- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.
By Nicholas Murray
Best Defense guest columnist
“The only thing that we can actually guarantee is that in the future we’re going to have to have very well-developed leaders that can lead in very ambiguous situations and very challenging situations and can really pull a team together to do very difficult things with maybe not a lot of time to think about it or a lot of guidance ahead of time.” — Lt. Gen. David Perkins, speaking to a group of students at the Maneuver Captains Career Course at Fort Benning, June 25, 2013
Lt. Gen. Perkins is spot on. To create the leaders he is talking about logically requires a first-class military education system. Yet the new QDR hardly mentions it. In times of declining budgets one of the key things armed forces have done historically to enable continued success or to reform after failure, has been to focus on the education of their future leaders. This has proven time and again to be a cost-effective combat multiplier for armed forces. Indeed, the role of education is prominent in the previous two QDRs (2010 and 2006), yet it is mentioned only in passing in the current version.
Given all of the arguments of the last few years over the state of military education, it should continue to feature prominently. Yet this is not the case. The current QDR does recognize the need to develop service leaders when it states: “Above all, we will need to invest more in finding and developing leaders of consequence at every level, men and women of both competence and character.” Clearly, then, the failure to discuss the role of education in the preparation of service personnel to meet an uncertain future is an oversight (whether deliberate or not). If it was deliberate, it implies that education is not considered important to the future preparation of the services. Alternatively, it was a curious error.
So, what should the services do about this? After all, many senior service leaders have identified high quality education as a crucial component in the development of the type of critical-thinking adaptive leaders the services will almost certainly need. To that end, a thorough review is needed of the quality and output of the services’ education systems, along with an analysis of where military education fits in with the country’s national security strategy over the longer term.
To facilitate the process, this author has four main suggestions:
1) Clearly identify and describe the purpose of military education writ large.
2) Create an overarching education policy for the services as a whole, one that leaves room for the needs of the individual services.
3) Identify what programs are in place right now, or are being implemented, to address the criticisms of military education regarding its quality and the development of adaptive strategic-minded critical-thinkers.
4) Have military education monitored by an external committee who report directly to the OSD (P&R).
Once the above has been accomplished, the services will have a better grip on what needs to be done to educate its servicemen and -women to meet requirements (whatever they might be), why it needs to do them, as well as how well it is actually doing.
Dr. Nicholas Murray is an associate professor in the Department of Military History at the U.S. Army Command and Staff College. He is the current Educator of the Year for History at CGSC, and recently received the Department of the Army’s Commander’s Award for Civilian Service. His book The Rocky Road to the Great War (Potomac Books) came out last year. He recently published “The Role of Professional Military Education in Mission Command” in Joint Forces Quarterly. This article represents his own views and unless otherwise stated does not necessarily represent those of the CGSC, the U.S. Army, or the Defense Department.
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at email@example.com.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |
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Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children.| Situation Report |