Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Farewell..and a Word of Caution

Lt Gen John Rosa is stepping down next week as Superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. General Rosa is retiring from active duty to become President of the Citadel, the state-run military school in Charleston, South Carolina, where he was commissioned as an Air Force officer in 1973.

Before leaving the academy, General Rosa held a press conference with members of the local media, summarized by Tom Roeder of the Colorado Springs Gazette. During the pess conference, Rosa reflected on his 30-month tenure as Academy Superintendent, and the changes the implemented during his tour.

Rosa was appointed to the superintendent's post in early 2003, after his predecessor was fired in the wake of a sexual assault scandal. Female cadets charged that their complaints of sexual assault were either mishandled or ignored. At the press conference on Monday, Rosa noted that his reforms have made the academy a safer place for women, and reduced illegal or unethical behavior by cadets.

But Rosa also warned that his replacement, Lieutenant General John F. Regni, won't have an easy time. "We're going to have struggles for the next several years," he observed. Rosa noted that the academy has been subjected to 13 studies by the Air Force and Congress in recent years, many of them relating to the sexual assault scandal.

However, the academy has also been the focus of pointless studies, based on exaggerated claims, as evidenced by the recent probe into "religious intolerance." The academy has now launched a "religious tolerance" education program in response to those claims, and all personnel will be required to attend "religious differences" training, beginning next year.

I've known General Rosa for several years, and I'll give him high marks for dealing effectively with the sexual assault scandal, and getting the institution back on track. He deserves lower marks--no better than a middling "C"--for his handling of the religious scandal, although it could be argued that the decision to cave in to liberal theologians and the P.C. police were made in Washington, D.C., not Colorado Springs.

General Rosa's parting comments suggest that the microscopic inspection of the academy is likely to continue. But before the academy wastes more time on non-scandals, perhaps another review is in order. The new superintendent (General Regni) and the recently-appointed Air Force Chief of Staff, General Mike Moseley, should close the books on the religion controversy and other minor matters now ensnarling the academy. Existing regulations are more than sufficient to deal with cadets who force their religious views on others. The notion of devoting time and resources to deal with an "overblown" problem is simply mind-boggling, and misguided.

One more thought: scrutiny is always necessary for a public institution, but there's a fine line between oversight and granting free-reign to critics who oppose the military in general, and the service academies in particular. As the academy enters a new era, Air Force leaders should decide if they have crossed that line, and granted excessive latitude to those who would destroy the academy, or reshape it in a politically-correct mold that is inconsistent with the institution's history and its values.

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