Academic journal article Military Review

Army Civilians and the Army Profession

Academic journal article Military Review

Army Civilians and the Army Profession

Article excerpt

One notable difference between the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and previous conflicts was the omnipresence of U.S. government civilians. More than in any conflict past, civilians were everywhere. No, I am not talking about the locals. I refer to the sizable presence of government civilians on nearly every U.S. installation in the war zone. Since the start of combat operations in 2003, civilians from various government agencies were instrumental to achieving U.S. objectives. One team, one fight, right?

Fast forward to 2011. The Center for the Army Profession and Ethic (CAPE) showcased the results of its comprehensive assessment of the state of the Army Profession. Pitching the campaign at military installations worldwide, the center sought to promote and reaffirm the Army Profession following the decade-long conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. What was most unprecedented was the center's revised definition of the Army Profession which, for the first time, included Department of the Army (DA) civilians as a component. (1) Civilian membership in the profession was a fait accompli. After all, if the Army declares it so, it must therefore be. Correct? Not exactly.

Given the close civilian-military interaction during the recent conflicts, it is hardly surprising that the Army would feel the need to establish civilians within the profession. (2) Senior military leaders may have welcomed the measure as a form of team building, which is a noble enough endeavor. But, does the honorary reception of civilians by Army leaders actually constitute de facto membership in the military profession?

Since civil-military relations emerged as a branch of political science, no mainstream scholar has ever claimed civilians to be members of the military profession. Although the CAPE did, in fact, include established scholars in its committee, the assertion came undeniably from the military establishment itself rather than from an objective academic source. The Army prefaced the study with the foregone conclusion to include civilians as members of the profession. Recognizing the problem with this reasoning, the CAPE sought to modify the definition of the Army Profession in order to accommodate civilians. It stated--

   The solution within the campaign was to revise, to broaden, the
   description of the Army's expert knowledge/expertise .... By
   expanding the realm of the Army's expert knowledge and in-practice
   expertise to "the design, generation, support, and application" of
   land combat power, the civilian members of the Army can now rightly
   see where their expert service fits within the profession. (3)

The expanded definition, although describing where civilians may "serve" the profession, does not adequately confer professional status on the civilian workforce. The problem with the CAPE's reasoning is simple: Desire to be part of a profession is insufficient grounds to become part of it. The truth is that DA civilians cannot be members of the Army Profession because the service they provide does not classify them as a profession--even with the broadened language used in the CAPE study.

Neither seeking to discredit the CAPE nor to marginalize the critical role filled by civilians in our nation's armed conflicts, this article critically examines the qualities that define a profession specifically as they relate to civil-military relations. This article concludes that DA civilians fall short of the definition of a profession. Moreover, there is a substantial difference between serving as a member of a profession and, in the course of colloquial English, merely being a professional or working in a professional manner.

The Army Profession

The notion of the military as a profession grew to prominence in the twentieth century as warfare took on an increasingly technical nature, one that required years of study and practice in order to master. Compounding this technical complexity was that the devastation of war required strict discipline in its application and obedience of the military to U. …

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