Academic journal article Parameters

Professional Education: The Key to Transformation

Academic journal article Parameters

Professional Education: The Key to Transformation

Article excerpt

"Study the first six months of the next war."

- General George C. Marshall

The profession of arms, just as any other recognized profession, is distinguished by the requirement for continuing education, essential to maintaining the vitality and lifeblood of its members. Ours is a unique profession, one that often entails considerable risk to the individual soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines charged with our country's defense. To minimize the risks to them, and to ensure our nation's security, we must properly groom the future leaders of our armed forces. These leaders must be proficient in many fields so that they can direct military actions that will achieve desired political ends. They must have the advantages of a broadly based education program that will prepare them to tackle the exacting challenges they will face in the years to come. Such an education will provide the intellectual foundation for the transformation of our military, made necessary by the ever-changing nature of the threats to our national security.

Education in the art and science of conflict will help to cultivate visionary military leaders. But that is too narrow a focus. Our military leaders must be schooled in matters both military and political. While they need to be familiar with the latest scientific and technological advances, and how they apply to the profession of arms, they must also be masters of the geopolitical realm. They have to be as conversant with the complexities of world politics as they are with the tools of modem warfare. These stringent requirements for our future military leaders mean we must educate them on a wide range of subjects over a period of years throughout their careers. This requires devoting the necessary time, energy, and resources to ensure that our future warriors are fully equipped for the demands that will be placed upon them.

The Risk of Complacency

Some may take comfort in the fact that our forces displayed overwhelming superiority during our most recent combat experience, Operation Allied Force. America's high-tech preeminence was indeed showcased in 1999 as we selectively destroyed key targets in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, forcing Slobodan Milosevic to capitulate and agree to NATO's terms. The United States, as the clear leader of the NATO alliance, used its growing technological lead in key areas--such as secure communications, precision munitions, and electronic warfare-to completely dominate the battlespace. We make no apologies for our use of advanced technology. This, along with a highly effective strategy, was directly responsible for our ability to end the conflict quickly, without the loss of a single US service member to combat. Allied Force serves as a significant data point, adding to the record of success achieved nearly a decade earlier in Operation Desert Storm. Both operations emphasize the tremendous synergy that we reap when we combine America's technological achievements with a tailored educational program for our military officers. The dollars that our nation invested in educating the leaders of Operations Allied Force and Desert Storm paid off in terms of the strategy and the operational concepts that our men and women in uniform followed to victory.

Gratifying as these previous results are, there is no guarantee that we will be able to replicate our performances in Allied Force and Desert Storm unless we continue to press forward with an aggressive education plan. This plan must be designed to expand the knowledge envelope that will, in turn, lead us along the path to military transformation. We cannot afford to sit still and wait for others, friend or foe, to catch up. Instead, we must continue to pursue new technology, while at the same time challenging ourselves to take advanced courses of instruction at civilian and military institutions. Moreover, each of the services has to make tough assignment choices and allow promising officers the chance to attend Professional Military Education (PME) programs. …

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