Academy leader Burhoe will retire
New London- The superintendent of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy was not among the three officers selected to remain in the service as a rear admiral and will retire July 1.
A board of senior officers met recently at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., to consider the standing of six rear admirals, including Rear Adm. J. Scott Burhoe. Only three could continue in the Coast Guard.
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr. announced the list of the officers who were chosen, which was approved by the secretary of homeland security, in a service-wide message Tuesday. Burhoe is retiring after more than three decades as an officer.
The board's deliberations are not public. But Burhoe's love for the academy and his reluctance to serve elsewhere may have hurt his chances.
Burhoe said he told the vice commandant, who is also the president of the board, many times that the superintendent's job was the only one he wanted in the Coast Guard.
"It's likely that if I was sitting on that board, I could see myself making the same decision they made for all the right reasons they made that decision," Burhoe said Thursday. "I don't see this as a bad thing or anything unexpected given how long I've been here and my interest in remaining here, and I'm really looking forward to what's next."
The Coast Guard limits the number of officers who can serve as rear admirals. Less than 1 percent of career officers are promoted to flag rank, which is rear admiral and higher.
Rear admirals appear before the selection board after serving at least four years but no more than five in that rank. Half of the candidates stay in the service. The other half retire.
The statutory cap on the number of Coast Guard rear admirals is 50. Few will be promoted to vice admiral. There is only one admiral, the commandant.
"Coast Guard officers work within a military structure and our promotion system constantly renews our leadership ranks," Papp said in a statement provided to The Day. "While many fine officers will be offered the privilege of continued service, the unavoidable reality of this system is that there will be very good and honorable officers who will not be offered the opportunity for continuation in our Coast Guard."
Papp added that Burhoe has "done a superb job for our service over the past 33 years and has been an exceptional Coast Guard Academy superintendent."
He cited the high marks the academy received during the recent re-accreditation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the school's first-place ranking in U.S. News and World Report's baccalaureate colleges (north) category as a testament to Burhoe's efforts and those of the staff and faculty he leads.
The campus was still reeling from the first court-martial of a cadet on sexual assault charges when Burhoe, now 56, became the superintendent in January 2007. Burhoe said it was a time to renew the school's focus on its mission of developing leaders of character.
"There was not necessarily a unity of effort," he said, and that this unity "is here today."
He encountered challenges along the way. Early in his tenure, nooses were left in a cadet's belongings and in a staff member's office. More recently, the women's basketball coach committed suicide on campus after admitting to embezzling funds from the school's Athletic Association.
Burhoe said these negative events, which he tries not to dwell on, have the potential to happen anywhere. The academy has since become more inclusive and additional controls were added to the Athletic Association fund, he said.
Some in Congress have attempted to bring the admissions process in line with those of the other service academies to increase diversity. Twenty-four percent of the class of 2014, or 69 students, are from racial and ethnic minority groups, just shy of Burhoe's goal of between 25 and 30 percent.
Burhoe said he has felt pressure but not criticism.
"I was putting more pressure on myself than anybody from outside," he said.
Lately Burhoe has been out in the community, answering questions about the Coast Guard's interest in purchasing a portion of Riverside Park to expand the academy's campus. He hopes his departure will not affect the negotiations. New London Mayor Rob Pero said it should not.
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District and a member of the academy's Board of Visitors, praised the way Burhoe has handled the diversity issue and increased the academy's presence in New London.
"I think his efforts will be viewed very kindly by history," he said.
Burhoe would like to lead a small college or one of the military preparatory schools students attend prior to going to one of the service academies, or possibly pursue a doctorate in education.
"Education is the key to moving the country forward," he said, "and I want to continue to be involved in it."
Burhoe has served in a variety of operational and staff assignments, including being the Coast Guard's director of governmental and public affairs and commanding officer of Training Center Yorktown in Virginia.
From 1996 to 1998, Burhoe also helped to create the Leadership Development Center at the academy and to bring the Officer Candidate School to fruition. He graduated from Officer Candidate School in 1977 and was the first OCS graduate to run the academy.
The change of command ceremony will be in June, with the Coast Guard most likely naming his replacement sometime this fall. Burhoe said he feels honored to have had a long career in the Coast Guard, culminating in his dream job at the academy.