Naval Academy to examine itself, ponder overhaul

May 17, 1991|By Peter Hermann

ANNAPOLIS — An article in yesterday's Maryland section incorrectly reported that Rear Adm. Virgil L. Hill Jr., the superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, is retiring June 15. In fact, Admiral Hill is leaving the academy to take a post in Norfolk, Va.

ANNAPOLIS -- Responding to anticipated budget cuts and a congressional mandate to reduce enrollment, the U.S. Naval Academy is launching a comprehensive study that could lead to a complete overhaul of the 145-year-old institution.

"This planning process calls for a zero-based review of our entire program -- soup to nuts -- with no sacred cows," Rear Adm. Virgil L. Hill, academy superintendent, wrote in today's academy newspaper, the Trident.


While officials say they can't predict what the study -- called "USNA 2000" -- will conclude, they hope to begin implementing some recommendations this fall.

Committees of department heads, deans and midshipmen are to meet throughout the summer to draft recommendations for changes that could be as simple as revising certain textbooks or classes or as complex as restructuring an entire academy program.

Lt. Cmdr. Michael John, academy spokesman, said this was the first time the institution had taken such a broad look at its programs.

It stems from the desire of Admiral Hill, who is to retire June 15, to make sure the school takes charge of its destiny as its budget and enrollment shrink.

"The Naval Academy is embarking upon a period of significant change and adjustment," the superintendent wrote. "The changes, though driven by events and circumstances outside the academy, must not be determined solely by those outside forces. We must be aggressive and proactive in determining our future."

Commander John said officials feared especially that congressional influence in a post-Cold War era could hurt the academy's mission of turning out dedicated naval officers.

"Our goal is to ensure a living plan," he said.

He said the effect on the class of plebes entering in July would be minimal, even if sweeping changes were recommended.

A major issue the academy will have to deal with is the reduced enrollment from 4,500 to 4,000 midshipmen by 1995. The lower numbers could have an impact on everything from class size to sports programs to housing costs, Commander John said.

In addition, the budget for the fiscal year that starts in October likely will be less than the current $97 million figure, he predicted.

"The Department of the Navy's budget will be less," he said. "That obviously will have some impact on us."

To accomplish the study, the academy has established 10 subcommittees on topics including admissions, academics, supplies and athletics. Each panel's recommendations will be sent to a steering group that includes representatives from the judge advocate general's office, the director of civilian personnel and the Women Midshipmen Study Group.

That group is to integrate the proposals into a strategic plan for an executive board headed by the new superintendent, who will Rear Adm. Thomas Lynch.

While the goals of each subcommittee are still vague, some departments heads said yesterday they had specific areas they planned to address.

Capt. Jack Dempsey, public works officer, said that he wanted to look at renovating all of the major facilities at the academy to reduce energy consumption by 10 percent by 2000.

Other committees plan on looking at such changes as upgrading all eight wings of Bancroft Hall, the cavernous midshipman dormitory, Commander John said.

Additional ideas range from improving recycling programs to studying the balance between the academic demands and extracurricular activities of the midshipmen.

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