Of truth, and of consequences

December 5, 2006

Some things I find, well, interesting. And, this is one of them. From yesterdays’ Hartford Courant, by way of Topix.com:

After an unusually brief and tumultuous tenure, the superintendent of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy is being replaced.

Rear Adm. James C. Van Sice is heading to Washington, D.C., to take on an assignment at Coast Guard headquarters. His transfer comes as a task force – formed after the high-profile court-martial of one of his cadets – continues its reviews of the policies and culture at the school under his watch. Typically, the academy’s superintendent is in place for four years before being reassigned. Van Sice has been in charge of the academy since May 2005. He’s being replaced by Rear Adm. J. Scott Burhoe, 51, who will take over during the winter break.

Coincidentally, Van Sice, 54, has become the subject of a separate investigation, the nature of which isn’t being revealed by the Coast Guard.

Cmdr. Jeff Carter, spokesman for the service, said information about Van Sice arose during the task force’s review of the academy. Members of the task force decided the information was ‘beyond the scope of their charter,’ so they forwarded the matter to the Coast Guard chief of staff, Vice Adm. Robert Papp, who had formed the task force.

Papp assigned another rear admiral, Larry Hereth, to conduct an ‘administrative investigation’ into the matter. Carter said the administrative review didn’t play into the job switch for Van Sice and that Van Sice’s new job as director of personnel management shows that his superiors still have ‘confidence he can effectively serve.’ Van Sice’s new job puts him in charge of pay, recruiting, housing and personnel policy for the entire 56,000 member Coast Guard. By the second week in January, Burhoe, who leaves a job as assistant commandant for governmental and public affairs in Washington, will be in charge of the school as it deals with the fallout from two recent sexual assault cases involving cadets. The timing of the job switch, according to a statement from Papp, is based on the expected release of the task force’s findings next month. Burhoe will lend a ‘fresh perspective’ to act on the task force’s recommendations for the school. Carter said Burhoe is somebody ‘who has not been involved in any of the issues the task force is looking at.’ It was after Van Sice took command of the 130-year-old school that an internal investigation resulted in sexual assault charges being brought against a cadet, Webster Smith.

Of some interest: Rear Admiral Van Sice is leaving the Academy well under the usual four-year tour length; Rear Admiral Van Sice is leaving in the middle of the school year, rather than the usual summer rotation time.

Something is afoot here, for sure.

Another Coast Guard blogger and pundit is certain, also, that something is afoot. Check out this blog, sometimes known as CGA Chase Hall. I’m actually not certain what the title of the blog is; it seems to change. Right now it’s titled The Full Story. Setting the Record straight. First Black Coast Guard cadets in Chase Hall. What’s more important than what the title of the blog is, is who the author is. CGA Chase Hall or The Full Story or whatever is penned by London Steverson. Who is London Steverson? Well, he’s a federal administrative law judge out in California. But that’s all that makes his point of view unique. Judge Steverson was the second Black student to be a cadet to the Coast Guard Academy.

We all have heard the story about how President Kennedy ordered the integration of the Academy. From the CG historian’s office

During his inaugural parade, President John F. Kennedy noticed that there were no African-Americans in the Coast Guard Academy cadet unit marching in the parade. He called Secretary of the Treasury Douglas Dillon that night and ordered him to admit African-Americans into the next Coast Guard Academy class. Dillon complied immediately.

That would have been January 1961… Merle James Smith came to the academy in the summer of 1962. That’s not the speediest implementation of presidential policy I’ve ever seen… 😉 Not until 1964, with Kennedy dead and buried, were there any other appointments of Blacks to the Academy. That summer, two arrived; one of those was London Steverson, who has now taken to blogging.

Judge Steverson’s blog is interesting reading. I call your attention to the current posts, where he discusses current goings-on at the Academy, and his older posts, where he discusses, in a sort-of oral-history-in-the-third-person, his life in Chase Hall and the Coast Guard. Fascinating stuff.

I also find fascinating his analysis of Admiral Thad Allen. He calls Admiral Allen. I’ll return to this assertion, but only after noting that in the same week Admiral Allen canned the Academy Superintendent and also shut down all operations on what was supposed to a jewel in the Deepwater crown. He’s not messing around. And, like Judge Steverson asserts, he speaks truth to power; I’d say he does more than that: he speaks truth, full stop.