Academic journal article Military Review

Strategic Scholars: Educating Army Leaders at Foreign Staff Colleges

Academic journal article Military Review

Strategic Scholars: Educating Army Leaders at Foreign Staff Colleges

Article excerpt

Education is the most reliable strategic investment that the Army can make in the face of an uncertain future.

-The Army University White Paper

The U.S. Army's officer professional military education system underscores the organization's investment in its people. Scholarships are available to four-year universities and military academies, civilian graduate schools, and a plethora of other educational opportunities during a typical officer's twenty-year career. Why does the Department of Defense choose to spend millions of dollars to educate officers beyond the training required for managing violence in warfare? The answer, perhaps, lies in the Army's role in American foreign policy and national security-the Army supports national strategic goals, and its senior officers must function as strategic leaders. One way of growing strategic leaders who operate effectively in a complex world and give their best military advice to civilian leaders is through a more deliberate investment in Army officers' worldly education.

This paper is a summarized version of the authors School of Advanced Military Studies monograph and investigates an important aspect of the current officer education system: the attendance of U.S. Army officers at foreign military staff colleges.1 Increasing the number of Army officers sent to foreign staff colleges would add significant value to the Army by increasing the number of strategic leaders who have the knowledge and experience to contextualize complex international systems with clarity and meaning for their organizations.2

Since the Spanish-American War of 1898, the Army's forward presence has kept it at the tip of U.S. diplomacy, both as a security guarantor at global fault lines and as the physical manifestation of U.S. might and interests. For example, for nearly seventy years on the Korean peninsula, U.S. forces have stood as a deterrent to North Korean aggression and as a committed ally to the Republic of Korea. As a testament to the importance of strategic alliances, the U.S. Army 2nd Infantry Division, headquartered north of Seoul, is the only combined division in the U.S. Army where U.S. and Republic of Korea staffs are integrated throughout the headquarters. In Europe, as Gen. Mark A. Milley explained during his 2015 confirmation hearing, U.S. forces in coordination with NATO continue to bolster Europe's defense amid fears of a resurgent Russia.3 As the international commitments of the United States grow and threats arise, it is essential that Army leaders are comfortable operating in the world beyond America's borders. Since nearly all Army officers are graduates of American universities, it can be reasonably assumed some find themselves living abroad for the first time when on an operational deployment. Once abroad, they are forced to simultaneously experience the stress of a real-world mission and the anxiety of cultural dissonance.

The U.S. Army Operating Concept: Win in a Complex World, published in October 2014, emphasizes the complex world in which the Army is one of many actors.4 As the Army's operations are global, it derives significant benefits from deliberately sending officers abroad to be educated in regions where they can then be assigned to serve. Specifically, graduate-level education at foreign staff colleges provides officers with an intimate understanding of partner states' military organizations and capabilities. More important, such an experience sheds light on the "fear, honor, and interests" of others, which are more easily ascertained through significant interaction.5

Senior leaders depend on their subordinates to draw clarity from unclear information and help direct organizational action in an efficacious manner.6 Foreign staff college graduates are a valuable information conduit. In international environments, they can collectively contribute a high degree of what Harvard Business School professor Tarun Khanna calls contextual intelligence: "the ability to understand the limits of our knowledge and to adapt that knowledge to an environment different from the one in which it was developed. …

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