Some months ago, Kansas University faculty member Felix Moos visited with U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., about this country's ability to gather foreign intelligence. Both men have been concerned for many years about the weaknesses in America's security system, but the shortcomings did not grab public attention until recent years when it became increasingly apparent Uncle Sam did not know enough about what is going on in nations around the world.
Too many times, significant events would erupt in faraway places, and, too often, it was apparent Washington officials had been caught off-guard.
Unfortunately, many in the United States -- in the Pentagon, the White House, Congress and elsewhere -- thought Uncle Sam and the people of this nation could rely on high-flying spy satellites to inform America's leaders about military activities in potential trouble spots.
There were men and women on the ground who were supposed to be sensitive to developments and trends in these countries, but it became obvious there were too few of these people and, in many cases, they were not adequately trained to be knowledgeable and effective analysts.
Moos, an anthropologist by training, has traveled the world and has been a lecturer at the Navy War College, the U.S. Staff and Command College at Fort Leavenworth, and for other military audiences and has served in many advisory positions for those engaged in our nation's defense. Roberts, a former Marine, is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He has been immersed in the question of what U.S. leaders knew and didn't know prior to the 9-11 attacks, what they knew or didn't know about Saddam Hussein's weapons-building capabilities and other breakdowns in U.S. intelligence around the world.
Moos told Roberts about his idea of developing a new generation of better-trained analysts to serve this country. Moos suggested a plan to establish a program that would train students to be proficient in three, four or five languages and be well-informed about the cultural history, politics, religions and other important facets of certain parts of the world.
Roberts liked the idea and had staffers visit with Moos to learn more about the plan. Moos' credibility and knowledge were verified by many senior U.S. military and intelligence people, and Roberts eventually presented the plan to members of his Senate Intelligence Committee. A version of the plan now has been approved by both houses of Congress and is on its way to the president. The bill approves the program for a limited time, after which it will be re-examined to determine whether it needs adjustments.
The program will be integrated with the Reserve Officers' Training Corps programs that already exist on many university campuses across the country. The Moos-Roberts plan called for placing two students a year at each of 50 U.S. universities with ROTC programs for all four military branches -- Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force. The bill, as passed, placed a cap of 150 students for the program's first year.
Upon graduation, the students would serve with the Central Intelligence Agency, just as graduates of the ROTC program receive commissions to serve in the armed forces. The length of service for those in the Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program has not been announced, but it is likely to be in the range of four to five years as now required of ROTC graduates.
Those in the program would be part of the ROTC program specializing in learning how to analyze a variety of conditions and activities based on a thorough understanding and deep knowledge of particular areas of the world.
Congress has appropriated $4 million to get the program started, and this would be a bargain if the plan does, indeed, give America a new generation of well-schooled analysts who can help lessen the odds that Uncle Sam would be caught off-guard in an increasingly unstable world. Millions upon millions of people are angry or jealous of the United States, its system of government and the freedoms its people enjoy.
It is hoped KU officials will be the first to bid for the intelligence scholars program. It is a sound and long-overdue initiative, and inasmuch as Moos and Roberts are the architects of the plan, KU should be the first school designated to participate.
There are bound to be some at KU opposed to the intelligence effort. When the plan was first announced months ago, some on Mount Oread said it was wrong for the school to be involved in any project that involved training "spies." There were those who were opposed to the presence of military equipment on KU's West Campus during the Dole Institute of Politics dedication activities, and others who didn't want the school to be perceived as supportive of military operations. In fact, there was surprise and anger among some in Washington, Topeka and elsewhere when KU officials gave less-than-enthusiastic support to U.S. actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. So don't be surprised if there is opposition to the Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program.
Other universities are sure to embrace the program and will be aggressive in seeking to participate. It would be a shame, as well as an embarrassment, if KU officials were not enthusiastic and supportive of the plan and eager to have it become part of the KU ROTC program.
In the meantime, congratulations and thanks to Roberts and Moos for their vision in designing this method of further safeguarding this nation in increasingly troubled times.