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BOV examines USAFA progress on many fronts
The United States Air Force Academy Board of Visitors met Thursday and Friday (Oct. 10-11) at the Academy to get a report from senior leaders about the current health of and progress made by the institution.
The board, a federal advisory committee that is appointed by Congress and the president, is responsible for reviewing the morale and discipline, curriculum instruction, research, athletic programs, sexual violence prevention and other matters at USAFA.
The BOV reports semiannually to the secretary of Defense, through the secretary of the Air Force, and to the Committee on Armed Services of the Senate and the Committee on Armed Services of the House of Representatives concerning its findings and recommendations.
To open the meeting, USAFA Vice Superintendent Col. Houston Cantwell walked the members through a review of the 2017-18 annual report recommendations and updated the progress on each action item.
Among the topics discussed:
- The Academy has increased the number of AMTs (Academy Military Training non-commissioned officers) in the Cadet Wing to 64. According to Cantwell, senior leaders plan to reach a total of 80 AMTs (two per cadet squadron) by fall of 2020. “We’ve made tremendous progress with the support of big Air Force,” Cantwell said. Additionally, the Academy will be assigned five military training instructors beginning on Jan. 31, 2020, to help cadet cadre better prepare for Basic Cadet Training and other military training efforts.
- Upgrading the information technology (IT) infrastructure has been a challenge in recent years, due to a lack of allocated federal funds for that purpose. This year USAFA was short about $5 million it needed for upgrades, but senior leaders were able to access funding from other sources to keep progress moving forward. When it comes to getting sufficient funding in the POM (program objective memoranda) for IT, “we continue to face headwinds,” Cantwell admits.
- The Athletics Department has similar challenges in gaining sufficient funding through the POM. Its operating deficit totaled between $5 million and $6 million last year. Private donors, according to Athletic Director Nathan Pine, are helping fill the gap. “We’re doing the best we can, with the help of the AFAAC (Air Force Academy Athletic Corporation), to tread water,” Pine said.
- Funding challenges also exist for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) office. Academy leadership has pulled together enough funding to keep the programs operating, the board was told. “I know there are a lot of great things happening,” commented board member Linda Cubero ’80. Among the ever-expanding programs are Cadet Healthy Interpersonal Skills (CHIPS) training and the Enhanced, Assess, Acknowledge, Act (EAAA) program for incoming female cadets.
The board had asked for more research on how well Academy graduates fare in the Air Force compared to those officers from other accession sources. The Academy is surveying recent graduates about their thoughts concerning the education they received here, but tracking alums through their early careers has proved difficult.
Other items discussed were a proposed change to the medical retention standards, as well as a suggestion that applicants receive a full flight physical prior to attending USAFA to increase the pool of possible pilots. That suggestion was removed from the board’s action list for being too cost prohibitive for the benefit derived.
In other reports to the board:
During the SAPR update, Dr. Trevin Campbell, SAPR and Violence Prevention Program manager, and Dr. Kimberly Dickman, Healthy Relationships educator for the Center for Character and Leadership Development, provided information about several promising programs in their office.
Healthy relationship training and Sexual Assault Resistance Education (SARE) are two areas that appear to have resulted in positive outcomes.
The Academy also is in the process of standing up the “Talk to the Teal” program, training certain cadets as safe people to talk to if another cadet has suffered a sexual assault.
Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria ’85 provided an update on some of the successes within the Cadet Wing, including groundbreaking research and notable academic performances.
Silveria also reported that USAFA will be shifting the specialty code selection process earlier in a cadet’s time here. Instead of choosing an AFSC in the fall of their senior year, cadets (beginning with the Class of 2021) will choose their career path in the spring of their junior year. He said that will allow cadets to tailor their summer Air Force Ops experiences to the actual job they will have upon graduation.
Silveria did report a few challenges facing the Academy, including the apparent rise in the use of CDB oil by incoming cadets. “We saw a spike in numbers that we had not seen before,” he said. “We’re going to need some policy help on that.”
In addition, Silveria is advocating for more “parental-based intervention” prior to a candidate’s arrival at USAFA. Senior leaders would like parents to have more conversations with their children about character traits that this institution espouses and expects from its cadets.
Brig. Gen. Michele Edmondson, commandant of cadets, reported that more emphasis is being placed in getting cadets ready to operate in the space domain. Graduates of USAFA need to be prepared for a “multi-domain” career in the Air Force, she said.
In addition, Edmondson talked about possible changes to next summer’s Basic Cadet Training. One goal, she said, is to reduce the number of upperclass cadre who are involved in BCT. She’d like to free up more upperclassmen for summer enrichment opportunities instead.
Edmondson also is examining the value of ESET (Expeditionary Survival and Evasion Training) as a separate program. She’s considering shifting some portions of that training to other times, with perhaps some even happening during BCT.
“We’re looking hard at realigning what we do in the summer,” she said.
Soon-to-be Dean of the Faculty, Brig. Gen. Linell Letendre ’96 reported that an ongoing focus for USAFA is teaching cadets how to innovate. That is being done in the classroom, as well as through such programs as CyberWorx.
She also noted that the Academy recently received the top rating in gaining its re-accreditation.
Vice Dean Col. Troy Harting walked the board through some of the recent academic successes achieved by cadets, including 272 who traveled to 97 locations around the globe for the Cadet Summer Research Program.
Also, he reported that 113 members of the Class of 2019 went directly to graduate school after graduating from USAFA.
- Director of Admissions Art Primas ’92 reported on some of the demographic changes happening within the Cadet Wing. About 28% of the incoming Class of 2023 were women, while 32% were minorities. About 15% of new cadets were the first people in their families to attend college.
Carlos Cruz-Gonzalez, USAFA director of installations, provided an update about current and upcoming infrastructure projects. The three-phase renovation of the Field House is underway; a clinic modernization is occurring; and the Cadet Chapel project will soon get started.
Other planned projects include the new Center for Cyber Innovation building; a complete Sijan Hall renovation; Prep School revamp; ongoing Falcon Stadium upgrades; additional library upgrades; and a possible indoor firing range.
Athletic Director Nathan Pine reported that the past year was the second most successful for Falcon athletes ever, according to Learfield IMG College Directors’ Cup rankings. They were number one among all service academies. “I feel like we’re doing very well,” he said.
He added that the Air Force Academy Athletic Corporation raised the most money it ever has last year — $1.7 million. The goal is to raise $2 million this year.