Cadets, Faculty Criticize USAFA General
Recently, the Colorado Springs Gazette highlighted the “leaked” results of the USAFA climate survey, which Academy superintendent Lt Gen Michael Gould had clearly said he was not going to release. As expected (and as the Academy likely expected), much ado was made of numbers indicating cadets had been subject to “unwanted proselytizing” or had been “approached” about their faith.
More disturbing, however, is the internal reaction and external response that seems to be becoming increasingly common:
[Michael] Weinstein contacted The Gazette on Tuesday after receiving an e-mailed letter from 50 cadets and staff members criticizing Gould’s stance.
The letter — which Weinstein supplied to the Gazette — said the leaked information “directly contradicts” Gould’s characterization of the campus survey.
Withholding the data, the letter said, “makes our academy look terribly guilty of trying to hide the entire truth of the matter, whatever that may be.”
“Letter” is singular, which means 50 “cadets and staff” (which may include both civilian faculty and military officers) colluded to provide a communication to an advocacy organization — who provided it to the press — criticizing their commander.
There are reasons and causes for which many may feel a desire to criticize their superiors. Indeed, there may even be moral imperatives that compel even military members to make such statements. Each person must decide individually what those conditions are, and they must be willing to accept the consequences of their intentional conduct.
The ability of a military member to criticize his direct commander is extremely limited, for obvious reasons of military command and control. Doing so could potentially be a violation of Article 89 of the UCMJ, Disrespect toward a superior commissioned officer, among others. In this case, the group criticized their commander to a private organization, who supplied that information to the press. At first blush it does not seem the communication would be authorized, but it is likely the group will be protected by their anonymity.
The incident would be serious enough if only one “group” had done it; it is extremely disheartening to think officers and/or civilian faculty members encouraged cadets to participate in the criticism of their commander over the release of survey results, particulary since their “opinion” added little to the public discourse.
Ultimately, it hardly seems the decision over whether or not to publicize survey data rises to the level of moral imperative. For Weinstein, however, it provides an opportunity to gain publicity over criticism of the military’s handling of religious issues (though that was one of several), “legitimized” by a letter from the General’s subordinates.
The outcry seems to have proven the Academy right. As the Academy leadership implied, the intent of a climate survey is to provide a commander with the information he needs to properly execute the mission and command his unit. It is not a public relations prop, which is precisely what some have tried to make of the “leaked” results.