By Robert Goldich
Best Defense department of academic accreditation
I recently had a lengthy discussion with a faculty member at an NDU institution. This person is very concerned indeed. Longtime high quality staff is retiring and not being replaced. The downgrading of the NDU president to two stars and the NWC and ICAF commandants to one is, correctly in my view, seen as an assault on the prestige of the institution and is viewed as unquestionably diminishing its bureaucratic clout. The placing of NDU under the J-7 is construed as interposing yet another layer of bureaucracy between the central joint PME institutions in the country and the CJCS/JCS.
This faculty member (a civilian) also suggested that as the U.S. military component of the student body is down to a little more than 60 percent, the military orientation of what are, after all, military institutions is being significantly eroded. There are, for example, 35 international fellows in this year's National War College (NWC) class. Almost everybody I talk to values the presence of the international fellows, but the sheer number may be constraining the ability of in this case NWC to focus on U.S. national and military strategy. Similarly, everybody at both NWC and ICAF understands the significance of whole of government, interagency, etc. But too large a proportion of U.s. government civilian students also dilutes the military/war/defense broth.
What all this suggests to me is that nobody in high places, from the current CJCS on down, seems to attach particular importance to NDU, both its PME institutions and its research components. This is particularly surprising and disappointing in that I have been told by people I respect that Gen. Dempsey was a clear standout in the class of 1996 at NWC. It seems to me it is time for comprehensive study, analysis, and reflection both within the department and congress about the future of NDU and its components. Right now it is incoherent, in steady decline, and adrift. The one bright spot -- the student body, by all accounts, continues to be as high a quality selection of officers and senior civilians as ever, if not more so -- deserves better.
Tom again: Speaking of academic troubles, I was surprised to see the people who recently decapitated the University of Virginia hide behind legalisms: "consistent with sound employment practices, it is the policy of the Board to keep confidential matters of disagreement and those relating to evaluation of progress against mutually agreed upon goals." You can't fire the head of a large and prestigious institution and then pretend its an employment dispute.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.