Every year, the U.S. Army sponsors thousands of promotable Army captains and majors to the Command and General Staff College (CGSC) located at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to attend the Intermediate Level Education (ILE) as part of its efforts to prepare selected officers for increased responsibilities at the field grade level. Officers are given the opportunity to complete the ILE program through either distance learning, satellite, or as a resident student. Officers who are selected to attend the resident ILE option receive permanent change of station (PCS) orders to attend a 10-month training.
Also, qualified officers are given the additional option to complete their ILE through the U.S. military sister service institutions or from a foreign ally institution. Some of the institutions available to qualified officers include, but are not limited to, the U.S. Air Command and Staff College, the Army Command and General Staff College, the U.S. Naval Command and Staff Course, U.S. Marine Command and General Staff Course, British Command and Staff College, the Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation and several other foreign institutions.
There is a long ongoing debate regarding the validity of keeping the Advanced Civil Schooling (ACS) and the ILE as independent programs that do not give leverage to each other. Some of the arguments commonly made include that the CGSC isn’t meant to provide a broad education but to train the profession of arms to officers. “The CGSC is not to provide a broad education , instead it is to educate and train officers in the profession of arms,” according to Lt. Col. Trent J. Lythgoe, an instructor at the CGSC during a 2019 article on The Field Grade Leader website. Some also have argued CGSC is needed because it helps field grade officers to improve their writing ability, gain professional knowledge on how to comprehend and apply Army and Joint Military doctrine, and gain more leadership skills that prepares them for field grade level responsibilities, as well as benefit from exchanging ideas and learning from international ally military students.
The author of this article agrees with the arguments stated above in support of maintaining the ILE program. However, the resident ILE program should be kept solely for officers who are not able to pursue a fully-funded ACS master’s degree program. If the intent of the ILE program is to ensure that all field grade officers obtain training geared toward the profession of arms, then the Army should work in collaboration with universities to develop a comprehensive program that includes common core courses taught by experienced senior military instructors embedded in such universities.
One recommendation put forth by the author of this article is that the Army should waive the sponsorship of graduates of the ACS master’s degree program from attending resident ILE due to the following reasons:
- From a professional development point of view, and as a recent graduate of the fully funded ACS program, I can confirm that the ACS program is an excellent method to develop and prepare officers to take on field grade duties and responsibilities.
- Additionally, from a cost-saving perspective, the U.S. Army can save millions of dollars by waiving the sponsorship of ACS graduates from attending resident ILE. Currently, officers who successfully complete ACS degree program are given PCS orders to serve a two-year utilization tour and then proceed to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to pursue a 10-month resident Intermediate Level Education (ILE) program. The multiple PCSs, sponsorship, and time away from duty is excessively expensive and not fair to officers who do not have the opportunity to pursue an ACS degree program.
- The quality of the ACS master’s degree obtained from prestigious universities such as the Virginia Commonwealth University, Harvard University, MIT, William and Mary University, and many others prepare officers for field grade responsibilities without having to attend ILE upon graduation. ACS students are taught by experienced professors, and they work on school projects with experienced adult civilian students from various industries, as well as international students with various diverse cultural backgrounds.
In conclusion, it is the author’s recommendation that the Army considers the changes outlined above as a means of saving taxpayers money and to bring about fairness to the process of how officers are selected for training to prepare them for increased responsibilities. Waiving the sponsorship of ACS graduates from attending resident ILE will give more opportunity to other officers to also experience the much-needed resident ILE training opportunity that would have otherwise gone to graduates of the ACS programs.
Capt. Nicholas Amuna is an active duty logistics captain who is assigned to the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command at Fort Hood, Texas. He is a recent graduate of the fully-funded Army Advanced Civil Schooling master’s degree program at the Virginia Commonwealth University. He holds a bachelor's degree in Business Logistics, a Master of Business Administration, and a master's degree in Supply Chain Management.