By Capt. Robert R. YaugerNovember 14, 2017
Strategic Broadening Seminars (SBSs) are an excellent opportunity for senior noncommissioned officers, warrant officers, and officers to expand their knowledge while honing their leadership skills. These small-group seminars range from three to six weeks and bring Army personnel together to learn from top-tier academic institutions, senior military leaders, business executives, and international experts.
Ensuring that the Army has flexible, broadened, and experienced leaders is one way to help prepare the future force and retain the readiness to win in the next complex environment. Full immersion in the joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational environment can help facilitate this readiness effort.
THE U.K. STRATEGIC BROADENING PROGRAM
One SBS is the United Kingdom (U.K.) Strategic Broadening Program (SBP), which is a six-week program hosted by the U.K. Defence Academy in Shrivenham, England. During SBP, U.S. active and reserve captains and majors join British army and Royal Marine majors in the Intermediate Command and Staff Course at the Joint Services Command and Staff College.
The Intermediate Command and Staff Course is the U.K. equivalent of the U.S. Army's Intermediate Level Education. One difference between the two courses is that most of the British majors attending the course have not yet had a company command, or what they call sub-unit command. With fewer commands available, and because British military personnel must serve 30 years before retiring, U.K. officers wait longer for command positions than U.S. officers do.
The cohort was broken down into 19 different syndicates that had 10 to 12 British officers and one or two U.S. officers. The course is taught by military staff members, visiting lecturers, and professors from both Cranfield University and King's College of London. Students learn about causes of conflict, the military's role in the international system, and how foreign policy affects the rest of the world. The main areas of focus are critical thinking, global effects on defense, and the higher management of defense and the Army.
The Critical Thinking module introduces the necessary thinking skills for properly evaluating an argument. Critical thinking is an approach based on reflective testing and analyzing the validity of a conclusion. This skill helps protect against the acceptance of fallacies and enables strong argument building.
Critical thinking is an indispensable element in a comprehensive suite of thinking skills that should be deployed according to the needs of the situation. Critical thinking also helps prevent groupthink, which throughout history has led to multiple strategic failures.
GLOBAL EFFECTS ON DEFENSE
The purpose of the Global Effects on Defense module is to evaluate the nature and character of conflict and the strategic environment with a focus on the British strategic policy. The main project for this module is to conduct a 30-minute presentation on the U.K. national security policy.
For almost three weeks, students explore various military strategists, including Carl von Clausewitz and Liddell Hart. This module forces students to think critically and creatively about the current national security policy and the problems faced in today's complex military and world environment. As a result, officers leave with an enhanced view of how politics, the will of the people, and hard and soft power all play a role in deciding courses of action to solving global problems.
HIGHER MANAGEMENT OF DEFENSE AND THE ARMY
The purpose of the Higher Management of Defense and the Army module is to analyze how U.K. defense organizations and the British Army operate. During this module, the students visit the U.K.'s Ministry of Defence, Permanent Joint Headquarters, and Army Headquarters.
During this module, students learn about force development, balance of investment decision-making, capability delivery analysis, and how forces are generated for the future fight. Students look at what risks organizations face when they choose to develop one platform instead of another. They also learn how to conduct strategic-level risk management.
The U.K. SBP is one of several similar broadening programs offered each year. Army leaders can take advantage of many other SBSs, including the following:
• The Critical Thinking and Group Mitigation Course through the Cognitive Dominance Education Program at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
• The Strategic Fellows Program through the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C.
• The University of North Carolina and the Institute for Defense and Business' Strategic Studies Fellows Program at Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
• The SBS through the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville, Kentucky.
• The Executive Counter-Terrorism Studies program at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel.
• The Agile Leader Program through the University of California, Berkeley.
• The SBS through the Center for Business and National Security at the University of Kansas.
HOW TO APPLY
Selection is conducted through Human Resources Command and the Department of the Army G-3/5/7 with assistance from the Center for Army Leadership. Interested candidates can contact their branch managers. SBS graduates receive the additional skill identifier 6Z (strategic studies graduate), which is annotated on their enlisted record briefs or officer record briefs.
The U.K. SBP experience highlights the importance of multinational exercises that allow us to work on our interoperability and reinforce our NATO standardization agreements. The program enhances critical thinking skills, and the relationships forged during the six-week program will last a lifetime and be immensely beneficial in future conflicts.
Capt. Robert R. Yauger is a Quartermaster Basic Officer Leader Course instructor at the Army Logistics University at Fort Lee, Virginia. He has a bachelor's degree in political science from Bucknell University and an MBA from American Military University. He is a graduate of the Quartermaster Basic Officer Leader Course and the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course.
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