Last week, President Joe Biden directed 18 members of military academy boards appointed in 2020 to resign or be fired, even though their three-year terms set by federal law have not concluded. President Biden removed oversight members for the taxpayer-funded military academies, even though the Trump appointees had served honorably alongside Obama-Biden Administration appointees still completing their terms.
Multiple appointees have stated that their terms have not expired and will not resign. Many have joined a lawsuit along with Members of Congress, cadets, and their family members against the Defense Department.
The administration’s decision raised concerns about politicization of the non-partisan boards which provide non-binding advice to the Defense Department, which runs military service academies for the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force. In response, White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated President Biden’s criteria was based on “whether you’re qualified to serve and whether you are aligned with the values of this administration.” Psaki continued, “I will let others evaluate” the qualifications of the appointees.
Given that question, here is some more information regarding the experience and education of a few of the appointees asked to resign:
Retired decorated Army General Jack Keane has served as advisor to President Trump, President Barack Obama, and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. He has been publicly critical of the Biden Administration regarding Afghanistan evacuations, the Russian pipeline deal, and the negative impact of teaching critical race theory on military cohesion.
Then there’s retired Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor, a West Point graduate and combat veteran of the first Gulf War. He has been praised for his willingness to re-evaluate his own decisions and for his leadership experience as a commander. Responsible Statecraft notes that his published work has had a direct impact on military readiness and said that “senior military officers quietly admit that in terms of sheer intellect, no one quite matches Macgregor.” In an interview with PBS, Macgregor explained that he challenged the military assumption that more soldiers meant maximizing successful missions, but his focus was on capability, not on the number of people. General Macgregor has been publicly critical of lowering military standards.
Has there been any oversight by the boards of advisors of the military academies? On January 30, the Defense Department suspended operations of meetings, pending a budget review. In April, Air Force Academy advisor Heidi Stirrup filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Defense, arguing that the Defense Department illegally halted meetings of advisors even though meetings are required by statute. The complaint said the Defense Department has not answered questions from advisors about a cheating scandal, cadet suicides, handling of sexual assault, viewpoint discrimination in test grades, surveillance of cadets, COVID-19 policies, and curriculum.
In June, Army veteran Senator Tom Cotton stated that he received complaints through a whistleblower website:
We’re hearing reports of plummeting morale, growing mistrust between the races and sexes where none existed just six months ago, and unexpected retirements and separations…
Civil rights groups on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum—American Civil Rights Union and the American Civil Liberties Union—have raised concerns about the Defense Department stonewalling data about cadets. So what are the Biden Administration “values” with which the White House demands alignment? Shouldn’t members of oversight boards be willing to ask the tough questions and seek reform? Transparency and accountability are values that should transcend partisanship.
It’s important to ensure the academies can best assess academics, physical aptitude, and leadership potential of their cadets through a diversity of members conducting oversight. Not only is it important for the wellbeing of each cadet, but it’s critical for the graduates who will be future military leaders charged with the responsibility to defend the United States and preserve peace and security for all Americans.