The Education Of "A Modern Major General"
For my military knowledge, though I'm plucky
and adventury, Has only been brought down to the beginning of
this century; But still in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the model of a modern Major-General.
-- The Pirates Of Penzance
Over a century ago, Gilbert and Sullivan developed
a caricature of a contemporary general officer of the British service
in their operetta Pirates of Penzance. Almost three decades ago,
Colonel Donald F. Bletz of the U.S. Army War College faculty published
an article using this caricature, Major General Stanley, as a model
of what should not be the typical general officer of the future.1
Since that future is now, it is useful to examine the factors that
contribute to and influence the development of a professional military
officer, particularly an officer who has achieved general or flag
rank and so can be considered a strategic leader.
Of course, a number of factors enter into the
selection and development of such officers. This article will consider
only one-the education of potential strategic leaders. I will discuss
a bit about its antecedents and speculate about its future. In doing
this, I will restrict myself essentially to the U.S. Army. I do
this for two reasons: first, the Army is the case with which I am
most familiar; second, the recent evolution of "jointness"
in the U.S. armed forces has made career patterns and educational
requirements converge more and more. Thus, an examination of the
Army model should provide insights into problems and possibilities
in the other services as well.
Words are important both for what they mean
objectively and for how we employ them in common and specialized
usage. Some terms relating to the development of military leaders
are used at times rather loosely, and it seems important to establish
their meaning for our purposes here. First, a profession is defined
(by Webster's Third International) as "a calling requiring
specialized knowledge and often long and intensive preparation including
instruction in skills and methods as well as the scholarly principles
underlying such skills and methods, maintaining by force of organization
or concerted opinion high standards of achievement and conduct,
and committing its members to continued study and to a kind of work
which has for its prime purpose the rendering of public service."
Education means "to develop (as a person) by fostering to varying
degrees the growth and expansion of knowledge, wisdom, desirable
qualities of mind or character, physical health or general competence
especially by a course of formal study or instruction." Training,
in contrast, means "the teaching, drill, or exercise by which
the powers of mind and body are developed . . . the development
of a skill or a particular group of skills; instruction in an art,
profession, or occupation."
"Professional" and "professionalism,"
then, describe a rather narrow class of educated people who have
embraced particular ways of life, mastered specific bodies of knowledge,
and embarked upon careers-lifelong, in most cases-that make significant
and lasting contributions to the common good. Medical doctors, lawyers,
and "professed" religious immediately come to mind. However,
professionalism has become more loosely construed in the past decades
by commentators and observers who mean (aside from the obvious sense
of "paid") simply "highly skilled" or "dedicated."
In this way we refer to professional athletes, professional actors,
and professional construction workers.
A true professional of whatever vocation must
master the body of knowledge that provides intellectual and philosophical
substance to the profession, as well as the requisite training for
action. According to Webster's definition, this education and training
is a lifelong endeavor, constantly honing the ability of the professional
to perform at ever-higher levels. These characteristics accurately
describe a military officer today. The system of military education
and training of officers is designed to foster such ability and
performance. At the senior service colleges-which constitute the
culmination of the educational rather than the training aspects
of professional development-officers can find professional fulfillment
and satisfaction to the highest degree their profession offers,
short of command in combat. It is up to the senior military leadership
to ensure that this is so.
The interplay of education and training takes
place throughout a professional career, with varying relative emphasis.
Both are essential, but one often dominates, depending upon the
individual's evolution and progress in the particular profession.
Success in training is amenable to rote memorization
and practice, and knowledge and abilities thus gained are essential
to the prosecution of war. Close-order drill, disassembly of a weapon,
operation of complex electronic equipment, or the writing of a five-paragraph
field order can be learned, practiced, and tested to an established
standard. Curricula supporting such training can be outlined clearly
in terms of tasks, conditions, and standards. Objective testing,
using either a pass-fail or percentage grading system, can at the
least establish whether the student can or cannot accomplish the
task. Tactical operations at lower levels can be studied and categorized
in the same way. The Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin,
California, has developed for this kind of training an evaluation
system that is second to none. The efficiency of companies and battalions
can be assessed and compared, and lessons can be derived.
Educational attainments cannot be so easily
assessed. Papers can be graded and examinations given, but no one
can truly determine the future performance of a senior leader in
a classroom. Looking back on four years of experience as a faculty
instructor at the Army War College, I recall a number of officers
who later succeeded to senior posts, including major unified commands.
Not many of these successful strategic leaders had been "honor
students." Certainly, they were thoughtful, knowledgeable,
and active participants in seminar rooms, but few had made major
academic contributions or advanced the profession through learned
articles or books. Those who had were not always selected for rapid
advancement to senior rank.
Senior Officer Education Before The Modern
Military officers of the past were often amateurs
at heart, brought up in an area of noblesse oblige, dedicated to
military service because in their social class it was the thing
to do. Wars were fought with, by modern standards, primitive weapons.
Personal courage, stamina, and a bit of luck were part of the mix
that resulted in victory on the battlefield, and personal skill
and success in arms were essential prerequisites of a strategic
leader. Classic works recounting successes and failures in past
battles were the essential textbooks.
Gilbert and Sullivan's Major General Stanley
of the nineteenth-century British army would have had little or
no opportunity for formal professional military development. Military
schools and colleges existed but provided primarily precommissioning
education. Stanley's knowledge would have come from assimilation
and practical application, allegedly made easier by his aristocratic
heritage and association with officers of similar upbringing and
In the American military too, professional
military education in the nineteenth century depended very much
on individual motivation and study. Given geographic isolation and,
as the century progressed, stability on its land borders, the growing
republic could make do with a small army and limited naval forces.
Most of the U.S. Army was scattered in western outposts. When troubled
times arrived, it expanded by calling upon the states for militia,
officered by men chosen and characterized by bonds of friendship,
popularity, and politics rather than professional interests or abilities.
President Abraham Lincoln's difficulties with
senior commanders in the Civil War were legendary. After the reductions
following that war, the Army returned to its frontier outposts.
Officers isolated in small units at widely dispersed locations in
the West had little time for formal professional education. None
at all was provided for senior officers aspiring to high command
or staff positions.
The Navy was the first to establish a senior
service college, the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island;
education at the senior level for Army officers did not begin until
1903, with the founding of the Army War College. That college, however,
was an extension of an Army educational system that had developed,
sometimes haphazardly, over the previous hundred years, beginning
with the Military Academy at West Point, New York. Training institutions
("schools of practice") for the infantry, cavalry, and
artillery were established to meet the technical needs of the principal
branches of the Army during the nineteenth century; a smattering
of professional education through reading and lectures was provided
at these institutions. The advent of advanced military schooling
at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1881 established a sound basis for
instruction in command and staff procedures for midlevel career
It seems to have been assumed that professional
soldiers would continue their military educations privately, through
reading and observation. The foundation laid at West Point was only
that-a foundation. It was common for officers in the nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries to attend maneuvers of other nations'
armies in peacetime and to participate as observers in wartime,
learning about tactics, strategy, and strategic leadership at first
hand. For example, First Lieutenant Douglas MacArthur accompanied
his father, General Arthur MacArthur, to Japan in October 1904 to
observe the strategy, tactics, and political underpinnings of the
Russo-Japanese War. Young MacArthur later asserted that the visit
to East Asia was "to color and influence all the days of my
life."2 Even then, however, it
was becoming clear that unorganized learning and self-education
were not enough to develop a professional officer corps.
The Root Reforms and the Professional
Major changes in the Army came about after
weaknesses in planning, operations, logistics, and leadership became
evident during the war with Spain in 1898. At the beginning of the
twentieth century, Secretary of War Elihu Root spearheaded reforms
that included the establishment of a war college (at Carlisle Barracks,
Pennsylvania, in 1903) to educate officers for senior command and
staff positions. The idea was derived in part from the German kriegsakademie
and the Prussian general staff concept. However, Root's dictum that
the Army War College was founded "not to promote war but to
preserve peace" is often quoted to this day and was a particularly
American adaptation. Of the officers qualified by education and
past assignments for the general staff on the U.S. model, a number
were selected to serve for relatively short periods and then revert
to their regiments. This approach required a greater pool of educated
candidates than a system that assigned an officer once and for all
to the general staff, with periodic experience in command, as was
the Prussian practice. The American model established senior officer
education on a broad basis and created a class of senior officers,
identified at least in part by their formal military education credentials,
from which strategic leaders and senior staff officers could be
A formal education and training system, culminating
in the senior service colleges, was a necessary precursor to the
professionalization of the officer corps in the twentieth century.
Through the Root reforms, particularly as they pertained to education,
officers became professionals, earning that title through education
and practical application, and their calling embodied the same defining
characteristics as the classic professions.
The changing nature of war and the rapid technological
advances of the next century radically affected the way that military
officers were required to perform. This change, in turn, affected
the educational basis of the profession of arms. Ground commanders
evolved from the traditional "man on horseback," leading
their troops from the front, to leaders who appeared before their
troops from time to time but more than likely spent most of their
waking hours in command posts, in front at first of maps, eventually
display screens or computer monitors. Today, a crucial task for
an officer education system is to keep abreast of changing leadership
styles. Napoleon literally sat his horse on a hill overlooking the
battlefield while aides-de-camp galloped to and fro delivering messages
and orders. Bands played, and banners waved in the distance. What
must we do today, in the educational system and beyond, to compensate
for the gloom of a van, the flicker of a cathode-ray tube, the hum
of an electrical generator? With what do we replace the bands and
The wars of the twentieth century created large
army, naval, and air forces involving tens of millions of American
citizens. The association of so many Americans with the armed forces
eliminated much of the mystique that had surrounded the military
in the past and, to a degree, became an engine of reassessment and
further democratization of the military. This was institutionalized
in the late 1940s by law and regulation, resulting in removal of
many of the remaining distinctions between officers and enlisted
personnel. However, the realization that there were good reasons
for preserving a difference between the leaders and the led, particularly
on the battlefield, caused a renewed interest in what makes this
The rapid development of the officer corps
into a professional institution caught the attention of eminent
political and social scientists, who provided useful analyses of
the educational needs of the profession. Morris Janowitz and Samuel
Huntington were in the forefront of such work in the 1950s. Other
authors both in and out of uniform have continued to examine military
professionalism since that time.
One of the positive outcomes of the post-World
War II reassessment of military professionalism was the creation
of the National War College, the reconstitution of the Army Industrial
College as the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, and the reestablishment
of the Army War College after a ten-year (originally wartime) hiatus.
Today's structure of five senior service colleges, with the amalgamation
of the National War College and the Industrial College to constitute
the National Defense University, provides a remarkable and diverse
academic base for continuing professional development at the highest
levels. Each service places a different emphasis on senior service
college attendance. However, the importance of joint operations
makes such attendance essential for any aspiring officer. Arguments
among officers are still heard over the status of the National Defense
University as the premier institution, but all recognize that it
is at least primus inter pares. Recent requirements for joint service
education as a prerequisite for assignment and senior promotion
have placed greater emphasis on this aspect of professional education
even at senior service colleges not part of the National Defense
Educational Evolution at the Army War College
The development of the system of senior officer
education at the U.S. Army War College has been cataloged in detail
by Colonel Harry P. Ball in two editions of his definitive history
of that institution. The college originally vacillated between serving
as a planning adjunct to the War Department General Staff and as
a purely educational institution. In its planning role, officers
learned professional skills by actually accomplishing them, through
on-the-job training. Less time was devoted to personal study or
professional lectures. In later years, the development of war plans
ceased to be a major focus, and students followed primarily academic
The "Four Army War Colleges"
Ball identifies four distinct phases in the
growth and development of the Army War College.3
The "First War College" began with the Root reforms and
lasted until the college suspended operations for World War I. This
phase was dominated by the concept of a senior service college as
a planning resource. The "Second War College" describes
the period during the interwar years (when the Army War College
was known for a short while as the "General Staff College").
Planning for future conflicts remained important, but the academic
and educational goals began to dominate the curriculum. The college
closed again in 1941 for World War II.
The Army did not reestablish a senior service
college until 1951. During this hiatus, the National War College
was founded as the primary joint institution of higher learning.
The Cold War dominated the curriculum of this "Third War College"
for the next forty years. Earlier curricular trends continued, however,
especially that of educating generalists on a broad basis rather
than narrow military specialists. Senior reserve officers were brought
in for short courses, and for a time senior Department of the Army
civilians were provided initial orientations at the Army War College.
A nonresident program was established by which students not selected
for the regular resident course could pursue a war college diploma
by correspondence over two years, in addition to two summer sessions
of two weeks each. The resident course and what became to be known
as "distance learning" operated at the same education
level. This early experimentation with nonresident instruction provided
valuable insights into its utility and practicability on a wider
The "Fourth War College," the present
institution, developed quickly in the aftermath of the Cold War.
The curriculum has been sharpened to educate strategic military
leaders, new technologies have been employed, exercises and war
games complement seminars, and lectures have been reduced in number.
The proportion of civilian faculty has increased, and the capabilities
of the faculty to teach, guide, and evaluate have improved. In these
years the faculty developed from a group that facilitated and advised
to a truly teaching faculty. This shift was driven in part by the
educational reforms required by the Goldwater-Nichols Act in the
mid-1980s as well as by congressional concern about the education
of senior officers. The student body now includes a higher percentage
of non-Army students and a larger number of civilian U.S. government
officials, and therefore represents a more cosmopolitan and diverse
assemblage of talent. A major innovation in the late 1970s was the
enrollment of International Fellows-officers from the armed forces
of other nations-in the annual course. These changes broadened the
educational experiences and associations of the Army students as
well as contributed to knowledge about the U.S. Army and land warfare
for people who were not of the Army themselves.
The Army War College Today
The modern Army War College curriculum is the
product of thirty years of development, the impact of withdrawal
from Vietnam, the reconstruction of the ground forces that followed,
and the success achieved by this "new model army" in the
first Gulf War. The revolution in military technology that accompanied
these changes, or is at least partially responsible for them, has
been paralleled by changes in senior officer education. The Army
War College mission states this succinctly:
To prepare selected military, civilian, and
international leaders to assume strategic responsibilities in
military and national security organizations; to educate students
about the employment of land power as part of a unified, joint,
or multinational force in support of the national military strategy
pursuant to a Masters Degree in Strategic Studies; to research
operational and strategic issues; and to conduct outreach programs
that benefit the USAWC, the US Army, and the Nation.4
The operative words are "prepare,"
"educate," and "research." The preparation is
academic, social, and psychological. The education at the Army War
College is comparable to a graduate school, and research by both
faculty and students is encouraged. Emphasis is no more on purely
Army matters but on the employment of the Army "as part of
a unified, joint, or multinational force."5
For the student, completion of the program results in a diploma,
a Military Education Level 1 certification, and since recently an
advanced academic degree.6
The current curriculum supports the mission
statement with a multiphased program. A general overview phase considers
the elements of power, national strategy, national military strategy,
force structure and deployments, leadership and command, and the
world environment in which these elements exist. During this phase,
students are grouped in seminars, where social bonding takes place
as well as learning. Students prepare regional appraisals, in which
the International Fellows make a vital contribution.
Two terms of elective subjects follow in which
students may select from a wide variety of courses. These selections
are made based on interest, possible future assignment, or current
military specialty. Electives are at a graduate level and are of
proportionate rigor. Each is designed to advance the professional
education of the student. A student research program is conducted
concurrently with the elective courses-students with something to
say are encouraged to say it. Papers are examined carefully by the
faculty and are forwarded to applicable Army and Defense staff agencies
Two programwide events take place during the
ten-month course. First, students, faculty, and visitors take part
in a Strategic Crisis Exercise (SCE) for two weeks in March each
year. The purpose of the SCE is to develop strategic leaders in
two ways: by integrating and applying knowledge acquired during
the academic year, using exercises, automation, and simulations
to enhance the experiential learning process; and by pursuing mastery
of the strategic and operational art within the framework of crisis-action
planning and execution.
The second event, the Annual National Security
Seminar, provides a forum in which distinguished speakers discuss
their views on issues of importance to the nation's security and
welfare with the students, International Fellows, and faculty of
the Army War College and with invited guests from across the country.
It provides an extended opportunity for a free and candid dialogue
between the college community and a widely representative group
of American citizens, drawn from varied sectors of American life
and endeavor. Finally, the Annual National Security Seminar enables,
on one hand, representative citizens to get to know some of the
prospective leaders of their armed forces and government and, on
the other, permits officer students to understand better the society
Both of these programwide events integrate
learning and reinforce educational objectives. They are complemented
by student travel opportunities, principally a visit to New York
City during which the class is familiarized with the United Nations.
Small groups visit state and local governmental organs as well as
business enterprises to become acquainted with the operations, needs,
and relationships of these elements to national security policy.
A "staff ride" over the Gettysburg battlefield (about
thirty miles from the college) is a traditional exercise that relates
historical examples to modern strategic leadership concepts. International
Fellows are offered additional opportunities for travel in order
to become informed about the United States and its military and
The presence at Carlisle Barracks of the Military
History Institute's vast collection of documents as well as objects
of historical interest is an added bonus for professional research.
Together with the Army War College Library, it provides fertile
resources for reflection and professional development.
The Army War College curriculum has developed
in an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary manner. It has taken
thirty years to move from a course of lectures and discussion to
a varied approach to learning that includes guided seminar discussion,
electives, lectures, and major exercises. A century has elapsed
since the Root reforms began that evolution. Concurrently, a teaching
faculty has been developed to match the curriculum. Today, a Major
General Stanley would probably find no place at the U.S. Army War
Suggestions For . . .
The changes in the world since the collapse
of the Soviet Union have been dramatic, among them international
terrorism and unrest. We can expect these challenges to affect the
education of strategic leaders. The future will call for continuing
development of the senior officer education system. The evolutionary
change described above seems likely to be accelerated. Two "players"
must be particularly involved in this evolution if it is to be effective:
the Army Chief of Staff and the Commandant of the Army War College.
We all woolgather from time to time concerning
"what might have been" or "what we would do in the
same circumstances." We can never place ourselves in the actual
position of another, experiencing all the pressures and insights
that go with it, but we can still examine a problem from a leader's
viewpoint. I offer the following suggestions in that vein.
. . . The Army Chief of Staff
A periodic review of the Army War College curriculum
is now in progress. Permit this review to advance unhindered. It
is a great temptation for senior military officers to offer advice
in informal conversation, but it can be considered directive in
nature. I remember once as a battalion commander mentioning casually
to a first sergeant that I liked the color of blue in which his
battery had just painted a dayroom. Within two weeks, all the dayrooms
in the battalion were the same shade of blue.
Ensure that the location of the Army War College
and its educational independence are preserved. Over the course
of years, the college has been subordinated to various headquarters
and staff agencies. A decision was made recently to remove it from
the responsibility of the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans (G-3)
and place it under the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC); that
change becomes effective 1 October 2003. The TRADOC staff must adjust
to the difference between the concept of training and the educational
experience at the Army War College, which will be unique among the
institutions under its command. Senior commanders must ensure that
this change is not permitted to affect the education of senior officers
negatively. The college's location is important, since it is close
enough to the nation's capital for easy access but far enough away
not to be a mere adjunct of the Army Staff. These factors should
weigh heavily in any future base-closing scheme.
From time to time, commandants, higher commanders,
and the Congress have raised questions of cost, productivity, and
utility concerning senior service colleges in general and the Army
War College in particular. The Army War College is situated alone
at Carlisle Barracks, whereas the other senior service institutions
are collocated with at least one other educational or training facility.
On paper at least, this increases the per capita costs for the Army.
Further, it would seem that it would be economical to provide most
or all such education as distance learning, which has been successfully
used at the Army War College; smaller class sizes through more careful
selection and evaluation of student potential might also save money.
Amalgamation of all senior service education into one facility-or
subordinating all other senior institutions to the National Defense
University-could be another apparent cost saver. However, cost should
not be the critical factor in the future of senior officer education.
Continue to fund the International Fellows
Program at current levels. It is important that each seminar group
have at least two International Fellows from different regions of
the world. It is equally important that International Fellows be
able to make direct contributions to the curriculum and have a reasonable
facility with the English language. We need to invite not only our
friends and allies to send fellows but also nations with which we
have or might have differences in the future.
Ensure that civilian government employees who
are enrolled as students are selected not only for their own career
development but also for the contribution their expertise and backgrounds
Ensure that assignment of students to the various
senior service colleges is balanced with regard to the relative
standing of individual officers as assigned by the selection board.
From time to time in the past, at least the perception has been
that the officers on the fastest career tracks attend the National
Assign commandants with great care. The proper
combination of acknowledged leader, accomplished educator, and humane,
ethically sound soldier is difficult to find given the limited number
of general officers-but not impossible. The Army War College has
been fortunate to have had several commandants in recent years who
possess these qualities to a marked degree. The post of commandant
should never go to an individual as a reward for service in another
assignment or as a holding assignment while he or she waits for
better things. Commandants' tenure should be a minimum of three
years to provide continuity and to allow them to manage change effectively.
The system of academic reports used by the
Army is antiquated and of little use. It often is reduced to a trite,
repetitious recitation of basic facts on the curriculum, information
found in greater detail in the course curriculum pamphlet. In my
experience, little is ever said in war college academic reports
that reflects positively or adversely on the specific student; they
simply record attendance, in stock phrases drawn from other places.
Instead, a knowledgeable member of the faculty should prepare the
academic report for each officer graduate. The officer's strengths
and weaknesses in terms of aptitude for senior assignments should
be cataloged; specific, positive accomplishments should be included.7
The commandant should be required to endorse the report and make
specific comments, positive or negative, concerning aptitude for
promotion. This requires the commandant to be actively involved
with students during the academic year. It will not permit him to
spend much time on administrative matters-but that is why he has
a deputy. If the academic report is too burdensome, it should be
abolished, at least at the senior service college level.
. . . the Commandant of the Army War College
The commandant must be a leader, a tutor, and
a mentor. This is a tall order when the student body, from all sources
and in several modes of learning, approaches one thousand each year.
Thus, the commandant must be innovative, accessible, and genuinely
interested when engaged with students. He or she must also understand
the distinction between education and training, as well as the long-term
professional impact that senior service college education can have.
The commandant must be dedicated to delivering that education.
For the resident class, an approach found quite
useful in the past should be revived. Over a number of years, a
program called under several names but most recently "discussions
with the commandant" enabled him to meet during the academic
year for perhaps two hours with small groups of students at his
quarters. The commandant provided refreshments, and the agenda was
completely open. As a student, I found this event to be one of the
most stimulating of the year-long course. As a member of the faculty,
I recall that this program was among the most popular for each class.
It requires a good deal of the commandant's time, but it gives him
or her a special opportunity to serve as a role model, contribute
to the education of each student, and become aware of what each
student is thinking. Given the size of the present resident class,
this could be a tall, even unmanageable order. However, it might
be possible to share the burden with senior officers from Washington
who are amenable, or with retired general and flag officers in the
Encourage student research. Facilitate the
work of officers who have always wanted to write on a professional
topic, no matter how esoteric, but have never had the time. A listing
of topics on which research would be immediately helpful to Army
planners encourages students who are not already attached to a particular
subject. Such a list has existed, but it should be screened and
pruned to ensure that the topics are suitable for student research.
At the same time, resist attempts to employ students during their
academic year to work on "real world" issues-even important
studies, critical exercises, or crucial missions-that require answers
and decisions now. Short-term utility can have long-term cost.
The Army War College is fortunate to have both
a civilian professor of ethics and an Army chaplain on the faculty.
For a number of years there has been an ethical component in the
curriculum. On concerns ranging from just war theory to right personal
conduct and proper understanding of the ethical dimensions of strategic
leadership, future senior leaders need the opportunity to learn,
study, and reflect. The commandant must not only ensure that the
curriculum is properly developed in this regard but provide an institutional
atmosphere that supports high ethical standards. Ethical and moral
considerations must permeate studies.
The utility of distance learning has already
been raised, but there is an aspect that requires special attention.
There are five senior service colleges; it should be possible to
develop horizontal distance-learning applications-that is, in common
among the colleges-as well as vertical ones (within each college).
Attempts have already been made to link activities, particularly
exercises, of two or more war colleges. This seems a fertile area
for immediate development: lectures could be shared, seminar groups
could interact, and joint student research projects could be developed.
As the senior service colleges explore and evaluate new technologies
that enable them to export their curricula in new ways to students
not in residence, they should also accelerate exploration of how
this technology will enable them to work more closely together.
Major General Stanley Would Not Recognize
When this article was in its first drafts,
American forces were at the gates of Baghdad; the international
airport at its outskirts had just been seized by elements of the
3rd Infantry Division. The tasks assigned to ground forces in the
subsequent pacification of the country and its rehabilitation have
been controversial if not unique in our military history. Again,
strategic military leaders have been called upon to adapt as they
lead hundreds of thousands of soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen
in harm's way at the call of our elected officials. Again, the officer
corps is meeting that test masterfully.
How much the military senior education system
contributes to the effectiveness of the officer corps is extremely
hard to measure in concrete ways. But if analytical methods are
inadequate, common sense suggests that we would be hard pressed
to overestimate the importance of the senior service colleges. The
costs involved are minute compared to most other aspects of U.S.
defense expenditures. Nonetheless, the future shape of senior officer
education is unclear at this point. A cost-saving formula-one that
necessarily limits the great advantages of the present system in
terms of development of the professional officer-could be adopted.
It is more likely that the present system, in some modified form,
will prevail. In either event, there are certain fundamental requirements
that should be met if a professional officer corps out of which
senior strategic leaders can arise is to be maintained. This article
has offered some ways to address these requirements.
The education of future senior officers will
remain essential for the formulation and execution of national security
policy. Senior leaders must keep in mind and understand the differences
between the long-term impact of professional education and the often
short-term, if equally important, purpose of military training.
Attendance at the Army War College (as well as the other senior
service colleges) should remain the lodestone of the profession
of arms. Membership in its faculty should be considered an accolade
by the entire military profession. Both a new Army Chief of Staff
and an Army War College commandant have recently assumed their duties.
They now jointly bear the prime responsibility and enjoy the opportunity
to preserve and improve the already excellent senior officer education
system for the benefit of the nation and future members of the armed
1. Donald F. Bletz,
"The 'Modern Major General' (Vintage 1980)," Parameters
4, no. 3 (1974).
2. Douglas MacArthur,
Reminiscences (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964), p. 30.
3. Harry P. Ball, Of
Responsible Command: A History of the U.S. Army War College, rev.
ed. (Carlisle Barracks, Penna.: Alumni Association of the U.S. Army
War College, 1994), pp. 501ff.
4. U.S. Army War College
curriculum pamphlet, 2003.
5. The development of
the Army War College curriculum over the past century is beyond
the scope of this article, but it has not been without difficulties.
Focus is always a problem as Army Chiefs of Staff and Commandants
come and go, sometimes in rapid succession and with quite different
ideas. For a summary of this process, see Ball, pp. 491-99.
6. A master of strategic
studies degree has been conferred on graduating students since the
class of 2000. Full accreditation is expected in 2003. The Army
War College emphasizes that this is a professional degree, not a
degree in either the arts or sciences. This is philosophically consistent
with the nature of the college as a professional institution.
7. The directive that prescribes
the academic report, AR 623-1, "Academic Evaluation Reporting
System," describes (chap. 4) senior service college evaluations
only in broad outline. The regulation perpetuates a system of doubtful
value. As president of a senior service college selection board
in the late 1980s, I found these reports, as prepared, the least
useful of all tools available for evaluation. I doubt that assignment
officers seriously consult them today.
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