Degree Mills and Credentialing

Chris Oleyte Degree Mill ScammerIt seems that “Chris Oleyte, the Army Aviation and Missile Command’s Director of Readiness used a fake diploma to secure a promotion and catapulted up the chain of command.” Furthermore, “there were six other AMCOM employees touting bogus credentials at taxpayer expense.”

Further, Redstone Arsenal apparently “allows civil servants to enter data on to their resume without having to provide official transcripts. The documents also revealed AMCOM employees and supervisors are not aware of the Office of Personnel Management’s policy forbidding fake diplomas.”

This is, of course, deplorable.  Not only should these people be fired for committing fraud but serious consequences should also flow to those who let this happen.

All that said, Margaret Soltan goes too far here:

Of course it doesn’t matter whether the guy in charge of America’s missiles has an education! Chris knows that.

The cynic. Look at him in his photo, all wrapped up in the flag…

Six other people in charge of our weaponry bought their degrees alongside their buddy Oleyte — and UD, veteran of diploma milling, will predict here and now that they all graduated from the same post office box. Teamwork is what the army is about.

Absent some proof that Oleyte was bad at his job, it seems rather clear that a college education actually didn’t matter.   The fake “bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management from Trinity College and University out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota” made him competitive for promotion to GS-14 back in 2002 and, eventually, to his current job.   But he already had a long career as a manager by that point.  Frankly, an undergraduate degree isn’t going to suddenly make you smarter at that stage.   So Oleyte took a cynical — and quite possible illegal — step to get the “check in the box” that the system demanded.

The crack about the flag is a cheap shot.  That’s what official DoD photos look like.  His offense is one of integrity, not patriotism.

Finally, it’s slanderous to claim that the Army is somehow in a conspiracy to commit fraud.  The problem here is one of too much trust and too little verification, not systemic abuse. Redstone Arsenal alone employs tens of thousands of people; six of them have been found to have a bogus degree.   The Army spends huge sums each year sending people to legitimate universities to get legitimate degrees and operates numerous colleges and universities of its own as part of a systemic program of continuing education for its leaders.   Let’s not condemn them for a few bad apples.

It’s true, though, that the Army (and the federal government, generally) pays too little attention to the actual value of degrees, treating them as mere checks in the box.   That mentality no doubt encourages the likes of Oleyte into thinking they’re doing no harm with their fraud.

FILED UNDER: Education, Military Affairs, National Security, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Triumph says:

    Finally, it’s slanderous to claim that the Army is somehow in a conspiracy to commit fraud. The problem here is one of too much trust and too little verification, not systemic abuse.

    Well, it starts at the top.

    Obama is still ducking questions about his forged birth certificate.

    In order to regain the confidence of the country, Obama needs to step down until his true birth certificate is found.

    And when it is found that the certificate was issued by a foreign country he should step down as commander in chief immediately.

    Oleyte is no different than his Commander-in-Chief–cheating his way up the ladder while actual Americans put in the work.

  2. Maggie Mama says:

    We can go back to that “old time” argument that his lying leaves him open to blackmail and/or extortion, which could easily jeopardize our national security because of his vulnerability.

    It is important to recognize that trust is a major component in any military position whether held by military personnel or by civilians.

    If he lies so easily, how hard would it be for him to continue that pattern of deceit?

  3. 11B40 says:


    Kind of makes one miss the old Professional and Administrative Careers Examination (PACE) doesn’t it. But that racist anachronism has found its place at the bottom of the affirmative action/diversity dustbin.