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The Hostile Takeover of the Air Force Academy


The transformation of the Air Force Academy (AFA) from a military institution to a progressive, liberal arts school has been incremental, relentless, and calculated. The goal to politicize the training and perspectives of cadets, who constitute about 20% of annual Air Force officer commissions, guarantees a source of influential officers who will apply and promote these ideas throughout their military and civilian careers. 

Scott Kirby, the United Airlines CEO and a 1989 AFA graduate, is the poster child for the type of graduate the academy’s administration strives to reproduce. He was invited as a keynote speaker at the annual National Character and Leadership Symposium that is chartered to motivate and equip participants for honorable living and effective leadership. This year’s theme, “Valuing Human Conditions, Cultures, and Societies” will feature a variety of lectures whose subjects are incongruent with the formidable challenges facing the armed forces. 

Mr. Kirby’s conduct as CEO of United Airlines and as a private citizen are at odds with the symposium’s emphasis on honorable living and effective leadership. He violated the basic human and medical rights of United employees during the Covid crisis. Under Kirby’s brash leadership, United Airlines became the first airline to mandate Covid vaccinations, a policy that ignored the protections of the Nuremberg Code and falsely declared the vaccine to be safe and effective. The Fifth Circuit Court reversed a lower court decision and stated that forcing employees to choose between receiving the vaccine or being placed on unpaid leave caused irreparable damage.

As an avid proponent of climate change and DEI policies, Mr. Kirby directed United Airlines to adopt a dubious business model to achieve a net-zero carbon policy by 2050, citing the same flimsy evidence the DOD used to justify its Plan to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Mr. Kirby installed race-based hiring quotas, stating that white male pilots were overrepresented demographically at United Airlines. He summarily dismissed merit and minimized obvious safety concerns by pledging that United Airlines will hire a new pilot staff consisting of 50% minorities or women by 2030. The action prompted critics to ridicule the policy and call for a boycott of United Airlines. 

As a father of seven children and CEO of a major company, United customers expect a level of deportment consistent with his responsibilities. Kirby’s penchant for gender fluidity while dressing and performing as a drag queen raised questions about his common sense. His antics may have been innocent but such behavior celebrates a lifestyle meant to sexualize children and damage the family unit. 

In varying degrees Mr. Kirby’s controversial views are congruent with Covid vaccine and DEI policy established by the Department of Defense (DOD). The agency decreed rigid Covid vaccine mandates enforced by punishment, instigated quotas, and conferred legitimacy on the drag queen movement by sponsoring events with children. The AFA is not an innocent bystander in this drama. Its administration has independently embraced these narratives and bears much of the responsibility for promoting policies meant to transform an inherently patriotic and non-political student body into one committed to social activism. 

In keeping with Marcuse’s tactics of marching through the institutions, the transformation of the AFA developed insidiously as activists infiltrated and corrupted its foundational principles. Undermining respect for the Honor Code, lessening academic rigor, reducing the intensity of the cadet experience as evidenced by low attrition rates, appointing activist superintendents, deans, and commandants, introducing a pervasive DEI culture, co-opting graduate associations to support radical programs sponsored by the administration rather than abiding by the wishes of the alumni, and the penchant of general officers to accept the changes as a fait accompli all contributed to the academy’s demise. 

The Cadet Honor Code—”We will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate among us anyone who does.”—separates the AFA from other institutions of higher learning and forms the bedrock of a cadet’s ethical conduct. Adhering to its demands is a difficult but attainable task, for its rewards span a lifetime. The code’s enforcement has been fraught with controversy and multiple efforts have been made to improve it. The value of the code is indisputable, and despite its imperfections, its absence leads to chaos and begs the question whether a viable academy can survive without it. 

More than a decade ago Dr. Frederick Malmstrom, USAFA Class of 1964, and Dr. R. David Mullin launched a thorough investigation into the deterioration of the Honor Code. The findings delivered a grave prognosis—one that the Academy administration sadly did not heed. Fifty years ago respect for the Code ranged from 90-100% but plunged to 70% for the classes of 2007-2010. Between 2002 and 2011, first- and fourth-class cadets were given the Defining Issues Test which ranks moral reasoning on a scale that ranges from “acting purely from self-interest” to “making moral decisions based on shared ideals and principles.”

An institution tasked with developing leaders of character would be expected to score well above average. Disappointingly, the test found no significant difference in the highest level of moral reasoning between Academy seniors and seniors at other colleges and universities. One in four members of the Class of 2010 regressed to lower levels of ethical decision-making while at the Academy.

From 2017-2018 six permanent professors, including a department chairman, resigned from the USAFA and all pointed to sweeping cultural changes at the institution. In an open letter they detail the actions of the Dean of Academics, who during their tenure was disdainful of the Honor Code and adverse to academic excellence. The dean developed academic courses of low expectations to adapt to the scholastic aptitude of intercollegiate athletes. An atmosphere of intimidation silenced full professors, as the dean transferred power and influence to civilian faculty members. The degradation of the academic experience is so complete that the professors wonder if recovery is possible.

By 2022 the AFA, according to the U.S. News and World Report’s “Best College Rankings,” ranked as the 18th best liberal arts college in the United States, demonstrating the eclipse of the STEM curriculum as the institution’s primary academic priority. The transition occurred as civilian professors and instructors expanded to 42% of the faculty—many of whom trained in the DEI hotbeds of the Ivy Leagues.

High attrition rates tend to correct for errors in the admissions process and serve as a mechanism to separate cadets who have neither the ability nor inclination to withstand four years of unrelenting pressure. Low attrition rates imply that nearly all selected applicants are qualified and motivated to succeed at the AFA, particularly in an environment where the level of intensity is diminished from historical norms. 

The current four-year graduation rate at the AFA is 86%, which greatly exceeds the 60% graduation rate of my classmates’ era. Presently, the national average of freshman completing the first year of college is about 70%, but 93% of fourth-class cadets complete the first year, a period which in the past placed extraordinary demands on one’s mental, physical, and psychologic aptitude.

In an article in the Air Force Times, newly appointed AFA Director of Admissions, Colonel Candice Pipes, called for radical changes to address perceived disparities in the Air Force. Her commentary calls for restorative justice that emphasizes identity, victimhood, and correcting inequities by the application of quotas. She dismisses or ignores merit, the primary predictor of success, in accordance with identity-focused psychologists, who assert that merit-based hiring is unfair. In her new role Colonel Pipes stands as a gatekeeper, a liminal deity, who wields immense power to politicize the applicant selection process and mold the next generation of Air Force officers. 

In the past 15 years activist superintendents accelerated the academy’s metamorphosis primarily through the implementation of DEI programs that pervade every aspect of cadet life. One equated the importance of DEI with that of academics and another claimed systemic racism existed at the academy and used it as an excuse to expedite the process, although a lawsuit by Judicial Watch revealed that the accusation was baseless

The current superintendent is a steadfast proponent of mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations and denied all religious and medical exemptions, justifying the decision by the use of obsolete data and failing to consider the high risk-to-benefit ratio among the healthy cadet cohort. Under his leadership cadets were required to attend briefings on the use of preferred pronouns, and he allowed the Brooke Owens Fellowship and Patty Grace Smith Fellowship to offer academic opportunities to cadets based on sex and race to the exclusion of white males. Academy officials repeatedly deny that DEI and CRT indoctrination occur at the AFA, but a Freedom of Information lawsuit tells a different story

CRT and DEI have become normalized at the AFA. White male cadets are subjected to racial harassment by members of the faculty, and for the most part, the insults and degradation pass without notice. The experience of White Boy #2 is an exception, when it was learned and publicized that his civilian economics instructor with connections to Cornell University referred to white males in her class by numbers since they “all look alike.” The same young man was ordered by his military training instructor, an Air Force colonel and former Commander of the AFA Preparatory School, to explain his white privilege. 

Cadets live under a system where Diversity and Inclusion Representatives are embedded in all cadet squadrons and act as political officers. This cadre reports outside the chain of command and exerts an element of control and intimidation reminiscent of the thought police found in totalitarian governments. 

Few safeguards exist to prevent ideological excesses at military academies. Politicians are unpredictable, unreliable, and by inclination more apt to intervene once the risk to their political careers is low, which is often too late to halt the process. The Academy Board of Visitors, whose task is to oversee institutional policies and procedures, serve by presidential appointment.

At the outset of the Biden Administration all previous appointments were voided and replaced by those sympathetic to the prioritization of DEI within the DOD. The remaining bulwark, the alumni’s Association of Graduates, disregarded the sentiments of the graduate community, failed to resist DEI’s investiture at the academy, and abetted the administration’s successful attempts to install DEI into the fabric of cadet life. 

The words and deeds of generals and admirals, both on active duty and retired, exert profound influence on veterans and their associated organizations. At the early stages of the military’s transformative era, when neo-Marxists dabbled and garnered small victories within the military establishment, only the most prescient observer was aware of these machinations. But the days of subtle subterfuge have passed, and only ennui, intellectual apathy, lack of courage, or sympathy can explain why so few flag officers openly have resisted Marxism’s clever euphemism, DEI. Now more than ever, America needs those who devoted their careers and lives to the service of their country to step up once again and fight this formidable enemy.

Despite the assault on the values that produce competent leaders, most cadets of all races and ethnicities do not agree with the inculcation of divisive ideologies at the AFA. DEI is viewed as a distraction that prioritizes behaviors that are antithetical to the tenets of military science. They decry the hypocrisy of generals who quibble and fail to tell the truth. 

These young men and women revolt at the notion that they are mere clones, who think the same way and judge others by superficial, irrelevant traits. Who should speak to them of honor and bravery at the AFA’s leadership conference— a woke airline CEO or the men and women who risked their lives quietly in service to the nation? 

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  • Scott Sturman

    Scott Sturman, MD, a former Air Force helicopter pilot, is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy Class of 1972, where he majored in aeronautical engineering. A member of Alpha Omega Alpha, he graduated from the University of Arizona School of Health Sciences Center and practiced medicine for 35 years until retirement. He now lives in Reno, Nevada.

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