Planned academy overhaul backed Pentagon supports goal of more modern school with tighter focus

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 the committee's 16 recommendations, although 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, to ensure tighter oversight by the board of visitors, to be more open to the news media and to 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 that 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 the academy was "fundamentally sound" and was not crumbling systemically. The committee commended Adm. Charles R. Larson, the academy superintendent, for restoring morale.

The committee submitted 16 suggested improvements aimed at restoring luster to the academy.

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

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.

Other suggestions

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

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 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.

"You can't do some of these things overnight," he said.

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.

A new superintendent is scheduled to replace Larson when he finishes his four-year term in June. "He can only do so much in the next few months," Turner said.

Unveiling changes

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.

Although many of the more complicated recommendations would result in internal changes, with little direct effect on midshipmen's daily lives, Larson announced a pending overhaul of the academy's curriculum and plans to implement a summer cruise on a Navy ship for midshipmen going into their sophomore year, which were committee recommendations.

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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