OPINION: Biden rejects expertise in favor of partisanship at military academies
Biden has dismissed Trump appointees to boards at West Point, the U.S. Naval Academy, and the Air Force Academy.
When faced with the threat of “step down or get fired,” Trump appointees to military service academy boards were, rightfully, defiant. Biden is rejecting expertise and destroying bipartisanship by firing these appointees. Many of them were the nation’s leading experts on matters related to the military, and all of them were appointed to terms that, by law, are supposed to last three years. The groups of people with significant influence over the service academies are more partisan and less experienced than they were just days ago.
Sean Spicer, who served on the board at the U.S. Naval Academy, fired back on his show: “I will not be submitting my resignation, and I will be joining a lawsuit to fight this.” Kellyanne Conway, a now-former board member at the Air Force Academy, tweeted In a scathing letter to the President on Twitter. It ended with, “I’m not resigning, but you should.” Former OMB director Russ Vought tweeted the resign-or-get-fired letter, writing, “No. It’s a three year term.”
It is heartening to see that the people responsible for the service academies are the sort of people who refuse to cave to petty political bullying. This is who should be in charge. What a pity that Biden sent them away, all because he hates the man who put them there.
The Boards of Visitors, as they are officially named, were little-known, at least until Wednesday, but they have long been critical advisers to the President on the status and operations of America’s service academies. The law tasks these boards with addressing “morale and discipline, the curriculum, instruction, physical equipment, fiscal affairs, academic methods, and other matters relating to the Academy.” There is virtually no aspect of student life at the service academies that is outside the Board’s purview.
The Boards function similarly to a Board of Regents or Board of Trustees, which, at the state level, are usually appointed by the governor. If a governor had ousted the people appointed by his predecessor, there would be widespread – and understandable – outrage.
What Biden has done is worse. It is his job as President to receive the reports from these Boards, and he is evidently unwilling to hear from experienced Board members, all because they were appointed by Trump. A blatantly political move like this one threatens the political neutrality of the military. The Commander in Chief should be willing to listen to people who didn’t vote for him - especially one who campaigned on the promise of unity.
What America’s future leaders are learning should concern all of us. Our national security hinges on the expertise of the people who will one day be at the helm of our military. After Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley defended teaching Critical Race Theory at West Point, the quality of education being delivered on these campuses is under new scrutiny.
Cadets and Midshipmen, like all college students, will carry with them the lessons of their college years into their future careers. If those lessons are anything less than top notch, we are all in trouble.
The Boards are comprised of people appointed by the President, Vice President, Speaker of the House, and chairs of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee. In theory, this would make for a bipartisan committee of trusted advisors and experts. In practice, that is now no longer the case.
When asked about the unprecedented move, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “I will let others evaluate whether they think Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer and others were qualified or not political to serve on these boards.”
Okay, Jen. Let’s go.
Sean Spicer is a commander the U.S. Navy Reserve. Jack Keane is a retired four-star general. H.R. McMaster is a retired lieutenant general who served in the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Douglas Macgregor is a retired colonel and a graduate of West Point. Meaghan Mobbs is a West Point graduate and an Afghanistan veteran. Former President Trump did not have to pick people with these qualifications, but he did. He also picked his trusted advisers John Coale and Kellyanne Conway, among others who are not military veterans but have built impressive careers in their fields.
It remains to be seen who will replace these board members. But coming off an abject failure in Afghanistan, the last thing the administration should be doing is politicizing the way it trains our military.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AngelaLMorabito