Can America Afford All the Service Academies?


A debate has emerged over whether U.S. military academies are worth the more than $400,000 per graduate that they cost taxpayers. Especially at a time when America’s Combat Capability has been eroded to a pre WWII level. Bruce Fleming, who has been a professor of English at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., for 25 years, contends that service academies represent a military Disneyland.

Fleming told a reporter that Navy and other service academies don’t really attract the best and brightest students, and they don’t really produce leaders. The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) and Officer Candidate School (OCS) do a better job of that, he said.

Having commanded scores of Academy graduates during my career, I must agree with Professor Fleming. Of the 20 top Officers who served under my command, I would only include one Academy Graduate. If I were to list the 20 worst Officers who served under my command the list would include mostly Academy Graduates.

Of the five Service Academies, West Point is clearly the best but do we really need the five taxpayer supported Academies? West Point, The Coast Guard Academy, The Merchant Marine Academy, The Naval Academy and The Air Force Academy? While Tactical Fighter Wings and Combat Brigades have been disappearing, life goes on impervious at the Academies. There is even taxpayer money for a Pagan Worship Area at The Air Force Academy.

The top Officer in the Military is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Many have been Academy graduates but many great Chiefs have graduated from civilian colleges including North Carolina State University, Bradley University, City College of New York,
University of Maryland and Kansas State University.

General John Vessey served as the tenth Chairman of the Joint Chiefs from 1982 to 1985. When he retired at age 63, he was the longest serving active duty member in the Army. He began his 46-year military career in the Minnesota National Guard in 1939 when he was still 16. He was a First Sergeant with the 34th Division when it entered the Anzio beachhead in Italy in May 1944; there he received a battlefield commission as a second lieutenant, serving as a forward observer.

General Vessey also served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. He did not graduate from college until he was a Lieutenant Colonel at the age of 41. He had almost 30 years service before he was promoted to Colonel. As a Colonel, he was a student at the Army helicopter school at the age of 48. Nine years after being promoted to Colonel he was a Four Star General. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed him as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was the last four star combat veteran of World War II on active service.

In retirement, he served President Reagan and his successors, Presidents George H. W. Bush and William J. Clinton, as a special emissary to Vietnam on the question of American service personnel missing from the Vietnam War. He was awarded the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1992. Here is a quote from General Vessey: “Our strategy is one of preventing war by making it self-evident to our enemies that they’re going to get their clocks cleaned if they start one.” General Vessey is now 91.

Thanks for indulging me, as a man who worked my way up through the ranks I believe that Officers with Enlisted experience make the best Officers. General Vessey is a leader who prevailed in spite of the system and without a college degree until long after he became a Field Grade Officer.

So do we really need all these Sacred Cow Academies or would our tax dollars be better spent on Combat Forces?

A long investigation into rape at the Naval Academy revealed some ugly truths about its culture. The 11 midshipmen who took the witness stand described a world of binge drinking, casual sex, social-media harassment and lying — you can do that at most any college. But for some academy alumni, it was a disturbing portrait of an institution that imposes strict rules on aspiring young officers whose educations are funded by U.S. taxpayers.

I’m not singling out one Academy, simply search the Internet for “Rape, Cheating, Service Academy” and you will have plenty to read. As for me, I don’t want one more red cent of my tax money going for Pagan Worship Areas or for supporting a culture of cheating and rape. I would not object to a single Joint Service Academy if it was run by an adult who would not tolerate a disorderly, subculture. I appreciate your comments.


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2 Responses to “Can America Afford All the Service Academies?”

  1. Brittius Says:

    Reblogged this on

  2. genemcvay Says:

    While Academies cost over $100,000 a year, here are costs for some other colleges:

    University of Arkansas $21,295
    Harvard $60,240
    University of Florida $20,218
    Baylor $50,718

    With no financial assistance a four year Degree at Harvard would cost $241,000 compared to over $400,000 at a Federal Government Academy.

    There are about 4,500 Degree Granting Institutions in the United States.

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