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USNA Superintendent Vice Admiral Michael Miller

Apr 28, 2011 05:38PM ● By Anonymous

A native of North Dakota, Miller attended the academy and was commissioned in 1974. His naval service has included tours worldwide, many as a commanding officer. His personal decorations are also many and include Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit (6 awards), the Bronze Star, three Air Medals, and the Meritorious Service Medal (3 awards), among others. He spoke with a roundtable of reporters this past winter, discussing current topics relevant to the midshipmen experience and his leadership role at the Annapolis-based military academy.


What has impressed you upon your arrival to the Academy?

“I find a very resilient, tremendously thorough academic environment, great professors, and incredible students. And I’m full speed ahead as we move into the 21st century. I started with a focus on honor and how we administer that; how we expect midshipmen to live their lives. It’s more than that of course; it’s about their service and the characteristics needed to be an effective leader.

“I’m also very impressed with the faculty. We’re 63 percent civilian faculty, 37 percent military. And I emphasize to them this honor, the significance of building epical leaders of character, which is what the Naval Academy is all about.”

With regards to cyber curriculum and a new educational facility, what is your position?

“I’m pressing ahead with the development of a cyber curriculum. As we press further into this maritime century there must be an equal focus on the challenges of tomorrow, which I think will come in the form of cyber warfare.

“I’d like to put [the new cyber curriculum building] between Alumni Hall and Rickover Hall. That’s an important part of my tenure here, to get this project moving forward. We need to have a building that enables the midshipmen to examine the possibilities and ramifications of cyber [warfare]. There is no doubt of the need for this facility.”

Please explain your role with the academy’s finances and investigations?

“When I arrived, it was during the week of the [Office of the Naval Inspector General's] report and I looked at where we were. Not surprisingly, at an institution that is historical like the Naval Academy, there is always room for refurbishment of business practices.

“Some things that were brought into question [by the report] were gift funds and non-appropriated funds; money that is either donated or raised through various functions at the academy. Was the academy properly applying the rules to how these funds were extended? I’ve been very conservative; not much entertaining and making sure that the outreach part of my mission in done in accordance with the guidelines.

“We’re trying to build consensus and meet the expectations of everyone who is a stakeholder here; the midshipmen, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and visitors.”

Has affirmative action and varsity athlete recruitment helped or hindered the academy’s overall character?

“I think that you can have great varsity athletes and great students; and they can be diversity picks. To me, it comes down to the standards. We set high standards, especially for the current generation. We set the bar high and it’s a challenge to them. They want to clear that bar. Nobody wants to say they went to the best mediocre school in America. And there is nothing mediocre about the education at the Naval Academy.

“I think we naturally attract the best [students]. I do want to make sure we have every race, color, and creed included in the student body. That’s part of the educational experience. If you have a dynamic student body it makes for better leaders. And that’s what we’re really trying to recruit; the best ethical leaders.”

How would you justify the high cost of a Naval Academy education ($22,000 per semester)?

“This is an investment in the future. Upon graduation, we have a guaranteed pool of obligated officers that are going to command, as a solid core. It’s an immersive type of training; academics, the moral mission, a physical part of it. That’s not part of a normal curriculum. We are grooming senior leaders, preparing them for 20, 30, 40 years of service. And when you amortize that investment, you see a tremendous payback to the community. I believe firmly that this is a wise investment.”

What is your opinion of the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell”?

“It raises a lot of interesting questions, but I would offer that when we bring these young freshmen in, they raise their hands and swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, and that includes following the laws of the land. And so we will follow the law as it is made known to us. We will be dependent on the Department of Defense to establish guidelines.”

On Naval Academy traditions, particularly the Herndon Climb, which was discontinued by previous superintendent, what is your stance?

“I get a lot of questions about Herndon and not surprisingly, after 165 years, there’s a lot of tradition. I was recently looking at pictures of the academy when there was a reflecting pool. And the tradition was, at the end of the last march we made here, we’d run and jump into the reflecting pool with our uniforms on. And now there’s no pool, so that tradition is no longer.

“The Herndon Climb is a tradition that dates back to the early 1900s and it was a celebration of the end of plebe year; one of the most challenging academic experiences. Quite frankly, I haven’t made up my mind yet on [resuming] Herndon.

“The things that I want to continue are the things that have value, have meaning; that, long after we’ve had folks graduate, they can look back and say, ‘You know, I remember that day.’ There are a lot of days like that at the Naval Academy. It imprints on you so strongly and if Herndon is one of those events, then perhaps we’ll continue it.

What do you hope to accomplish during your tenure at the academy?

“Every superintendent for 165 years—and I’m the 61st—would all say the same thing; to leave the academy a better place than when we found it. There’s always going to be room for improvement. I embrace change, but I won’t do it for change’s sake.

“My goal is that in the end, that this finished product [each midshipmen], comes out as a flexible, resilient leader with the right integrity, right character, that will serve the Navy well for an unforeseen number of challenges, for an unforeseeable future.”