Board of Visitors gathers valuable insights on USAFA’s priorities
December 6, 2022
The Board of Visitors for the United States Air Force Academy met Tuesday (Dec. 6) in Washington, D.C., and virtually to review the overall health of the institution.
According to its bylaws, the board meets at least four times a year and investigates the morale, discipline, curriculum, instruction, physical equipment, fiscal affairs, academic methods, and other matters relating to the Academy.
The Board of Visitors consists of six members appointed by the president, three appointed by the vice president, four appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives, one designated by the Senate Armed Services Committee and one designated by the House Armed Services Committee. The board provides oversight and reports to the secretary of defense, the secretary of the Air Force, and the committees on Armed Services in both the U.S. House and Senate.
- Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard Clark ’86 opened the session with an overview of recent developments at the Academy.
He reported that the USAFA Flying Team had won its 36th consecutive regional competition. He also gave a shout-out to the institution’s 43rd Rhodes Scholar, C1C James Landy, who will be headed to the University of Oxford for postgraduate education. In addition, Gen. Clark noted that the Falcon football team took home the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the first time since 2016.
Gen. Clark highlighted his top three priorities, which include developing leaders of character, preparing cadets for future conflict and instilling a culture of dignity and respect for all.
On the topic of readying cadets for the future, Gen. Clark reported that more than 2,000 students have attained their top-secret clearances. Those clearances allow many cadets to be involved in classified discussions that give them a better sense of what will be expected from them as new officers in the Air Force and Space Force.
The Academy’s emerging Institute for Future Conflict and its Multi-Domain Lab have been instrumental in furthering cadet preparedness for whatever the future holds, Gen. Clark added. And the Madera Cyber Innovation Center, which is under construction, will help ready those future officers even more, he said.
“We all know, you can’t do air or space without cyber,” Gen Clark said.
The proposed Space Education Center would be a game-changer for cadets as well, he said. Funding for the project is pending.
Gen. Clark admitted to hearing concerns from some graduates and congressional members that USAFA is no longer focused on military preparedness and instead spending too much time on other training, such and diversity, equity and inclusion.
“That couldn’t be further from the truth,” he told the board. “The program is as robust as ever.”
- Daniela Lawrence, a USAFA architect, provided an update on the status of the proposed Space Education Center.
The Academy is attempting to include the $350 million project on the FY2026 Military Construction (MilCon) list. She noted that the Air Force Academy Foundation has indicated that there is significant interest from prospective private donors to help build the new 134,000-square-foot facility.
“It will be a cutting-edge facility for the next 50 years,” she told the board.
Lawrence said design work on the project is set to begin in 2023. If all goes according to plan, construction could begin in 2026.
- The USAFA commandant of cadets, Brig. Gen. Paul Moga ’95, reported that last summer’s programming was pretty much back to normal as the pandemic continued to wane. About 1,000 cadets took advantage of Ops Air Force and Space Force opportunities to travel to bases around the world and witness airmen in action.
A reconstituted Combat Survival Training program returned this year, putting rising third-classmen through their paces on a variety of survival tasks.
The new Azimuth program, which inspires and educates cadets on job opportunities in the Space Force, also was a huge success, he said. About 50 cadets took part in the program this year. Next year, Gen. Moga reports, the program will be expanded to 150 cadets.
On the topic of honor, Gen. Moga reported that current trends are promising.
Historically, there are an average of 135 to 137 honor cases per year. Last year there were 62 cases. Through this December, a total of 21 cases (13 for lying and eight for cheating) have been reported.
- Dean of the Faculty, Brig. Gen. Linell Letendre ’96, reported on USAFA’s Academic Success Center, offering academic support services to any cadet. Students are taking advantage of the programs on a more regular basis.
“It’s become an absolute bedrock for our institution,” she said.
The Quantitative Reasoning Center has seen usage increase by 37%, while the Communications Strategies Center has seen a 36% bump.
Some of that remedial help can be traced to the impact that COVID-19 had on student preparedness as they entered USAFA, she noted.
Gen. Letendre also highlighted the new Martinson Honors Program, which launched thanks to a commitment from John Martinson ’70 of $1 million per year for the next 10 years. Around 23 cadets are currently involved in the advanced program, Gen. Letendre reported, and the plan is to grow the program with the incoming Class of 2027.
- Col. (Ret.) Jennifer Block ’92, executive director of athletics, reported her team is focused on three things — sleep, recovery and nutrition — to improve individual performance.
“We’re always trying to get a little more sleep for our cadets,” she quipped.
Block reported that USAFA topped all other service academies in the Learfield Directors’ Cup standings (indicating overall success in athletics) for the 11th year in a row, ranking 67th last year. The institution has been tops in the Mountain West Division for three years running.
She highlighted a top priority for athletics next year is the Falcon Stadium modernization project. The $90 million project, she noted, will include $55 million from the Air Force Academy Athletic Corporation and $35 million from the Air Force Academy Foundation.
- Sonja Strickland, the program manager for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office and Violence Prevention, provided an update on Academy efforts in that realm.
She noted that prevention efforts begin early, with more than two hours of training provided to appointees before they arrive on campus. Prevention training continues through a cadet’s entire time at the Academy.
Strickland outlined numerous programs USAFA has instituted to enhance its sexual assault and harassment prevention efforts, including healthy relationship, self-defense and risk factor reduction training.
She noted the Academy continue to evaluate which programs are most effective. One successful effort is the Teal Rope program, which embeds trained cadets in each squadron to help victims navigate the sometimes confusing helping agencies available to them.
Strickland reported the Academy will soon see an increase in SAPR staff members to help deal with the ongoing issue. The office currently has 12 staff members, but that number is slated to increase to 24 by 2025.
- Lt. Col Casey Wyman, USAFA comptroller, provided the board with an update on pending budget requests. Among the line items is $20 million for technology upgrades.
As for upcoming capital projects, a total of $4.4 million has already been approved for an expansion of the USAFA Cemetery. Other funding requests include $15 million for Hosmer Visitor Center exhibits and $350 million for the Space Education Center.
- Col. Art Primas ’92, director of Admissions, reported that applications are up this year when compared to last year’s precipitous decline.
Through early December, USAFA has received 9,569 applications for the Class of 2027. That’s a solid 22% increase over last year at the same time.
Admissions is asking for 19 additional casual lieutenants to help with recruiting efforts in the future. Col. Primas said recruiting has become more challenging for universities in recent years, and it’s only going to get more challenging.
Following are the current members of the Board of Visitors:
- Appointed by the president: The Honorable Eric Fanning; Maj. Gen. (Ret.) James C. Johnson; Lt. Col. Wes Spurlock; Jenna Ben-Yehuda; Dr. Laura Junor-Pulzone; Dr. Hila Levy
- Appointed by the vice president: Senator Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin; Senator Steve Daines, Montana; Senator Mazie Hirono, Hawaii
- Appointed by the Speaker of the House: Representative Doug Lamborn; Representative Jackie Speier; Representative Ted Lieu; Ms. Zoe Dunning
- Appointed by the Senate Armed Services Committee: Senator John Hickenlooper, Colorado
- Appointed by the House Armed Services Committee: Representative Don Bacon, Nebraska