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Op-Ed: Our Service Academies Are Bankrupt

April 10, 2017

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I’ve written a lot about the horrific changes at the U.S. Air Force Academy perceived after my 30th reunion visit last October, and the ridiculously sloppy performance of Air Force cadets marching at the inaugural parade in Washington for President Trump. These articles are in the public record. However, since those writing were published, I have received a deluge of anguished feedback from cadets and recent graduates, not just from the Air Force Academy but from the other service academies as well. I’ve also heard from former instructors and officials at these institutions. The results are not good.

Our service academies are bankrupt, across the board. They have been changed during the Obama years from laboratories of military leadership, where the warrior ethos is cultivated and nurtured, so that these fine young men and women can lead American forces in battle effectively, to vessels of social experimentation for a ‘progressive’ ideology, where cadets can start their military career by punching a ticket, and be on their way to a lifetime of promotion and the bureaucratic lifestyle.

The number one criticism I hear echos my own perception, that training cadets to lead future warriors is no longer the agenda. The majority of officials at the academies no longer have the breadth of operational, warfighting experience that was pervasive in past cadre. In fact, I have been told that many instructors, or military leaders at the service academies, actually recommend cadets take careers away from operational units, so they can build their professional resumes for future jobs away from the military down the road. Cadets at the academies as we speak, yearn for a tough military culture that will test their mettle for the future.

Here is a recent quote from a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, “I am critical of the most recent degradation of the military training of the USNA midshipman. This is not their fault, but the fault of their superintendent’s warped logic resulting in a complete lack of testing of the mettle of this year’s plebes. He stated that since the plebes have already been highly screened, there is no need to stress them in plebe summer…They will not be respected because they will not have understood the stress of military indoctrination so necessary for the preparation of the stress of operational and combat billets.”

We’ve all seen the pictures of black, female cadets giving the Black Power salute at West Point, an act for which they were not punished but was extremely detrimental to the moral and cohesion of the Corp. This was the perfect example of how the academies have turned into a vessel for the classic liberal victimology narrative—social justice. I hate to tell you but the academies were not meant to shape the personnel footprint of the military in order to mirror some new societal ‘social norm.’ The academies were set up to train leaders for the most effective fighting force the world has ever known. They were set up to train leaders to break things and kill people when called upon by the President of the United States to protect our national security. Safe spaces do not belong here. Changing standards so the weaker can survive does not fit here. Cultural Marxism does not belong here.

The Trump administration is busy, I realize that. Their plate is extremely full reversing the disastrous effects of the Obama years. However, if they want to expend energy on an area that will reap great benefit for the country in the future, they can make wholesale changes at the academies. Bring in a temporary cadre of leaders who can reverse these trends and revert the institutions back to their founding. I can think of no more important task for the future officer corps of the United States military. For if the academies are just going to be UCLA in uniforms, then we might as well shut them down. We can spend the money elsewhere.

L. Todd Wood, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, flew special operations helicopters supporting SEAL Team 6, Delta Force and others. After leaving the military, he pursued his other passion, finance, spending 18 years on Wall Street trading emerging market debt, and later, writing. The first of his many thrillers is “Currency.” Todd is a columnist at The Washington Times, and has contributed to Fox Business, The Moscow Times, the New York Post, the National Review, Zero Hedge, Newsmax TV, Breitbart, and others.He is editor in chief of For more information about L. Todd Wood, visit