Pentagon backs Naval Academy overhaul More modern school with tighter focus sought

January 16, 1998|By Neal Thompson | Neal Thompson,SUN STAFF

Seven months after a committee called for improvements at (( the Naval Academy, the Pentagon says it is working toward implementing every one of the committee's 16 recommendations, though the overhaul will take time, money and congressional approval.

Navy Secretary John H. Dalton wrote in a recent report that efforts to create a stronger military presence at the academy, ensure tighter oversight by the board of visitors, be more open to the media and give women and minorities more opportunities "will go far in making a great institution even better."

Dalton also said he wants "the best of the best" naval officers to make the academy a required stop on their career path, for the Navy to place more emphasis on such billets and to create permanent positions for military professors, instead of three-year rotations.

The secretary said he has met with Adm. Jay L. Johnson, chief of naval operations, Gen. Charles C. Krulak, commandant of the Marine Corps, and members of Congress, and they have agreed to work toward creating a more modern academy with a clearer '' focus on its mission.

After a series of scandals in 1996, with midshipmen accused of stealing cars, selling drugs and assaulting women, the academy's board of visitors appointed a 20-member committee to provide a "reality check."

That committee's report in June said that the academy was "fundamentally sound," and that no systemic crumbling was occurring. The committee commended Adm. Charles R. Larson, the academy superintendent, for restoring morale.

But the committee submitted 16 suggested improvements aimed at restoring luster to the elite training school for officers.

In October, Larson submitted his mostly favorable response to the recommendations, to the board of visitors.

Dalton's response, dated Oct. 29 and mailed last month to members of the committee, was not made public. A copy has been obtained by The Sun, however.

In addition to recruiting more women and minorities and being more open with the media, Dalton agreed with the committee that the superintendent's position should be elevated from a two-star to a three-star admiral; leadership training for midshipmen should be improved; the honor and conduct systems governing infractions by midshipman should be improved; more money should be invested in buildings and infrastructure.

RTC Goucher College President Judy Jolley Mohraz and retired Adm. Stansfield Turner, former CIA director and former head of the Naval War College, headed the committee.

Turner said that he was "very encouraged" by the recent status reports from Larson and Dalton. But he warned that changing some of the academy's mechanics and culture will take time.

At least one of the recommendations would require federal legislation, and Dalton's report calls for a six-month study of the training needs of the Navy.

In a "state of the academy" speech Tuesday night, Larson unveiled some of the changes -- those that won't require congressional approval or a six-month study.

Larson was unavailable Wednesday, but his flag secretary, Lt. Cmdr. Gerral K. David, said, "We are marching along on all 16 of the recommendations because we don't have any significant disagreements with any of them."

Pub Date: 1/16/98

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