The new president of the Boy Scouts of America plans to reverse the trend of declining membership and improve safety programs as the organization emerges from bankruptcy following a sexual abuse scandal.
Roger Krone, a retired businessman and Eagle Scout, was named Friday as the new chief executive of the 113-year-old youth organization, replacing the retiring Roger Mosby as the top administrator.
A federal judge in March upheld the $2.4 billion bankruptcy plan for the Irving, Texas-based organization, which allowed it to keep operating while compensating more than 80,000 men who filed claims saying they were sexually abused while in scouting. The trust recently began paying claimants who elected an expedited amount of $3,500, the organization said in an email to The Associated Press. Others must complete questionnaires and submit supporting documentation, and only a few payments have been made in that process.
Some local Boy Scout councils have sold about 15 properties to satisfy their trust obligations, the email said.
“Scouting is safer today than it ever has been,” Krone told AP by telephone from his home in Annapolis, Maryland. Measures previously taken to assure parents their children are safe include training for adults and making sure a Scout is never alone with only one adult.
“And under my leadership, we will continue to evolve and improve our program so that we have the safest youth program that we can possibly have,” he said.
Krone recently retired as president of Leidos, a $15 billion defense, aviation and information technology company based in Virginia. With an extensive background in engineering and aerospace, he previously served as president of the network and space systems at Boeing Co.
“I see my business experience, what I have done in corporate America, really complementing the strengths that scouting has today,” he said, adding they don’t need him to lead classes in crafts or building a fire. “They need me to align the organization post-bankruptcy and drive the roadmap to build the scouting of the future.”
Membership in the organization’s flagship Cub Scouts and Scouts fell from 1.97 million in 2019 to about 762,000 in 2021. Last year, membership was up to just over 1 million, the organization said. Finances plummeted with membership, with net revenue of $319 million in 2019 falling to nearly $188 million last year.
Among the reasons cited for the membership drop include the sexual assault allegations, competition from sports leagues, technology and video games and the pandemic.
Scouting needs to be relevant for the children of today, but Krone said the opportunity to get outdoors — to have Scouts sail a boat or paddle a canoe, go hiking, mountain climbing, rappelling or spelunking — has universal appeal.
“That means we need to meet the kids where they are,” he said. “Get them off the couch, get them away from their small screen device, get them outdoors.”
He predicts in five years, the Boy Scouts of America will be twice its current size, their high adventure camps — where they go sailing in Florida, mountain climbing in the Rockies or ziplining in West Virginia — will be expanded, and scouting will be relevant to the youth.
“There are no admission requirements,” he said. “We want everybody to participate.”
Thiessen reported from Anchorage, Alaska.