Best Defense

Finally, official recognition that CGSC is broken, bust and in the ditch

Best of Best Defense: Number 26 in our list of the most viewed posts of 2015. This post ran originally on September 25.



Best of Best Defense: Number 26 in our list of the most viewed posts of 2015. This post ran originally on September 25.

By Nicholas Murray
Best Defense guest columnist

After much criticism both externally and internally about the overburdening class schedule, the leadership at the Army’s Command and General Staff College called for meetings to discuss the possibility of immediately cutting hours from the Common Core of classes — that is, these are the main classes required for JPME Phase I certification.

The reason provided for this seeming change of heart by the college’s administration, was the overburdening of students by a ridiculous schedulethat has meant that many of them already are burned out. This is partly the result of far too much training in what purports to be graduate level education, and this is something that has made the situation worse.

Training is useful. It prepares students for the known. But the task of CGSC is education, which prepares students for the unknown through the development of improved critical and creative thinking. So important is this idea that the Army University White Paper of 2015 points out that “education is the most reliable strategic investment that the Army can make in the face of an uncertain future.” It also states that “preparing leaders for the complex world of tomorrow demands change today.” Well, there has been change but it is not clear it matches the intentions of the White Paper. The number of hours has again started to creep up (classes have been moved around, renamed, or reconfigured, but not removed). That this has been an ongoing issue for several years, at least, seems to have bypassed the college’s permanent administration: but that is another issue.

Now, finally, there appears to be a willingness to accept the criticisms of CGSC’s own internal Campaign Plan 2014.

Or is there? The reaction to the problem seems to be an attempt not to fix what is clearly broken, but rather to tweak the current schedule so that the students complain less. Of course, my assessment might be wrong, and the school might not cut hours– which could have a possible knock on effect JPME Phase I accreditation. But, is any of this really what we want from something called “Army University”? Surely, the university concept is a good one if CGSC is to match its Mission Statement that it “will always strive to be an educational center of excellence.” Thus this latest agonizing about overburdened students, which essentially occurs every year, would seem to indicate that CGSC still has not figured out how to match its own rhetoric and move towards becoming an educational center of excellence, let alone actually be one. As such, the Army University concept is a long way from fruition. Of course, that does not mean it cannot happen. The concept is a good one, and it behooves CGSC’s permanent leadership to make some meaningful change to embrace it. After all, their actions will speak far louder than their (or my) words.

Dr. Nicholas Murray is an associate professor in the Department of Strategy and Policy U.S. Naval War College. Previously he taught for five years at the US Army Command and Staff College. For his work there, he received the Department of the Army Commander’s Award for Civilian Service, the Army’s Superior Civilian Service Award, and he was named Educator of the Year for History in 2013. He has written on professional military education and on the evolution of warfare up to 1918. His views are his own, and they do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Navy, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

Photo credit: Air Force Historical Research Agency

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at

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