degrees and they are in an environment where they can apply their top-tier civilian education on real Army issues while educating Cadets. This can range from anything from developing/testing new Army physical fitness requirements/testing to developing systems and equipment with battlefield applications. OCS and ROTC can't mimic that and how much more would the Army spend to contract that out? And this is just one aspect of the Academy. What about foreign relations...how many princes do you think would attend ROTC? There are always a few at West Point from nations the State Department and DoD want to improve relations with. Do you think ROTC would have the same effect?

    Rick and Reed are decidedly in the anti Service Academy camp, always will be and have honed their ability to make persuasive arguments to an unknowing public, especially one that includes a large population that is anti-war/anti-military. Some of our graduates admittedly help them make their points, but there are more that will make many more against them. I'll leave you with this thought, instead of asking can the Army survive without West Point (which is the underlying premiss), ask yourself, would the Army and the nation be as well off without it. And would you as a leader want to take that chance with something as fundamental as national defense to directly save $170 million/year (or like .03% of defense spending).
     
  5. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    Sweet. Another troll.
     
  6. JWP

    JWP Member

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    Lol Scout...
     
  7. rkrosnar

    rkrosnar Member

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    I never served in the military, because of cerebral palsy. If I could have, I would have dedicated my life to this country. We not only should keep West Point, but all SA's. While some will say military officers can be trained in other avenues, which is true. The SA's continue to train officers for the greatest country in the world. Some of them go onto become not only great leaders in our country, but in fortune 500 companies. Personally, if I could direct all my tax dollars to the SA's, I would do so. Yes, they are not perfect, but what school is. ROTC is great option for those who don't want to go to the SA's, but still serve their country. Remember, we need people are are willing to lead and and not just follow. We should all feel blessed that students still want to go and defend freedom for this country and dedicate their lives doing so. I personally am very grateful to all those who attended and commit to attend not only the SA's, but do ROTC too. The next we be reading about or hearing, which is my opinion is already happening. Let someone else go and fight.


    God Bless the United States of America

    Happy Easter to all,

    RGK
     
  8. Dixieland

    Dixieland Member

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    Yep! :bleh2:

    That's quite an introductory post for a new member.
     
  9. PaParent

    PaParent Member

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    Dedication

    My DD is blessed to be a part of the incoming class of 2018 at USMA. She, like many of her peers had the option of a "full" scholarship thru an ROTC program, or an academy. In the end, the academy route requires of the cadet a degree of commitment unparalleled. It wasn't as simple as forgoing the "college" experience. She chose to move away from her family and friends and prepare to experience a level of physical and academic rigor which leaves no room for "error". I think that, in the end, our military benefits immensely from this level of service and, together with the fine 2lts via ROTC and OC contribute to the US being the greatest armed force on earth.
     
  10. Day-Tripper

    Day-Tripper Member

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    Abolish Service Academies For Cost Savings?

    I really admire and take serious Thomas Ricks' writings.

    This is a thought-provoking article.

    Arguments in favor of abolishing SAs:

    US military performed pretty well in WW2 with 95% of officer corps being "90-day wonders", i.e. quick training equivalent to today's OCS-OTC. To this day the USMC officer corps, while having a fair number of Annapolis grads, is mostly made up of non-SA commissions - and the USMC is a pretty good military force the last I heard. For the last century, in war and peace, most US military officers have been non-SA grads. US military remains the gold standard in global military, the one to emulate.

    Arguments in favor of keeping the SAs:

    Research Vietnam. US Army had dramatically lowered standards for commissions. Lt William Calley, of My Lai infamy, was a dropout from a junior college in Ohio but the Army figured since he had SOME college, he was officer material. A year after dropping (flunking?) out of school he was a commissioned officer being assigned to the Americal Division and on the way to disgracing the US Army by ordering the slaughter of hundreds of unarmed civilians. Would a West Point grad have performed similarly? History says no. Having SAs maintains the basis, the essence, the tradition, the history of a nation's armed forces. Some things have value that exceeds simple dollar-and-cents valuation, i.e the military.

    My conclusion?

    Good points to be made by both sides of this debate.

    But if any nation on earth can afford the "luxury" of the Service Academies, it would be the USA, still the wealthiest country on the planet.

    If we can still find the money to subsidize sugar, or send billions in foreign aid overseas, etc, I suppose the cost of maintaining the Service Academies can be maintained without bankrupting the republic.
     
  11. MemberLG

    MemberLG Member

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    Many historians will disagree that the U.S. military officers performed pretty well in WW II. When you win, not many questions are asked. Don't confuse individual accomplishments with institutional failure.

    Civilians often forget that the difference between good, avearge, and bad officer can be quantified by number of lost lives.
     
  12. 1984USNA

    1984USNA Member

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    Don't forget mission accomplishment as a pretty critical metric. One can sit out the fight, bring everyone home, and not succeed. The officers and enlisted in WW2 scored huge on mission accomplishment. They sacrificed greatly and we are forever in their debt. We capture the fire in their hearts and the hearts of others who have fought for us, and we pass it along in places like the service academy. Of course we need the service academies!


    Sent using the Service Academy Forums® mobile app
     
  13. Craig

    Craig Member

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    West Point

    My father-in-law was USNA of 1956. I was NROTC. I once asked him his opinion about whether the SA's were needed. Basically, he felt the Academies served as the anchor. General Schwarzkopf would make a similar comment in an interview. You can likely find it on Youtube. My daughter is currently a MID so I get a good view of what she is exposed to. I think they all serve a purpose. I think the diversity of the experiences each program offers only makes us stronger.
     
  14. linkgmr

    linkgmr Old Grad

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    The man makes a compelling argument, to say the least.

    I'd say the main argument for keeping it around is tradition based, rather then results based.
     
  15. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    I'm pretty sure "tradition" is not the foundation you want in an argument like this. The folks funding it didn't go there.... West Point tradition is no more than a fairy tale to them.
     
  16. oldcorpsdad

    oldcorpsdad Member

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    Well, I might argue with the results part. If you look at the very recent Majors involuntary separation board which was predominately based on derogatory info (DUIs, really bad OERs, reprimands, etc…) the break down by source of commissioning was: (% of Majors separated by source)
    USMA: 2.6%
    ROTC Scholarship: 5.4%
    OCS: 7.3%
    ROTC non Sch: 9.7%
    Inter service transfer: 16%

    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B87O4lCzt8ZDTFdlaWRoT0t0ajQ/preview?pli=1
     
  17. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Is it just me or are we missing 59% here?
     
  18. oldcorpsdad

    oldcorpsdad Member

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    no- its 2.6% of all the USMA MAJs were selected, 5.4% of ROTC Scholarships MAJs selected, etc...

    Numbers get even more skewed when you consider that there are more ROTC MAJs than USMA MAJs
     
  19. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    No- that is the selection rate for each of those commissioning sources- not the % of the total selected. So for example- there were 1322 Majors who were USMA grads considered by the SRB- 35 were selected for separation (2.6%) There were 3290 ROTC Scholarship holders who were considered- 178 selected (5.4%) etc...
     
  20. oldcorpsdad

    oldcorpsdad Member

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    The % selected for separation of CPTs by source was there as well:

    USMA: 6.2%
    ROTC Sch: 8.6%
    ROTC Non Sch: 12%
    OCS: 16.3%

    as in, 6.2% of the CPTs commissioned through USMA were selected for involuntary separation etc...
     

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