The Civilian Education System and Total Army Readiness

By David T. Culkin, PhD, Army Management Staff CollegeMay 18, 2022

 “Investing in civilian professional development, and training our next generation of leaders, is key for the Army’s success, in peacetime and in war.”
LTG Theodore Martin, Commander, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center
AMSC Course
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Army Civilian Professionals collaborate during a Civilian Education System course at the U.S. Army Management Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army Photo) VIEW ORIGINAL
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2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – This new AMSC QR code will take Army Civilian Professionals directly to the AMSC Homepage to sign up for Army Civilian Education System Courses (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

The Civilian Education System (CES) is one of the most important leadership development programs for Army Civilian Professionals. CES provides formal leadership education at key intervals in Army Civilian careers. It enables supervisors to have the education, training, and skills necessary to lead effectively. As of 1 October 2022, the completion of grade-specific CES courses will be mandatory for all Army Civilian Corps supervisors. Senior leaders are encouraged to promote a culture of continued learning in the Army Civilian Corps to enhance readiness. The purpose of this article is to present a brief description of each of these strategic imperatives to provide the Army work force with a clear vision for the CES.

To accomplish these strategic goals, Army leaders should reinforce these messages:

1.     Civilian education and leadership development are essential to building a stronger Army.

2.     The CES is one of the most important Army leadership development programs for Army Civilians and serves as an integral component of the Army’s leadership strategy.

3.     It is critical that we grow Army Civilian employees at all grade levels, just as we do for our Soldiers.

  Prioritizing Civilian Leadership Development

All Commanders and senior Army leaders should be committed to building great leaders and cohesive teams, to ensure the force can accomplish the Army’s diverse mission sets. There are nearly 300,000 Army Civilians, comprising approximately 23 percent of the total work force. Of this total, there are about 38,000 supervisors, approximately 19,000 of whom have not attended their grade-appropriate leader development CES course. Both uniformed and civilian Army senior leaders have extolled the value of CES courses for the return on investment in terms of Army readiness. Put another way, Army Civilian leader development is directly related to Army readiness in a high-performance culture—a primary objective for all Army personnel.

Promoting a learning culture that encourages and supports employee participation in education, training, and professional leadership development programs is a hallmark of Army values. Developing Army Civilians, with a diverse array of knowledge and skill sets, will be critical for confronting emerging operational and strategic challenges in the dynamic international security environment. As a result, the Army is investing in talent management assets to recruit, develop, and retain the people best suited to create innovative solutions in an increasingly ambiguous, complex, and adaptive milieu.

The Army Benefits from Professionally Developed Leaders

Developing Army Civilian leaders with the requisite leadership, cognitive skill sets, open mindedness, and communication acumen requires commitment, resources, and a recognition of the long-term investment required to achieve optimal Army readiness. Those who invest in the CES system will see immeasurable advantages during future conflicts that will increasingly be characterized by attacks on military and civilian networks and infrastructure. According to TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1, The US Army in Multidomain Operations 2028, emerging doctrine describes these multi-domain operations as perpetrated by “our nation's adversaries [who] seek to achieve their strategic aims, short of conflict, by the use of layered stand-off in the political, military and economic realms to separate the U.S. from our partners.” As a result, it is in the Army’s and the nation’s best interests to develop innovative leaders who can creatively confront these challenges by collaborating across boundaries with key team members throughout the national security enterprise.

By promoting 80% supervisor attendance for grade-specific CES courses, the Army will continue to position itself to best address the dynamic threats in terrestrial and non-terrestrial wars. Senior Army leaders have, for some time, recognized the value of CES courses for developing leadership and management skills at echelon, and thereby improving Army readiness in a multi-domain global security environment. These courses specifically equip civilian supervisors with the attributes, competencies, Army values, and leadership acumen to help win the nation’s wars. Army CES courses also help create agile and innovative Army Civilians who can lead enterprise-wide modernization initiatives during times of change and uncertainty, characterized by “evolving threats, a shifting security environment, and emerging technologies,” according to Secretary of the Army Memorandum, ‘Army Directive 2022-07 (Army Modernization Roles and Responsibilities)’published on 3 May 2022. Furthermore, CES courses enable Army Civilians to personify the Warrior Ethos in all aspects, from warfighting support, to statesmanship, to enterprise management.

Army Civilian Supervisors Must Complete Grade-Specific CES Courses from FY23-FY28

With the endorsement of the Civilian Enterprise Steering Committee in November 2021, the Army Management Staff College will now enroll 80 percent supervisors and 20 percent aspiring civilian leaders in CES courses, beginning on 1 October 2022. This effort will also promote the key initiatives of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civilian Personnel) who, in collaboration with the newly established Army Civilian Career Management Activity, will promote the Civilian Implementation Plan (2020) particularly in terms of data analytics, career program policy, and talent management.

The Army Management Staff College has worked to remove CES course attendance impediments to enhance Army readiness. The college will provide three CES course delivery modalities: resident at Fort Leavenworth, mobile education teams at select installations, and virtual instruction. Students resumed in-person CES courses at Fort Leavenworth on 04 April 2022. Local students at the following installations will have access to select in-person courses at their installations in 2022: Redstone Arsenal, AL; Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD; Fort Knox, KY; Warren, MI; Picatinny Arsenal, NJ; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA; Fort Bragg, NC; Ft. Lee, VA; and Joint Base San Antonio, TX. Mobile education team CES courses will be taught at other smaller installations, as well, to address the supervisor readiness issue.

The Army Management Staff College will continue to mitigate the Army’s civilian supervisor CES shortfall over the next several years. Senior leaders are addressing Army regulation and policy initiatives to codify the mandatory completion of grade-specific CES for civilian supervisors from FY23-FY28. In this context, CES course completion will prepare Army Civilians for the next step in their careers by providing a gateway for Continuing Education for Senior Leader Courses, Senior Enterprise Talent Management and Enterprise Talent Management Fellowships, college credit, and step increases. In an era marked by revolutionary change and dynamic threats to national security, the Army’s CES offers an invaluable tool for long-term readiness.

Reframing Army Civilian Professional Development

The 2018 National Defense Strategy directs the US Army, and the other US Armed Services, to expand the competitive space. This directive also highlights that Civilians should assume roles that enable Soldiers to do the things that only Soldiers can do. Implied in this directive is the need to change the logic, form, functions, and culture within the Army to create additional combat power in a multi-domain global security environment.

The Army can advance this strategic imperative by reframing the existing Army Civilian professional development management schema. Embracing an enterprise-level, and centrally managed, Army Civilian career professional development framework that is the corollary to what is used by the Army uniformed cohort today could enhance total Army readiness and conserve resources. The AMSC will continue to serve on the front lines of Army readiness by providing timely and best-in-class leader development programs, at the point of need around the world.

Visit for more information on available CES courses.