Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Robert Heffington issued an open letter to West Point graduates earlier this week blasting the superintendent, commandant, and dean of the military academy for contributing to a “culture of permissiveness.”
The letter was subsequently posted on the website of American Military News.
Heffington told The Daily Caller he wrote the letter to the USMA Class of 1963 when several of its graduates contacted him asking how Spenser Rapone, a cadet espousing radically anti-American views, was allowed to graduate. (RELATED: Communist West Point Grad Was Reported In 2015 For Anti-American Posts)
“The Superintendent refuses to enforce admissions standards or the cadet Honor Code, the Dean refuses to enforce academic standards, and the Commandant refuses to enforce standards of conduct and discipline,” the letter charges. “The end result is a sort of malaise that pervades the entire institution.” Heffington’s eye-opening letter describes systemic problems at West Point that he says have led to a decline in honor, standards and meritocracy. The end result of said neglect, according to the lieutenant colonel, is a current “embrace of mediocrity.”
“Every fall, the Superintendent addresses the staff and faculty and lies,” he asserts. “He repeatedly states that ‘We are going to have winning sports teams without compromising our standards,’ and everyone in Robinson Auditorium knows he is lying because we routinely admit athletes with ACT scores in the mid-teens across the board.”
Heffington states that he has personally taught cadets who are “borderline illiterate.” In another section, Heffington laments what he refers to as West Point’s “nonexistent” academic standards, and takes aim at the dean:
Cadets routinely fail multiple classes and they are not separated at the end-of-semester Academic Boards. Their professors recommend “Definitely Separate,” but those recommendations are totally disregarded. I recently taught a cadet who failed four classes in one semester (including mine), in addition to several she had failed in previous semesters, and she was retained at the Academy.”
“As a result,” Heffington continues, “professors have lost hope and faith in the entire Academic Board process. It has been made clear that cadets can fail a multitude of classes and they will not be separated. Instead, when they fail (and they do to a staggering extent), the Dean simply throws them back into the mix.”
Heffington also blasts what he considers an increasing politicization of the curriculum. He points out that “an entire semester of military history was deleted from the curriculum,” but that there is an ever-growing focus on race, as well as “the narrative that America is founded solely on a history of racial oppression.”
According to the letter, cadets scornfully refer to one American history course as the “I Hate America” course.
The superintendent’s duplicity, the dean’s academic neglect, and a radical leftist shift in the curriculum are not the only problems plaguing the Academy, according to Heffington. The colonel also criticizes the Commandant of Cadets for failing to adequately enforce disciplinary standards.
Recalling an incident in which he reported a flagrant honor violation, Heffington states, “the Commandant of Cadets called my office phone and proceeded to berate me in the most vulgar and obscene language for over ten minutes because I had reported a cadet who lied to me and then asked if ‘we could just drop it.’”
Heffington says in his letter that he was “duty bound to report the cadet’s honor violation,” and that he never found out why the commandant lashed out at him. “It seemed that he was simply irritated that the institution was having to deal with the case, and that it was my fault it even existed,” Heffington comments.
The retired lieutenant colonel, in his impassioned letter, argues that a willful and deliberate lowering of standards and expectations, from the top down, has had a deleterious effect on the core values and mission of the Academy. He stresses that his criticisms are not borne out of any animosity toward West Point, but out of tough love and a desire to see it regain its integrity. As reported by the Weekly Standard, Heffington began his scathing letter by saying that “the following paragraphs come from a place of intense devotion to West Point.”
There is reason to believe that many of Heffington’s criticisms may transcend West Point entirely, applying more broadly to the current state of the military at large. Jordan B. Peterson, a professor at the University of Toronto, read Heffington’s letter on Medium. On Twitter, Peterson suggests that the lowering of standards Heffington describes is not limited to the Army.
All of this comes one week after Sen. Marco Rubio became aware of Spenser Rapone’s activism, calling the communist second lieutenant “a national security threat.” In a biting letter to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, Rubio asked for McCarthy to investigate if West Point administrators were aware of his behavior, requesting a response within 30 days. (RELATED: Rubio: Communist West Point Graduate Spenser Rapone Is A National Security Threat)
Now, proof has surfaced that Rapone’s chain of command was keenly aware of his radical anti-American “activism.” But judging by the viral praise for LTC Heffington’s open letter espoused by West Point graduates, his criticisms seem to evidence a much broader, systemic neglect of duty and standards — trickling down from some of the Army’s most senior leadership.
One recent graduate, who read Heffington’s letter, indicated that as a cadet, he sat on boards in which people were kicked out. This officer was more sympathetic to the Academy’s leadership, saying that West Point is not perfect and that some people will inevitably fall through the cracks.
Still, calls for transparency and change are growing among West Point graduates, and Heffington’s letter passed through the hands of thousands of Academy graduates before it was posted online. Todd Browne, the President and CEO of the West Point Association of Graduates, issued the following statement to West Point graduates via email:
Fellow Members of the Long Gray Line:
We’ve heard from many of you who are extremely disappointed by the stories you’ve seen related to 2LT Spenser Rapone ’16. The Superintendent has written a letter to inform the Long Gray Line of investigations being conducted by the 10th Mountain Division and USMA. While it is not the West Point Association of Graduates’ role to provide oversight or review of USMA operations or policies, it is clear that the commanders charged with this responsibility are taking action. Our graduates’ deep commitment to our alma mater and its mission is what sets us apart from other institutions and helps keep our Academy strong.
The Superintendent, Lieutenant General Robert Caslen, confronted lieutenant colonel Heffington’s letter directly in his response to USMA graduates. “Like many of you,” Caslen states in his letter, “I have also recently read Lieutenant Colonel (U.S. Army, Retired) Heffington’s open letter, criticizing the Academy leadership, to include calling us liars.”
“I do not take these allegations lightly,” Superintendent Caslen continues, “and will provide you with a response with facts addressing his allegations and then you can judge for yourself whether our graduates are serving our Nation with character imbued with the values of Duty, Honor and Country, or not.”
The Daily Caller reached out to West Point’s Public Affairs Office for comment, but did not receive comment by press time.