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Thread: Do Senior Professional Military Education Schools Produce Strategists?

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    Default Do Senior Professional Military Education Schools Produce Strategists?

    4 Jun 09 testimony before the HASC Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee on Thinkers and Practitioners: Do Senior Professional Military Education Schools Produce Strategists?

    RADM Garry E. Hall, Commandant The Industrial College of the Armed Forces


    Maj Gen Robert P. Steel, Commandant The National War College


    RADM James P. Wisecup, President The Naval War College


    MG Robert M. Williams, Commandant The Army War College


    Maj Gen Maurice Forsyth, Commander of the Spaatz Center and Commandant The Air War College


    Col Michael Belcher, Director The Marine Corps War College

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    Council Member Van's Avatar
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    Default But the more relevant question

    Are the politicians competent to interpret the answers?

    A gentleman who was on the Republican Party primary ballot in all fifty states in 2008 and I were having a beer in 2007. He was passionate about the need for military action against Iran. When I mentioned something about the other instruments of national power, I got the "bunny in the headlights" look. When I started questioning second and third order effects of military action against Iran, I got the "bunny in the headlights" look.

    Nice guy, I'd trust him to watch my kids, but I wouldn't trust him with national strategy, to differentiate between geo-political strategy and military strategy, or to assess the testimony of the officers that briefed the subcommittee.

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    I think it is important to hash out how the question should be framed.

    Do we want to produce the folks who devise our national security strategy? Or do we want to produce the folks who devise the military strategy and understand how this integrates with the national security strategy?

    ADM Hall starts off by pointing out how many civilians attend the schools, as evidence that this gives the military leaders exposure to non-military folks. The real benefit (which he nibbled around the edges of) is the exact opposite. The benefit is that we give those civilians an opportunity to better understand the military considerations.

    It's kind of like when I attended a course on unit level maintenance for our SINCGARS radios. The fact that an Infantry Officer attended a one-week course intended for 31U's did not make the course good by virtue of exposing 31U's to an Infantry Officer. Rather, it was an opportunity afforded to me to better understand the ins-and-outs of my commo NCO's job and taught me how to more effectively use his talents. Same for the civilians at the military schools. The military serves the civilians. Allowing the civilian masters in to better understand their subordinates - that is the real benefit. Not the other way around.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    From one of the great and good in testimony..

    The NWC faculty combines an impressive blend of academic expertise, operational experience, and practical knowledge in the formulation and implementation of national security strategy.
    OK, but where does the guidance on that come from? National security strategy is the product of party politics. Sometimes all parties may agree, but what if they don't?
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    "Do Senior Professional Military Education Schools Produce Strategists?"

    Short answer? No.

    We really need to start teaching appropriate aspects of strategy at the 0-4 level; what it is, how to ensure operations support it, etc. Grow leaders to think in strategic terms over their field grade careers, with the Service College being the icing on the cake, and not the batter.
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    Why not include senior enlisted folks? If you had some Strategic Sergeants around to keep the officers in line things might work out

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    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    I think in this discussion we'll run into pundit podiatry. We'll all stand around looking at our feet talking to ourselves. If by strategy we mean grand strategy at the nation-state or coalition of nations level then the correct US military service member response is "no sir we don't teach that". The realm of politicians is strategy in a political way. This relatively new phenomenon is a result of a few cases of mistaken identity. Macarthur thinking he was a president, and Nixon thinking he was a god.

    Lots of people think they do strategy but mostly politicians set goals. The National Military Strategy reads like a business case study.

    I would make my friends with stars on their lapels angry on purpose by quipping that just because somebody has a uniform on doesn't mean they aren't a politician. It's a suit not an excuse.

    Yet, when I read Nathaniel Ficks book "One bullet away" I was enamored of how in tune with the strategy and tactics he was with what his unit was engaged in. To say that Colonel Gentile is unaware or how strategy would effect his unit in Iraq would equally be in error. In Colonel Peter Mansoors book "Baghdad at Sunrise" he understands the expediency of certain tactics and their effects on strategy. Further in taking down an insurgent group he creates strategy, grasping victory, from the chaos of fractured chains of command. Nobody was thinking about strategy but him at that point.

    The nit pickers will tease out the difference between tactics and strategy. Whether we accept lexical dogma based on long dead prussians or oriental obtuse prosaic certitude to find balance in definition the result will be the same. PME does produce strategists. They will and can define end states using and improving the cognitive tools of various strategic philosophies.

    The question is will the dusty intellectual desert of political thought allow them to be strategists.
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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by selil View Post
    ....If by strategy we mean grand strategy at the nation-state or coalition of nations level then the correct US military service member response is "no sir we don't teach that".
    Concur.

    The realm of politicians is strategy in a political way. This relatively new phenomenon is a result of a few cases of mistaken identity. Macarthur thinking he was a president, and Nixon thinking he was a god.
    Not sure it is that new. History has hundreds of examples, and they certainly informed Clausewitz's view.
    Lots of people think they do strategy but mostly politicians set goals. The National Military Strategy reads like a business case study.
    Any idiot can write on military strategy, but anyone's views about the use of military power to gain political objectives, is a reflection of personal politics and values.
    The "Strategy" of invading Iraq was a purely a product of political desire and the military merely served that desire.
    ....and yes, good commanders are aware that their actions may have political consequences. That does not make them "strategic."
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Default Several comments

    1. The subject of strategy is taught by the Army at the 0-4 level at CGSC.
    2. It is also taught at the senior service school.
    3. How to actually make strategy really isn't taught or not very well. I defer on this to my recently retired colleague from the Army War College, Dr. Gabriel Marcella.
    4. Grand strategy for the US is made (or the responsibility of) the President with the advice of his NSC. It is published as the National Security Strategy of the US supposedly annually according to the Goldwater-Nichols Act. Because it is unclassified, it is inherently a partisan political document - some more so, some less. (The best of these was the final one published by the Budh 41 Adminsitration.) The NSC includes the CJCS as a statutory advisor; therefore, the military has appropriately input to US grand strategy. Note that the NSS is, in reality, a bureaucratic product so the Joint Staff and OSD are players. Key players from both as well as the NSC staff often wear military uniforms.
    5. Much of what passes for strategy is not. What usually gets short shrift is the necessary focus on resources. Failure to include a detailed analysis of the resource leg of the stool means that strategy is little different from policy.When I was Chief of Policy & Strategy in SOUTHCOM I produced Gen Woerner's last Regional Security Strategy and Gen Thurman's SOUTHCOM Strategy. The difference was in the resources component. We did not do a very good job on it for the RSS and Gen Thurman insisted that we make the resource leg of the SS as complete and important as the objective and COA legs. Bottom line is that strategy seems easy but it really is hard.

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Good post, John T...

    As you show, there is always military involvement in the development of national strategies -- but in the end, our system says the civilian politicians get the final say on what is to be done. Just as in my house, another being always gets the final say on what is to be done.

    I can live with both those things, no matter how inefficient -- the benefits are worth it...

    Re: your post, I'd like to reemphaisze three parts:
    It is published as the National Security Strategy of the US supposedly annually according to the Goldwater-Nichols Act. Because it is unclassified, it is inherently a partisan political document - some more so, some less.
    plus
    What usually gets short shrift is the necessary focus on resources.
    and
    Bottom line is that strategy seems easy but it really is hard.
    and emphasize the 'inherent' in the political document statement -- adding that even the classified variants will always be political to an extent because politicians must be involved and the politics will usually control the resources. That contributes to the important point that the 'resources' element is usually neglected (and that's very much why doctrine often gets involved to an excessive degree in the production of strategies; military capabilities [NOT desires...] are often a significant element of those resources). Add the fact that predictions or presumptions are of necessity included and strategy is indeed hard. Quite hard.

    Developing strategy is difficult due to those factors -- as well as the fact that we all like things to be settled and completed --and dislike change. "This is our strategy" can become target fixation but strategy can never be completed. Nor can doctrine. Both must constantly evolve.

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    Default Ken

    Great additions You are right about even classified strategies being political to some extent. The are LESS partisan, however. Not non or bi-partisan, just less partisan. Part of what made the final Bush 41 NSS so good was that it was significantly less partisan then previous ones due to the fact that it was crafted to assist the incoming Clinton Administration. A second reason was that the managing editor was COL Geoff Jones on the NSC staff, one of the brightest Army officers I've ever met with a really good sense of the political.

    I would also add to predictions, presumptions, and assumptions the notion of inferences. Inference can often be confused with presumptions and assumptions (as IMO Steve Metz does in his recent book). I would also note that inferences are less than predictions but may be a critical way station.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Thanks and more truth...

    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    I would also add to predictions, presumptions, and assumptions the notion of inferences. Inference can often be confused with presumptions and assumptions (as IMO Steve Metz does in his recent book). I would also note that inferences are less than predictions but may be a critical way station.
    "Indications lead me to believe..."

    Yep -- a very critical way station and where, as Slap alludes, one can and often does go wrong very easily...

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    Default Amen!

    and as Steve points out....

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    Default Different take

    As a former Army strategist (ASI 6Z back then), I wasn't "produced" anywhere. I was developed over a course of civilian and military education coupled with assignments where I plied the trade under the mentorship of some really remarkable folks.

    Apropos resources -- Remember Art Lykke's formulation of Ends+Ways+Means, where means were resources, both tangible and intangible. (Don't get me started on Art's 3-legged stool; it's clear that Art wasn't and engineer.)

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Eagle View Post
    Apropos resources -- Remember Art Lykke's formulation of Ends+Ways+Means, where means were resources, both tangible and intangible. (Don't get me started on Art's 3-legged stool; it's clear that Art wasn't and engineer.)
    Old Eagle go ahead and get started on the 3 legged stool

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    Default OE, I never got the ASI

    just taught strategy at CGSC and did it in SOUTHCOM. As Gabriel Marcella says, we teach about strategy but not how to craft a strategy. And we still teach Art Lykke's version. Anyway, I do in my university classes and mostly I give him credit.

    If I were designing a course for strategists, the major assignments would be to craft a series of strategies from Theater level thru the NMS to the NSS. In other words, I would ask my budding strategists to cover the full range of the strategic level of war thru the overlap with the operational. If I were dealing with civilian strategists, I would modify the assignments to reflect their institutional location.

    Of course, what we rarely mention in discussing strategies is Lykke's FAS test: Feasibility, Acceptability, Suitability. But then who wants to know in advance if one's strategy has much of a chance of being successful?

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Eagle View Post
    Apropos resources -- Remember Art Lykke's formulation of Ends+Ways+Means, where means were resources, both tangible and intangible. (Don't get me started on Art's 3-legged stool; it's clear that Art wasn't and engineer.)
    Ends+Ways+Means, was Clausewitz's "paradoxical trinity." It's also the partial basis for UK Doctrines, 3 elements of Combat power
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Default Grand Strategy is not a paper doc

    Grand strategy for the US is made (or the responsibility of) the President with the advice of his NSC. It is published as the National Security Strategy of the US supposedly annually according to the Goldwater-Nichols Act. Because it is unclassified, it is inherently a partisan political document - some more so, some less. (The best of these was the final one published by the Budh 41 Adminsitration.) The NSC includes the CJCS as a statutory advisor; therefore, the military has appropriately input to US grand strategy. Note that the NSS is, in reality, a bureaucratic product so the Joint Staff and OSD are players. Key players from both as well as the NSC staff often wear military uniforms.
    All true but that may or may not really become a grand strategy, which to be operational, has to exist as a shared set of assumptions among the broad elite, not just among a few members of agovernment bureaucracy during a particular administration. Cranking out policy docs will not cut it. The grand strategy has to be accepted deeply by the American people, or at least their broad leadership, or it rests on sand.

    Containment was a grand strategy. So was the Atlantic Charter. So was the Open Door and the Monroe Doctrine. They were grand strategies because their core transcended normal partisanship and, in practice, became a frame of reference with which partisans and officials understood, framed and debated policy options and strategic goals. The grand strategy represented a vital consensus.

    America lacks a real grand strategy right now because it is deeply divided between Left and Right and between elite and masses and few politicians care to do the hard work of building such a consensus or have the longitudinal perspective to see the need to do so. Short term thinking prevails.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zenpundit View Post
    America lacks a real grand strategy right now because it is deeply divided between Left and Right and between elite and masses and few politicians care to do the hard work of building such a consensus or have the longitudinal perspective to see the need to do so. Short term thinking prevails.
    I would argue that when the older examples of grand strategy were framed, America was also deeply divided. The difference is that there wasn't a great deal of concern and/or recognition of the masses as such. Decision-making was much more insulated than it is today, making it easier to frame and carry out grand strategies. There's also the matter of overall context for the framing of those strategies. Obviously grand strategy is a flexible thing, but it's dangerous to draw historical comparisons without context.
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    At the Duke Conference on Grand Strategy that I was fortunate enough to attend a comment was made and widely concurred with that:

    "Grand Strategy is typically crafted by some speech writer, and then discovered 20 years later by some historian looking back for a way to explain or describe what had transpired" or words to that effect.

    Most appear to be built around some threat as a focal point and are more a naming after the fact of what has been done then any cogent scheme going in.

    You'd think we be smarter than that. But as mentioned above, if Grand Strategy is some "vital consensus;" that's virtually impossible to get on the front end. Far easier to describe what the majority position actually did post facto.


    But here we are today. I am intrigued by FDR's approach to Grand Strategy, and he had one that he was prepared to employ following WWII, but died before he could implement it. I think it makes a great point of departure for looking at what a Grand Strategy might look like today (tailored for the new realities, of course):

    1. The "Four Freedoms": Of Speech, of Religion, from fear, from want

    2. The "Four Policemen": The United States, Great Britain, Russia, and China

    3. The End of Colonialism

    4. The promotion of Self Determination


    Churchill blanched at any partnership with Russia or China; and was adamantly opposed to ending colonialism.

    There must be greater shared responsibility for world order today, though the number may be more than 4, the states have changed, and "policeman" may not be the best role; and certainly the remnants of colonialism are at the heart of so many conflicts; as is the denial of self determination.

    So my vote is we put FDR's position on the table and move forward from there. We could do a lot worse.
    Last edited by Bob's World; 06-12-2009 at 05:13 PM.
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