Shutdown threatens to shutter military academies

The federal government shutdown is impacting the military academies and could lead to complete closures. Photo: United States Military Academy/ commons.wikimedia

WASHINGTON, October 2, 2013 — It has been widely reported that the United States Military academies have been forced to shut down their sporting programs until the federal government passes a continuing resolution. If this was the only impact that the academies were going to feel, although disappointing for the midshipman, cadets and alumni, everyone would find a way to deal with no military football games on Saturday. The reality is that the government shutdown could affect the academies in far more serious ways.

There are thousands of civilian employees who go to work every day on the military academy bases. Starting on Tuesday, October 1, 2013, with the federal government shutdown these employees have all been furloughed. Their jobs range from highly complex to repetitive and mundane, but they are all vital to the intricate running of the service academies.

The United States Naval Academy at Annapolis has always employed a large number of civilian professors. Their almost 300 civilian professors actually slightly outnumber the military teachers on staff.

According to the Naval Academy’s facebook page, classes in Arabic and Chinese as well as labs in Physics, Chemistry and Engineering have been cancelled.

A parent of a second year midshipman said, “These kids have found themselves in the middle of this shutdown. The civilian teachers teach most of the higher level classes and now they are gone. The military instructors are trying to take over but there are no enough of them and it isn’t their area. It’s not good.”

The parent went on to say that the midshipmen have been notified that if the shutdown continues for much longer, the academy will shut down completely and send the students home. For some students, an unscheduled trip “home” would be an undue hardship. Every year there are on average 15 international cadets and 30 veterans in any given class at West Point. For those prior service veterans, there is no home to return to.

Other civilian employees that are noticeably absent this week are meal service workers. There are a few enlisted personal who work in the mess hall who can keep meals coming for a short period of time but not for long. A West Point alumnus explained that meal service at the academies is not what many people imagine, of going down a cafeteria line. 4,000 meals need to be served simultaneously under an hour at every meal. The meal service cannot be changed to some easier type of cafeteria service because the school does not have the equipment necessary to make the switch.

The United States Military Academy’s website has posted a warning stating that cadets will still be able to enter the library but will not be able to check out any books because the library is staffed by non-military personnel who cannot work during the shutdown.

The students at the academies do not wear jeans and sweatshirts to class. The uniforms that they are required to wear and some of the only clothing they are permitted to have on base are dry clean only, but the laundry staff are civilians.

All of the barbers at the academies that keep the students groomed so they can meet regulations are also not members of the military.

The Air Force Academy is reporting the most severe impact of the three major service academies at this point. Their website lists closures that include; cancellation of 20 percent of classes, closing the Cadet Chapel, closing the fitness center, closing the library, cancelling flying operations and decreased medical care.

With this level of impact, the core mission of the Academy will be affected.

No academy has felt the federal shutdown as much as the Merchant Marine Academy. This academy is funded by the Department of Transportation and with the government shutdown, the academy has closed down.

This year’s federal shutdown could have an effect on the military academies into next year.

The Naval Academy has released a press statement explaining that much of their office of admissions staff has been furloughed and to expect delays in the application process. It also states that medical wavers will be delayed until the furlough is lifted.

For those who have not yet received their academy appointment yet, the news is even worse.

One source close to the nominating process explained the future impact by saying, “High school seniors, candidates for admission, need congressional nominations and with the congressional offices shut down, the offices that are normally providing those nominations between now and the end of the year are unable to do that.”

The United States government has made a commitment to train and educate 20,000 young people at their service academies but the government shutdown is interfering with this process.

The military is dependent on a certain number of 2nd Lieutenants entering the military services each year and those coming out of the military academies each year are usually the brightest and the most successful.

If the academies are forced to weaken their programs in order to comply with an extended federal shutdown, the future military leaders would also be weakened.

This is a much bigger problem than a football game.

 


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Susan L Ruth

Susan L. Ruth is a long-time Washington, DC resident with extensive ties throughout the community.  She is a genealogical researcher and writer, and is an active volunteer in the Northern Virginia competitive swimming community.  Susan previously worked providing life-skills to head injured adults. 

Susan and her husband Kerry currently live in Northern Virginia with their three sons, Ryley, Casey and Jack and their American Bulldog, Leila.

 

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