Tuesday, October 28, 2008

To quote the Beach Boys, be true to your school

My recent non-military justice rant about U.S. law schools disgorging about 44,000 graduates a year elicited a couple of suggestions to consolidate the three military justice schools. One of these suggestions expressly proposed consolidating them at Charlottesville.

For many reasons that I won't explore in depth now, I wouldn't want to see the various military justice schools consolidated. My fear is that a "purple" school wouldn't be purple at all, but rather would be Army Green. And while Army doctrine is fine for the Army, it isn't for the sea services. (I'll let others more knowledgeable about air power opine as to whether it's appropriate for the Air Force.)

But that said, I must concede that if there were a substantial cost savings to be realized through such a consolidation, I would probably have to swallow my Armyphobia and endorse the idea. (Not that anyone cares about my endorsement, but I do enjoy working through these thought problems.) But would consolidating the military justice schools actually result in cost savings?

In the past, I've heard proposals to consolidate all of the military justice schools at a new facility to be built at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. I would suspect that the cost of building such a new facility would far exceed any cost savings to be realized from consolidation for decades to come. And even if it could conceivably result in some net savings 30 years out, this seems like a bad time to be making a considerable up-front expenditure to realize savings decades in the future.

So the question is whether any of the current military justice schools have sufficient excess capacity to absorb the other two. And I suspect that the answer to that question is no. During my most recent visits to TJAGLCS -- the only school that could conceivably accommodate the other two -- office space seemed to be in short supply. In the annual military justice reports, perhaps I'm missing the stats for TJAGLCS and the Air Force JAG School, but I could find a breakdown for the number of basic lawyer students only in the Naval Justice School report. NJS graduated 135 students from its basic lawyer course in Fiscal Year 2007. Could TJAGLCS accommodate twice that number of additional basic lawyer students (assuming rough parity between the number of new sea service and Air Force judge advocates) in its current facility? If so, then perhaps substantial costs could be saved by consolidating the three schools at Charlottesville. (C'ville is a higher per diem area than Maxwell, but lower than Newport, so per diem considerations are likely to be a wash, at least assuming that TJALCS has sufficient billeting to accommodate all of the basic lawyer students rather than throwing them out on the local economy.) If not, then far from saving money, consolidation would probably result in substantial additional spending.

Does anyone have actual data or recent experience that would inform the answer to these questions?


Cloudesley Shovell said...

I must sheepishly admit that my comment about consolidating at Charlottesville came because I was fully engaged in a rant, and not the product of reasoned analysis.

Cloudesley's never even been to Charlottesville. It doesn't necessarily have to be there.

That being said, I think there could be significant cost savings. Simple things like staff quotas to ensure one service does not dominate, and rotating dept head, CO, and XO billets between services can go a long way toward avoiding domination by one service.

The Navy and Air Force have had consolidated aviation training squadrons in Pensacola for years. If aviators can learn to play together, so surely can the lawyers.

Anonymous said...

Make the commandant of the consolidated school a one-star. Rotate it between the services every three years.

Anonymous said...

I respectfully dissent from any suggestion of grade inflation.

It's just a service school for JAGs. If an O-6 is enough to command an aircraft carrier, it's plenty for a justice school.

Anonymous said...

Concur with grade deflater. I'm still trying to figure out why the Judge Advocates General are now 3-stars. An 0-6 can run a crew of over 5000 aboard an aircraft carrier, but it takes a 3-star to manage 300 lawyers? EGAD!!!

Anonymous said...

Plus, what do you do with the one star once they've rotated out ot the billet? As a former NJS instructor I was assigned to do a white paper in 1994 on this and I had a file 5 inches thick of previous point papers and presentations on this matter. I personally see some utility in a joint school I only post this comment to show that this topic has been, is and probably always will be a topic of discussion amongst the leadership of all JAG schools.

Cully Stimson said...

Dwight, there has been an on-again, off-again discussion at senior levels across the service JAGs about whether to consolidate the JAG schools.

There are a lot of factors involved; cost (and potential cost savings) being one of many important factors. Other factors include, but are not limited to: where to locate the combined school; whether it is necessary to preserve each services’ unique legal training and culture, and if so, how to accomplish that at a joint school; whether it makes sense to consolidate individual services’ pubs, manuals, instructions, and directives; curriculum development concerns, such as how much of the course is actually purple, and how much should be dedicated to service-specific breakout sessions.

There have been informal, and formal, studies in the various services looking at these (and other) related issues. There are cost savings according to some of the studies.

Another factor that is more difficult to study, is the politics of such a consolidation. Selling the consolidation to the Hill and state delegations could prove to be challenging, even if there were demonstrable cost savings. Think BRAC.

Mike "No Man" Navarre said...

With all this studying going on, I wonder if the cost savings has already been off set

Anonymous said...

A joint school would be a bad idea, as it would send brand new Army and Air Force JAGs out to their units with shattered self-esteem and PTSD related to their constant beatdown from the Marines and Navy in the classroom and courtroom.

Better to let them slide their way into their respective organizations still clinging to the myth that they are something better than mediocre.


Dew_Process said...

I agree with Cully. The idea has been circulating since the time the AAC split from the Army to become the AF. It was a "topic" when I went to Maxwell in 1976 but, the intermal politics are just too great. No one wants to give up the billets or "cede" anything to another service. One thing that the AF did that made sense [one of few] was to consolidate all of their "professional" schools at Maxwell, eg, JAG, Command & Staff, War College etc.

While you truly could have a "joint" Basic school a la the AF-Navy aviator mode, you would still need a follow-on school for the necessary "Service" specialization. The Sea Services obviously need maritime law, for example and the other Services also have their individual specializations.

And to answer Anon 0738's question, there's a power cabal in the Pentagon of the 3 and 4 Stars, and the JAGs were getting shut out of the Ball Game. Ironically, the marginalization of the TJAGs regarding GTMO, torture, Geneva Conventions, etc., finally made it palatable to Congress - that from my 2 Star "friend" in the Pentagon.

Dave Gonzalez said...

A quick note - There is a 1 star General in command of TJAGLCS. The Dean is a Colonel. When I was a student at TJAGLCS in 2006-2007, I found it very intersting when the Air Force JAG stated the schools should not be consolidated because the Air Force teaches different things. I concede some things are different - but last I knew, there was only 1 MCM and I doubt that the Air Force teachs trial advocacy differently than TJAGLCS and NJS.

The need to teach some different subject areas could easily be handled by a service specific course of curriculum built into the basic lawyer course. NJS used to do this with the USCG - not sure if they still do.

We become more joint each day. I think it makes perfect sense to consololidate the schools. As long as another addition can be built to accomodate the need for more office space, I think the school should be in Charlottesville.

John O'Connor said...

My experience was that the instructors at NJS were dicks. Every one of them. So they can burn it down for all I care.

Anonymous said...

While I don't share the last post's sentiments about the attitude of the NJS instructors, I have found that the aptitutde and quality of their instruction is inferior to that of C-Ville. The Army instructors were actual subject matter experts, whereas the vast majority of NJS folks are just senior 0-3s, junior 0-4s filling a payback tour. Much of their knowledge is only powerpoint deep.

Perhaps consolidating the schools would cause a greater emphasis on WHO is allowed to teach.

But, with all of the renovations that have occurred in Newport, I doubt that they will be making that pitch anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

The problem with TJAGLCS is it is not on a military base so you lose the economies that NJS has aboard NAVTSA Newport w/ close proximity to a NACC, commissary, exchange, athletic facilities etc. TJAGLCs students either pay for, or the Gov pays for, this kind of support on the economy.