Transforming Strategic Leader Education for the 21st-Century Army


© 2001 Jeffrey D. McCausland and Gregg F. Martin

From Parameters, Autumn 2001, pp. 17-33.

Go to Autumn issue Table of Contents.

Go to Cumulative Article Index.

"It's our duty to develop soldiers and leaders who have the skills necessary to succeed today and in the future." -- General Eric K. Shinseki, Chief of Staff, US Army[1]

Four years ago in Brcko, Bosnia-Herzegovina, a US Army captain and his platoon leaders were given the mission to protect and hold a bridge, a critical terrain feature at the epicenter of the three-way ethnic conflict in Bosnia. Their mission was clearly tactical in nature: physically guard and hold the bridge; do not allow it to fall into the hands of any of the ethnic factions. Surrendering the bridge would give the side that controls it a new and distinct advantage vis-à-vis its adversaries. Failure to hold the bridge could upset the tenuous peace that had recently been established and was being enforced by NATO forces. It could put the entire peacekeeping mission in jeopardy. Destroying the bridge to prevent its capture was not an option--that would undermine the overall effort and the goal of economic reconstruction and development. The tactical mission had significant strategic implications, a situation dramatically different from that confronting junior officers even as recently as the Gulf War. If the unit didn't accomplish its assigned mission, that could lead directly to strategic failure.

The captain and his lieutenants were given a second piece of guidance that had been reinforced during weeks of pre-deployment training. They were to avoid the use of deadly force if at all possible. According to the rules of engagement, the soldiers could shoot to kill if they believed their lives were in danger, but they were discouraged from being quick to shoot. The chain of command wanted to avoid a shooting incident, fearing that broadcast images of dead or injured civilians shot by NATO peacekeepers could undermine the fragile political and public support for SFOR's mission. The officers were also told to avoid US casualties. The American public would not tolerate another Somalia or Beirut, and so a platoon of dead GIs could also lead directly to strategic failure.

Imagine what the platoon leaders must have thought, then, when the unit came under assault by ethnic Serbs. A mob of civilians--many of them women and elderly men--gathered and marched on the position, trying to force the American soldiers aside. The confrontation became violent. The mob began to hurl rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails, and other debris at the soldiers in an attempt to take over the bridge. Incited by ringleaders in the rear of the crowd, the mob next attacked the Americans by swinging long boards that had spikes driven through the ends. The Serbs were able to swing the boards over the rows of protective concertina wire and injure the American defenders. The platoon leaders called urgently for reinforcements, and the soldiers did all they could to hold the bridge without shooting the attacking Serbs. But no reinforcements could arrive in time, the violence continued to escalate, and the American position became more tenuous. The young officers had to decide whether to fire on the attacking civilians, withdraw from the bridge, or continue to hold while risking serious injury or death to their soldiers.[2] What should they do?

More important from an institutional perspective, what had the Army done to prepare the officers for this situation? What did "right" look like? Were these officers making a tactical, operational, or strategic decision? Were they in reality making all three?

In numerous situations in the post-Cold War strategic environment--from the Balkans to Haiti, from Mogadishu to Los Angeles--American military forces at the lowest tactical levels have and will continue to make potentially strategic-level decisions as they carry out increasingly complex missions in a significantly expanded professional jurisdiction. In addition to traditional warfighting, Army leaders from top to bottom must be able to deal with the increased political and cultural complexities of peace operations, stability and support operations, humanitarian interventions, forward presence and engagement, homeland defense, and more. Our young officers are routinely thrust into volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous situations in which more is demanded of them in terms of intellect, initiative, and leadership than was normally seen during the Cold War.

The same is true for senior leaders. The essence of the military role at the strategic level is to advise civilian authorities on the measured application of violence in the pursuit of national goals and objectives. As a result, lieutenant colonels, colonels, and general officers must operate in a more complex task environment than during the Cold War. In addition to conventional warfare and nuclear strategy (which is scarcely studied any more), senior officers must deal with complex transnational threats that include peace support operations, weapons proliferation, drug trafficking, military assistance to civilian authorities, and cyber-terrorism. As General Eric Shinseki, Chief of Staff of the Army, observed of his command in Bosnia, "It's the most difficult leadership experience I have ever had. Nothing quite prepares you for this."[3]

Indeed, what do we need to do to prepare our Army's leaders "for this"? How can we provide the requisite education and strategic decisionmaking competencies to successfully accomplish these missions? Given its expanded jurisdiction, what should the Army as a profession be doing in terms of education, ethics, oversight, and credentialing? Has the Army's jurisdiction outrun its educational system? Have they become decoupled? And if so, how do we reconnect the two? As our Army transforms to meet emerging security challenges, and we ponder new weaponry, formations, doctrine, and training, it is imperative we also examine our approach to educating our officers, our profession's "change agents."[4]

The new security environment requires that the Army's officer education system also be transformed to meet the demands of its expanded professional jurisdiction. First and foremost, the professional Army officer must of course be firmly grounded in the fundamentals of tactics, technology, and leadership. These are clearly the basics. But integrated into officer development we also need a more holistic educational approach that imbues a notion of "lifelong learning" to the profession. Officers will need to have a better understanding of basic strategic concepts earlier in their careers, with a continuing emphasis on that as a component of an officer's education throughout his or her career. This will provide officers a strong intellectual foundation, a solid grasp of the tools of the strategic trade, and two decades of real-world experience when they arrive at the senior service college level. This model would transform the senior service college into a capstone in strategic education, as opposed to the start point. It would establish a glide-path for officers' strategic growth, gradually increasing the portion of strategic education from pre-commissioning training through the Army War College and beyond.

This article will briefly review the "new professionalism" concept and examine the Army's current approach to officer education. It will then examine briefly the emerging challenges of the strategic environment that necessitate this change and the adequacy of the current system. It will conclude with recommendations to bridge the gap between the Army's professional jurisdiction (what our officers are being required to do) and the level of professional knowledge they have to apply to their work.

This is a daunting requirement in many ways. One expert suggested it is like trying to prepare someone now for the Olympic games in 10 or 20 years when you do not know what the events will be. Still, the history of the past decade provides clear insights into the types of missions the Army will be called on to perform. The immediate future will continue to look a lot like the past decade, and the Army should expect and plan for the types of missions it has assumed since the end of the Cold War to continue, if not increase.

The New Professionalism

According to sociologist Andrew Abbott, "professions are somewhat exclusive groups of individuals applying somewhat abstract knowledge to particular cases."[5] He postulates that the evolution of and interrelationships among professions are determined by how a profession controls its required knowledge and skills. "Practical skill grows out of an abstract system of knowledge, and control of the occupation lies in control of the abstractions that generate the practical techniques."[6] He argues that unless a knowledge system is governed by abstractions, it cannot redefine its problems and tasks, nor can it defend its turf from competitors or seize new tasks that it might desire. Abstract knowledge is what enables professions to survive in the competitive "system of professions." This knowledge system and its attendant degree of abstraction "are the ultimate currency of competition between professions."[7]

Obviously, professions demand a precise system of higher education that not only allows for the professional to master the appropriate body of abstract knowledge but also evolves as the requirements of the profession grow and new improvements and techniques are adopted. In explaining the rise and fall of various professions over time, Abbott posits that the key variable can be traced to "the power of the professions' knowledge systems, their abstracting ability to define old problems in new ways." In other words, abstraction of professional knowledge is what enables a profession to survive and flourish.[8]

It is in the workplace, at the point of effort, that the complexity of the profession has its effect. If there is too much work, as some argue is the case for the Army today in the new security environment, then nonprofessionals will typically move into the void to do the required work. When this happens, jurisdictional boundaries between professions tend to blur or disappear.[9] This is happening today to a degree in the arena of peace operations and military operations other than war. Government agencies, non-governmental organizations, private contractors, other military services, and coalitions of these actors are competing and participating to varying degrees in these different operations. To the extent that a profession achieves jurisdiction over a new task, it does so at the potential risk of weakening its other jurisdictions.[10] Viewed through Abbott's theoretical lens, it is clear that the Army's preference for its warfighting role vis-à-vis the newer non-warfighting missions that have been thrust upon it reflects a fear that focusing on the new will dilute and weaken its professional expertise in what it considers its core function, high-intensity conventional warfare. This is not only an issue of the execution of such missions but is also a question of providing appropriate recommendations on how military forces can contribute to what are considered "non-traditional" missions.

The changed security environment has disrupted the Army's professional equilibrium. The Army has been ordered to perform a significant array of new tasks while simultaneously reducing its budget and personnel levels. This has occurred without any coherent analysis or discussion of the costs and requirements of this expanded jurisdiction. The Army has clung to what it perceives as its core professional function--high-intensity conventional warfare--while actively engaging in a wide variety of new missions. Certain tasks have been jettisoned during this change in orientation. The Army no longer has the nuclear mission, which required significant resources throughout the Cold War, and the associated analysis of nuclear operations, strategy, and deterrence has disappeared from the Army education system. Still, as Don Snider and others have explained, all of this has come at a great cost to the profession.[11]

With such a major shift of effort and expansion of the Army's professional jurisdiction, one might expect to see a corresponding shift and expansion of its professional knowledge base and in its practical application of that expert knowledge to its new missions.[12] It is not the purpose of this article to advocate whether the expanded jurisdiction is good or bad. Rather, it is to argue that the Army should expand the base of professional knowledge that it imparts to its officer corps in order to close the gap between knowledge and expected performance.

The Army's Approach to Officer Professional Military Education

Military operations are divided into three levels of warfare--tactical, operational, and strategic. Figure 1, below, depicts these levels, the focus of each, and the associated schooling that an American Army officer undergoes in preparation to perform his or her professional tasks.

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Figure 1. Levels of War and Associated Schooling.

This approach is based on a Cold War paradigm in which the officer normally underwent a rigorous pre-commissioning undergraduate education at the military academy or a civilian university, followed by roughly 20 years of training in his basic branch (as a staff officer and commander), prior to the final period of intensive education at a senior service college. The school system prepares an officer for success at the tactical and operational levels and to serve in positions of a strategic nature at the rank of lieutenant colonel and above. Inherent in this structure, however, were two implicit assumptions. First, officers would not serve in positions calling for them to make decisions or provide advice at a level they had not yet been schooled for. Second, the training and experience officers received at each level provided an adequate basis for advancement to the next level, where they would receive additional schooling, as they progressed throughout their careers.

Throughout the Cold War an officer's transition from the tactical and operational to the strategic level was not necessarily an easy one, but it was facilitated by the relatively simple nature of American strategy during that era. This strategy could literally be made into a bumper sticker--Deterrence and Containment--which were the desired end-states of US strategy. Today our strategic end-states are less clear, and consequently the intellectual transition from the tactical and operational levels to the strategic level is much more complex.

Some may take exception with this description based on the fact that the Army has frequently used the words "training" and "education" interchangeably. They are not the same, however, and there is a significant qualitative difference. While training is more concerned with teaching what to think and what the answers ought to be, education is all about teaching how to think and what the questions ought to be. "Training is focused on the development and performance of specific tasks or skills, and education is oriented toward more generalized and abstract knowledge that may or may not be tied to specific tasks or action."[13]

Training is most frequently used when the goal is to prepare a leader or an organization to execute specified tasks. It often includes repetition of task, not unlike an athletic team learning to execute plays. Finally, it is normally the preferred method of learning when the goal is to perform operations in which success, failure, and completion can be clearly measured. Education has more to do with how to think about problems and how to deal with those things that may not lend themselves to outright solutions. It is a matter of intellect, thought, indirect leadership, advice, and consensus-building.

Organizations normally train for a mission. They are often given a specific mission or deployment and allowed time to focus their training and preparation efforts on that precise task. This is particularly true when dealing with tactical or operational missions. In strategic positions, however, officers are expected to be prepared from the outset with a foundation of abstract professional knowledge that they can expertly apply to a specific situation. This strategic preparation is primarily a function of education--especially in history, politics, economics, regional and cultural studies, ethics, and security affairs.

The New Challenge to Educate Leaders

The new security environment has changed the relationship between the levels of war in ways that must be considered when determining an effective way to educate officers for the future. First, as described at the beginning of this article, today's young officer is much more likely to be confronted by decisions that may have operational or even strategic consequences than were his Cold War predecessors. Today's missions in places such as Bosnia or Kosovo are more politically and culturally complex than were most Cold War missions.

Second, while the student at the senior service colleges in the 1980s could grasp the essence of American national security strategy with an understanding of deterrence and containment, the same is certainly not true in the year 2001. No few words can adequately convey the complex nature of the international environment we confront. The senior officer of today must acquire a much more sophisticated understanding of the integration of all of the elements of national power (military, diplomatic, economic, and informational) in the pursuit of national objectives. Again, this is due to the Army's expanded professional jurisdiction, in which its officers are now required to provide advice and perform more tasks in an increasingly complex environment.

In The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Thomas Friedman argues that "globalization" has replaced the Cold War as the new defining international system.[14] And, he writes, "The globalization system, unlike the Cold War system, is not frozen, but a dynamic ongoing process."[15] He argues that "if the Cold War were a sport, it would be sumo wrestling." Quoting Professor Michael Mandelbaum, "It would be two big fat guys in a ring, with all sorts of posturing and rituals and stomping of feet, but actually very little contact, until the end of the match, when there is a brief moment of shoving and the loser gets pushed out of the ring, but nobody gets killed." Globalization, by contrast, "would be the 100-meter dash, over and over and over. And no matter how many times you win, you have to race again the next day. And if you lose by just one-hundredth of a second, it can be as if you lost by an hour."[16]

Our strategy of containment has been replaced by a strategy of engagement internationally which has been coupled with increasing demands for the military to become involved in domestic emergencies. This requires more articulate explanations by military professionals on how to use military forces to shape, respond, and prepare in this new environment. Success in such operations may be better defined in terms of conflict prevention or resolution as opposed to clear victory. Officers must be able to articulate clearly what military forces can and cannot do in the pursuit of national objectives in a particular situation. This application of abstract expert knowledge to a specific situation is the essence of our profession.

Consequently, we must consider how we educate and develop officers to deal with this level of complexity. In reality, by the time an officer achieves general officer rank or is asked to serve in senior positions on the Army staff, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Office of the Secretary of Defense, or the National Security Council, he or she may have to move beyond the circles shown in Figure 1 to achieve some understanding of grand strategy or the full integration of the nation's military, economic, and diplomatic or political instruments of power. This may require us to look at the relationship between officer "training" and "education" in a different way.

Figure 2, below, illustrates the differences in training and education as well as the change in emphasis during an officer's career.

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Figure 2. Training and educational development during a career.

Obviously, the initial portion of an officer's development must and should focus on training, with the component characteristics of physical strength, courage, direct leadership, and so forth. As an officer progresses, the educational demands of the profession grow and the intellectual component increases. Currently the cross-over point for an officer is probably when he completes the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth.

Civil War history may provide a useful metaphor in our analysis. During that conflict, corps commanders could exercise direct leadership in coordinating and controlling a well-defined set of military and technical skills at the tactical level of war for their units. They could see, understand, and directly control everything that happened in their corps area of operations. If one goes to the Gettysburg battlefield and stands at the statue of General Lee, where Pickett's charge began, the open field visible to the left and right is essentially the frontage a corps occupied. A corps commander essentially operated at the top of a professional comfort zone in which he had grown up and developed expertise since his time as an academy cadet.

The history of that war is replete, however, with commanders who were successful at the corps level but failed when they advanced to army command. The problem was that army command removed them from their comfort zone and placed them in a task environment for which they were not professionally prepared. They could no longer see, understand, or directly control everything in their expanded area of operations due to the increased size of the formation and dispersion on the battlefield. Instead they had to develop a picture of what was happening based on imperfect and often incomplete information gathered from others. Furthermore, as army commanders they were more involved in the civil-military relationships emanating from Washington.

Leadership and control were now at the indirect level, and the application of military force had migrated to the operational level of war. The army-level commander required a different set of professional skills to be successful in an expanded and more complex jurisdiction--skills that he did not have, and an environment for which the Army had not prepared him. This shift in required professional expertise from direct to indirect leadership is tied to the difference between training and education. Examples abound on both sides, from Generals Hooker and Burnside in the Union Army, to Generals Hood, Longstreet, and Early who fought for the Confederacy. These men were all outstanding direct leaders who achieved excellent results when they led formations that were appropriate for their direct-level leadership skills, but who were relatively ineffective when placed in command of larger formations that required indirect-level leadership.[17]

This historical analysis, when considered within today's strategic context, suggests that our traditional model of training and educating officers should be transformed to meet the requirements of today's security environment. In today's warfighting arena, a lieutenant colonel in command of a battalion task force must lead at the indirect level as well as the direct, given the time and distance factors and weapon ranges in modern ground combat.[18] Like their predecessors in the Civil War, those who cannot adapt to this level of leadership will be ineffective. Thus, for all the missions our officers must perform--from warfighting to peacekeeping--waiting until the 20-year point in an officer's career and then trying to transform officers from tacticians and operators to strategists during ten months at a senior service college may simply be too little, too late, if we expect our officers to render the professional services that the nation now requires. In the "transformed" Army that is envisioned, this will become increasingly difficult as officers not only are involved in more complex positions on staffs but as enhanced brigades assume missions and frontages that are now appropriate for divisions or even corps.

The technological advances of the revolution in military affairs also complicate as well as encourage change in the educational development of officers. Commanders of the future may be able to achieve total "situational awareness," but this could present two dangers. First, the ability of the strategic leader to view, communicate, and effect what subordinate commanders are doing may draw them down into the details of tactical and operational decisionmaking. From a professional perspective, this runs counter to our stated doctrine and preference for devolving power and authority to lower levels, then trusting subordinate commanders to execute the mission. Such behavior on the part of strategic leaders also contributes to morale problems and the decline in professionalism that many authors have described.

The second danger is that future commanders may also be attracted to the notion that if they delay decisions, they may receive the final piece of intelligence that will provide a complete picture. Obviously, this ignores the basic fact that delay is a choice that may have serious consequences, particularly at the strategic level. It further encourages a conservative approach to decisionmaking and a zero-defects mentality. This focus on zero defects and micromanagement is already having a corrosive effect upon the officer corps. It has been identified in studies of junior officer retention as what officers dislike most about the profession and is a leading reason cited for their departure before retirement. An educational program that properly develops an officer will serve to dampen these tendencies and encourage officers to both master technology and devolve control to the lowest possible level.

Ways to Bridge the Jurisdiction-Knowledge Gap

The transformation of the Army demands a change in our educational approach and philosophy. The first element of this may be for the Army to recognize that conflicts such as Kosovo, Bosnia, Somalia, and Haiti are not unique, but rather are the types of conflicts that we will be engaging in for a significant period of time. Eliot Cohen groups these types of missions together under the label of "Policing the Empire," and recommends that the Army get used to them and prepare to meet them for the foreseeable future. They are simply part of our current global security responsibilities.

Our era may be similar to the period from the end of the Civil War until World War I, when the American Army was confronted with constabulary-type operations on the frontier, a minor war with Spain, the insurrection in the Philippines, and an expedition into Mexico to chase Pancho Villa. Thus it was more than 50 years from the end of the last major war (the Civil War) until our entry into the next (World War I). Although the Army argues that "fighting and winning the nation's wars" is its raison d'être, there is growing recognition and acceptance that the non-warfighting missions are probably here to stay.

This is not all bad--such missions provide excellent opportunities for the experiential development of our officer corps. Junior officers who have served in recent operations such as Kosovo and Bosnia have achieved a wealth of experience in joint, combined, and interagency operations far exceeding that of most lieutenants and captains during the Cold War. Unlike the unsuccessful Civil War generals who were pulled out of their comfort zone in corps command and did not adapt to the more complex world of indirect leadership at the army level, many of today's junior officers have survived and even flourished in the Army's new roles. At a young age, many of these officers have dealt successfully with the new missions. They are hungry for the abstract knowledge that might have helped them in performing these missions, and which they know they will need as they advance in the profession. They also want to ensure that their successors have the knowledge base that they lacked.

The pressure of cascading responsibility, coupled with jurisdictional expansion, requires careful examination. As a result, the Army should consider a more holistic approach to officer education and professionalism, as was indicated in Figure 2. An officer's training requirements decrease as he rises in rank, while his corresponding education requirements increase. What is needed is more than just getting officers to think at the strategic level of war and politics, but educating officers to think broadly and contextually, and providing them a wider and deeper way of seeing the world. This is not an either/or proposition; rather, it suggests a greater fusion between training and education across the officer's career.

Industry in the United States has already made this determination in several ways. Successful businesses consider that the "learning organization" requires organizational learning in addition to traditional training. Organizational learning is a set of processes and structures to help people create new knowledge, share their understanding, and continuously improve themselves and the results of their enterprises. It is not so much a program as it is a philosophy that the leadership of the organization adopts.[19]

In similar fashion, a study on Joint Professional Military Education in 1999 found that the regional commanders-in-chief (CINCs) believe officers need to be exposed to joint matters earlier in their career.[20] This suggests a requirement for continuous and gradually increasing intellectual development over the course of an Army officer's career. To successfully grow strategic leaders for its new jurisdiction, the Army cannot wait until the 20-year point in its officers' careers to educate them in security studies. That should be a part of the professional military education program from one's pre-commissioning education, building continuously at each formal school, during unit Officer Professional Development, and through continuing education. The senior service college experience can then become a capstone program in advanced strategic studies as opposed to an introduction to strategy. Perhaps most important is the need to imbue in the profession the requirement for life-long learning.

The technology of distance learning offers a tremendous opportunity to assist in making this educational concept a reality. This method must be fully explored and used in innovative ways. Examples for consideration include tying the Officer Professional Development program into distance technology, and requiring a program of continuing education analogous to that found in other professions like medicine. Distance technology might be used to integrate strategic education into already existing courses such as the Officers Basic Course, the Captains Career Course, the Combined Arms Services Staff School, and the Command and General Staff College. It could also be useful in assisting junior officers in studying core professional requirements in history, politics, philosophy, economics, culture, and geography, subjects they may have been unable to take during their undergraduate studies. It also can be used to facilitate the education of leaders at all levels prior to specific deployments, particularly in peace support operations.

OPMS 21 and the development of career fields, particularly for "strategists," are steps in the right direction. So too is the effort to recognize the importance of existing specialties such as foreign area officers. Personnel planning must also seek to better maximize assignments following special educational experiences such as fellowships for senior officers. Finally, care must be taken during the development of career fields to articulate appropriate educational requirements that must be periodically updated.

These steps should not, however, obscure the need for all officers to continue their education and develop their intellectual capacity throughout their careers. The Army will still look to the operations career field as the bedrock and its officers as the essence of the institution--and rightly so, as they will be the profession's senior leaders. But this should not be used as a reason to deprive these officers of advanced education, as they will still matriculate to positions of increasing responsibility at the strategic level.

The Army needs to explore ways to increase graduate educational opportunities for the officer corps that do not penalize officers in terms of advancement within their basic branch. Since 1980 the number of US Army officers attending advanced civil schooling has decreased dramatically. Increasing these opportunities may also encourage the retention of our best young officers.

Obviously this must still be managed within the constraints of the officer career path, and innovative methods may be required. For example, the Army may wish to consider offering an officer a leave of absence at partial pay in order for him or her to pursue an advanced degree. At the end of the leave of absence the officer would return to the Army, but join a later year group. This approach was available to officers at the end of the 19th century and would serve to expand the educational quotient of the officer corps while not penalizing those who have the real concern that graduate schooling may make them less competitive for command selection due to the fact that they missed the opportunity for key branch jobs along the way.

Another model to consider for possible wider use is a graduate program offered coincident with attendance at the advanced course. Officers would be offered the option to enroll simultaneously in a master's degree program either resident or via distance education while attending their branch advanced course. They could be allowed to remain for an additional period of time to attend graduate school full-time in order to complete the degree. The Army would pay the officers their full salary, while the officers might pay any tuition and fees that are not covered by their educational benefits. This would be a win-win situation for the officer and for the Army. The officer could earn a master's degree from a quality university, and the Army could enhance the professional knowledge base of its officer corps at a low cost in terms of both time and money.

The Army should place a higher value on education and on its officers who are educators. One easy and clear way to demonstrate this would be by increasing the value it places in educator assignments in ROTC units, at the military academy, and at the staff and war colleges. Congressman Ike Skelton frequently cites the following historical statistic: of the 34 corps commanders who led the American Army to victory in World War II, 31 had taught in the Army school system.[21] They were able to apply the professional knowledge they had developed over years of teaching into the practical business of raising a force, training troops, and leading them successfully in combat.

There is nothing like teaching and thinking deeply about strategy to develop strategic leaders for the future. Former brigade commanders who go on to flag rank would also be excellent role models and mentors for the younger officers going through any course as students. They would also have the opportunity to develop further the body of knowledge in security affairs, military strategy, and operations, and to confront the challenges of the defense-intellectual community. Consideration might also be given to providing officers at the lieutenant colonel and colonel ranks the opportunity to return to graduate schooling and complete a doctorate en route to an extended tour as an Army educator. This would not only serve to enhance the quality of the military school faculties but also encourage the retention of a larger percentage of senior experienced leaders until they reach mandatory retirement. Moreover, it would send the message that education is important and highly valued by the institution.

The following is an outline for a revised Army educational program. The key is to integrate or "nest" strategic education into the existing structure.


Basic Course

Career Course and CAS3

Command and General Staff College

Individual and Unit Officer Professional Development

Senior Service College

This educational transformation will not happen overnight. Rather, it must be part of a reformation in Army culture so that officers accept life-long learning and education as an obligation of their profession. It should become a fundamental part of the Army professional ethic. In addition, if the Army acknowledges that education is indeed valuable, then it must build time into the professional culture for officers to routinely read, write, discuss, and learn. Senior officers and Army schools should integrate higher strategic concepts into the lives and thinking of our younger officers. Strategic education should not be an add-on. It should be woven into the fabric of how our officers think, and the Army's "Be-Know-Do" model of leadership. In these simplified terms of the Army's leadership doctrine, this proposal invests earlier and more often in the "Know" and "Be" aspects of our officers, so that their ability to "Do" is enhanced both now and in the future.


During World War I, George C. Marshall was chief of operations with the US First Army in France. He taught in Army schools from 1927 to 1936. In 1939 he became the Army's Chief of Staff. Of his elevation to that position he commented:

It became clear to me at age 58, I would have to learn new tricks that were not taught in the military manuals or on the battlefield. In this position I am a political soldier and will have to put my training in rapping out orders and making snap decisions on the back burner, and have to learn the new arts of persuasion and guile. I must become an expert in a whole new set of skills.[22]

General Marshall clearly made the transition discussed throughout this article. Still, he may have had the advantage of time and a less-demanding environment in the period prior to the onset of World War II. The challenge is daunting for strategic leaders of today as they consider how to establish a better educational system for young officers, so they are prepared for a future we may know little about. They must accomplish this task during a period characterized by strategic uncertainty and increasing demands. This effort must be a subset of the larger effort to better craft a professional identity for the US Army officer of the 21st century. It clearly underscores an acceptance of the fact that continuous learning by successful adults is difficult but essential to modern organizations.

Emerging leaders who have served in Bosnia, Somalia, or Kosovo as brigade and divisional commanders may well find this change appropriate as well as necessary. The post-Cold War expansion of the Army's professional jurisdiction has created a gap between the knowledge that its officers receive during their professional military education and the professional knowledge that they need to effectively complete the missions they are being assigned in today's complex security environment. Young officers leading tactical units deployed far from higher headquarters are making decisions that have far-reaching strategic implications. Senior officers from lieutenant colonel through general are also faced with far greater complexity and intellectual challenge than in the past. The Army can and should do better in terms of educating our officers for the challenging situations and tasks they will continue to face in the years ahead. The professional military education program should require officers to receive more strategic education earlier in their careers. Greater fusion between education and training is needed that establishes a strategic education glide-path from pre-commissioning through the senior service college. This concept would replace the current stair-step model in which officers receive relatively little strategic education until roughly their 20th year of service.

As a profession, the Army's primary obligation to its soldiers and its clients is to provide its professionals with the abstract knowledge base they will need to apply to the specific situations they will face, from warfighting to peace operations. As an institution, the Army must face up to this challenge and transform strategic leader education with the same urgency and energy it is applying to developing the Objective Force. In addition to the well-trained officer we needed during the Cold War, our jurisdiction during the era of globalization requires a well-educated officer as well. Like America's strategic challenge of the 21st century, the solution to the Army's professional education challenge is a process that must be managed, not an event that will be brought to a sudden conclusion.


1. General Eric K. Shinseki, "CSA Keynote Address, AUSA Eisenhower Luncheon, 17 October 2000," available from

2. This description is derived from numerous sources, including speeches from senior Army officials, news reports, and conversations with people who were stationed in Bosnia at the time. The incident occurred on 28 August 1997; six days later American forces turned the bridge over to Bosnian Serb police. For more details, see Lee Hockstader, "U.S. Troops Pull Back from Bosnian Bridge," The Washington Post, 5 September 1997, p. A27; Tracy Wilkinson, "U.S. Troops Quietly Cede Key Bridge to Bosnian Serbs," The Los Angeles Times, 5 September 1997, p. 16; and Colin Nickerson, "Hostility on All Fronts in Bosnia: U.S. Troops Feel Wrath of Serb Hardliners," Boston Globe, 8 September 1997, p. A1.

3. Howard Olsen and John Davis, "Training U.S. Army Officers for Peace Operations--Lessons from Bosnia," United States Institute of Peace Special Report, 29 October 1999, p. 1.

4. Don Snider and Gayle L. Watkins, "The Future of Army Professionalism: A Need for Renewal and Redefinition," Parameters, 30 (Autumn 2000), 18-19.

5. Andrew Abbott, The System of Professions: An Essay on the Division of Expert Labor (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1988), p. 318.

6. Ibid., p. 8.

7. Ibid., p. 9.

8. Ibid., p. 30.

9. Ibid., p. 66.

10. Ibid., p. 91.

11. Snider and Watkins, pp. 8-9.

12. Ibid., pp. 5-6.

13. D. E. MacAllister, "Education/Training Discussion," US Army Training and Doctrine Command, 29 January 2001. See also France Belanger and Dianne H. Jordan, Evaluation and Implementation of Distance Learning: Technologies, Tools, and Techniques (Hershey, Pa.: Idea Group Publishing, 2000).

14. Thomas L. Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree (New York: Anchor Books, 2000), p. 7.

15. Ibid., pp. 8-9.

16. Ibid., p. 12.

17. This analysis is based on lectures by Major General Robert Scales, Commandant, US Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pa., during Academic Year 1999-2000, further amplified during discussions with Dr. Boone Bartholomees and Colonel Tom Dempsey, Department of National Security and Strategy, US Army War College.

18. Based on discussions with Dr. Boone Bartholomees.

19. For a good discussion of developments in industry see Daniel Goleman, "Leadership That Gets Results," Harvard Business Review, 78 (March-April 2000), 78-90.

20. US Department of Defense, Preparing the Total Force for Tomorrow's Challenges--Phase 2 Report on Course of Action Development (Washington: Military Education Division, Joint Staff, J7, August 1999).

21. John S. Brown, "The Skelton Critique: Faculty Experience in Army Senior Leaders," unpublished paper, January 2000.

22. Roderick R. Magee II, ed., Strategic Leader Primer (Carlisle Barracks, Pa.: US Army War College, 1998), p. 1.

Colonel Jeffrey D. McCausland most recently served as Dean of Academics, US Army War College, and as Director for Defense Policy and Arms Control, National Security Council Staff. He holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the Fletcher School at Tufts University. He has been a member of the faculty at the US Military Academy and the US Army War College, and was a visiting scholar at Harvard and the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He served on the Army Staff, and commanded 3d Battalion, 17th Field Artillery, during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Colonel Gregg F. Martin teaches at the US Army War College in the Department of Command, Leadership, and Management. He commanded the 5th Engineer Combat Battalion (Mechanized), has served three overseas tours, and taught American and international politics along with national security studies at West Point. A graduate of the US Military Academy, he holds master's degrees in strategic studies from both the Army and Naval War Colleges. He also attended M.I.T., earning master's degrees in civil engineering and technology policy, and a Ph.D. in engineering management and public policy.

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Reviewed 15 August 2001. Please send comments or corrections to