USAFA Board of Visitors Meets Aug. 24
The U.S. Air Force Academy Board of Visitors met on Aug. 24 in the Blue & Silver Club at Falcon Stadium. The board’s agenda for the Aug. 24 meeting included updates on the current state of the institution, with an emphasis on how the Academy is preparing cadets for future conflict.
Established under Title 10 U.S. Code 9455, the Board of Visitors inquires into the morale, discipline, curriculum, instruction, physical equipment, fiscal affairs, academic methods and other matters relating to the Academy which the Board decides to consider.
The Board consists of six members appointed by the president of the United States, three appointed by the vice president of the U.S., 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.
Following is an overview of the Aug. 24 meeting provided by the Association of Graduates as a service to USAFA graduates. The Board publishes minutes, which constitute the official source of information from the meetings.
At the Aug. 24 meeting, Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard Clark ’86 focused his update on his top three priorities: developing leaders of character, preparing cadets for future conflict, and promoting a culture of dignity and respect for all.
Gen. Clark shared that 1,134 cadets arrived at the Academy on June 28, 2023. He commended Commandant of Cadets Brig. Gen. Gavin Marks ’96 and his team for leading an exceptional Basic Cadet Training (BCT). He also recognized the impact of programs such as the Gettysburg Leadership Summit, a team-building experience that empowers Air Force Academy athletic captains and leaders to reflect on their leadership roles as they visit the historic battlefield.
Gen. Clark reported the continued success of various USAFA initiatives that prepare cadets for future conflict. He named several notable examples, such as Combat Survival Training, Azimuth (Space Domain Awareness) and the Special Warfare Orientation Course, as offerings that teach cadets to think critically and solve problems.
He concluded his remarks by discussing the Academy’s progress on instilling a culture of dignity and respect for all. Gen. Clark shared that the Academy had 12 international cadets last year and sent 138 cadets and 13 faculty to nine countries worldwide for summer immersion programs. Gen. Clark also emphasized the importance of the “Let’s Be Clear” campaign.
“Make no mistake, this is the focus area for us right now at USAFA,” he said.
Changing Nature of the Profession of Arms
Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Chris Miller ’80, the Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Chair for the Study of the Profession of Arms, presented on the changing nature of the profession of arms. He explained that potential adversaries continue to seek new methods to engage and subdue enemies without fighting. He described modern technological advancements as a source of prosperity but also as an area of vulnerability.
Gen. Miller stressed that the U.S. has reached an unprecedented and dangerous inflection point where preparing for future conflict is not only about combat but also about national competition.
He explained that cadets need to leave the Academy as relentless learners and doers who are willing and able to adapt.
“At USAFA, we must graduate officers who can win in future conflict,” Gen. Miller said.
Institute for Future Conflict
Dr. Gregory Johnsen, associate director of the Institute for Future Conflict (IFC), gave an overview of the IFC’s mission, how it has partnered with the Academy’s mission elements and the progress made in the areas of development, teaching and research. Johnsen explained that the U.S. must adapt its playbook to remain competitive and respond to future conflict in whatever form it may take.
The IFC aims to provide cadets and faculty with the insights, tools and experiences to better anticipate and drive changes in 21st-century conflict.
“We want to make sure the hard-won lessons of the last two decades — won through blood and treasure — aren’t thrown out,” Johnsen said.
Training for Future Conflict
Gen. Marks expanded on the theme of preparing for future conflict by describing the intent of U.S. competitors to reshape the international order. He explained the significance of preparing cadets for a dynamic and uncertain future, as well as the importance of achieving the Academy’s Institutional Outcomes to produce leaders of character for the Air Force and Space Force.
He stressed that graduates must possess an understanding of mission command and commander’s intent in addition to communication, critical thinking and expeditionary skills. They must be able to calculate risk and act boldly while remaining resilient and flexible, he added.
Gen. Marks shared that cadets have multiple education, training and experience opportunities to learn and practice their skills. This includes summer programs, leadership development, dedicated military training time, culminating exercises, warfighter talks and character development.
U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, Nebraska, praised Gen. Marks’ presentation.
“The focus here on warfighting and leadership development are great,” Bacon said. “The perception out in our citizenry is that there’s a lack of focus on this, but here is the reality.”
Future Conflict Curriculum
Brig. Gen. Linell Letendre ’96, dean of the faculty, discussed how the concept of future conflict is incorporated throughout the curriculum. The dean’s focus has been on filling identified gaps in the curriculum, such as interdisciplinary work, warfighting minors and resources.
The Martinson Honors Program has been the test bed for interdisciplinary courses, which Gen. Letendre called “super courses.”
The first super course offering combined computer science and law to help cadets understand how artificial intelligence and autonomy are interwoven technically and legally. This year, the dean said the program is offering a capstone Wicked Problems course, which will allow cadets to combine their four years of academics to tackle complex challenges facing the Department of Defense and the nation.
The dean reported that the Academy has approved eight warfighting minors: airpower studies, American studies, global logistics, high-performance computing, nuclear weapons and strategy, robotics and autonomous systems, space warfighting, and sustainability.
Regarding resources, the Academy is looking at outside options to increase academic resources, such as gift funds to help pay for researchers and fellows.
Gen. Letendre also reported on academic research at the Academy. The recently updated Mission Directive 12, which outlines guidance and assigned duties of the Air Force Academy, now clearly states that conducting research is part of the Academy’s educational responsibility. The Academy continues to be the top-funded undergraduate research institution in the country.
The dean updated the board on the construction of the Madera Cyber Innovation Center, a new wind tunnel lab, discussions on the need for a dedicated space education center, and plans to refurbish the aeronautics laboratory and create a lifecycle plan for STEM lab equipment.
Nate Pine, director of athletics, and Col. (Ret.) Jen Block ’92, executive director of athletic programs, discussed the role of athletics in preparing cadets for future conflict.
Pine highlighted a number of military leaders who learned lessons about grit and resilience when they played Division 1 sports at the Academy. Athletes learn how to win, lose and regroup to come back to fight, he said.
The Department of Athletics owns the Academy’s mission of optimizing human performance, Col. Block said. The department now oversees physical training during basic cadet training, focusing on endurance, strength and power. Since the department took over that portion of training, the Academy has seen a reduction in injuries and concussions.
Col. Block outlined the progression of required physical education courses, which help build resiliency and mental toughness in the first two years. During combative courses in the three-degree year, cadets also receive training on how to speed up decision-making and utilize strategic social interactions.
As the department works to optimize “the human weapon system,” it also helps cadets understand the importance of good nutrition, sleep and recovery. A researcher from the Institute for Future Conflict is embedded in the department to help support the entire effort.
Let’s Be Clear Update
Col. Matthew Husemann ’00, USAFA’s new vice superintendent, provided the Board of Visitors with an update on the “Let’s Be Clear” campaign aimed at reducing the prevalence of sexual violence and harassment.
The goal, he said, is to foster a healthy culture within the Cadet Wing where unwanted sexual advances are unthinkable, where fellow cadets intervene when they witness violence or harassment, and where survivors are fully supported.
Col. Husemann says “Let’s Be Clear” is in its second phase of implementation, with final implementation slated by July 2024.
“We have to get this right,” he said.
Gen. Letendre reported that data indicate sexual violence and harassment most often occur in the dorms on weekend nights. Senior leaders have responded by targeting prevention efforts in those locations and at those times.
Faculty members have been dispatched to walk the halls of the dorms on weekend evenings to reduce potential bad behaviors.
According to Gen. Marks, a new policy also has been implemented requiring cadets to keep their doors open if a non-resident of the room is inside after Taps.
Gen. Clark noted that the Academy is also exploring installation of more closed-circuit cameras in the dorms to deter criminal activity and enhance investigative resources.
Gen. Clark indicated that the new measures are necessary to keep cadets safe.
Integrated Violence Prevention and Response Update
During another portion of the meeting, Sonja Strickland, the Sexual Assault Prevention & Response program manager, provided an update on the various educational efforts underway at the Academy.
She highlighted the fact that victim advocates are now embedded in the dorms to provide ready access to support help for cadets. In addition, 99 cadets have now been trained and deployed into squadrons as Teal Rope peer counselors.
About the Board of Visitors
More information about the Board of Visitors can be found here.