Understanding Professional Expertise and Jurisdiction

By Lacquement, Richard A., Jr. | Military Review, March-April 2003 | Go to article overview

Understanding Professional Expertise and Jurisdiction


Lacquement, Richard A., Jr., Military Review


JUNIOR LEADERS of the Army profession must understand the nature of Army professional expertise and be able to relate this expertise to appropriate professional jurisdictions. This article attempts to do three things. First, it presents a way to think about the abstract professional knowledge that the Army requires as an institution. Second, it links this institutional imperative to suggestions for the contours of the expert knowledge required by individual professionals. Third, it describes a logical way to connect this expertise to the jurisdictions of professional practice. This approach seeks to move beyond broad concepts of full-spectrum dominance to a framework that permits clearer definitions, distinct priorities, and sharper boundaries to guide professional practice and professional development.

Many recent studies about the future of the Army profession claim that there is significant tension about the future of the Army profession within the officer corps. (1) The dramatic changes in the international environment and the changing aspects of warfare associated with new technology and new techniques related to force transformation drives this tension. One of the most critical tasks facing the Army's strategic leaders is to define and clarify the expert knowledge that constitutes the Army's professional jurisdictions. Although the final decisions belong to senior civilian and military leaders, integrating new concepts throughout the profession requires the informed engagement of all officers. Officers must understand this critical component of the Army profession and participate in shaping the profession's future.

Full-spectrum dominance is a useful shorthand aspiration that glosses over the complexity of the varied demands the operational environment imposes on the Army as a whole and on individuals expected to operate along the entire spectrum of conflict with uniformly high competence. The spectrum of conflict and range of military operations is vast. Society might well require the Army to participate in all kinds of missions. The difficulty is that the Army, as well as its individual members, is not infinitely capable. There are limits on the capacity of the required choices. Limits include time, manpower, materiel, and a host of other factors. We must be careful not to become jacks-of-all-trades and masters of none. Everyone trying to do everything might lead to everyone doing nothing well. We already acknowledge that fighting and winning the Nation's wars is the highest priority. Taking the nonnegotiable contract from the U.S. Army Field Manual (FM) 1.04 series as the start point, we can identify other priorities at the nexus of expert knowledge and jurisdictions of practice. (2) We should be forthright in debating and negotiating these priorities. We owe society and the members of the profession this improved clarity as a step toward greater effectiveness.

The Army's Expert Knowledge

One of the first and most far-reaching tasks we must undertake is to clarify the nature of the profession's expert knowledge. Professionals are experts in an abstract body of human knowledge. (3) The quintessential characteristic of a profession is the exercise of judgment. A common description of military professional expertise is the management of violence. (4) I submit that this is no longer a useful phrase with which to describe military expertise. The term suggests management as the critical central expertise and obscures the more important role of leadership and the centrality of the human dimension of the profession. Leadership, not management, is the true core of the Army profession. A better definition would be, "The core expertise of American military officers is the development, operation, and leadership of a human organization, a profession whose primary expertise is the organized application of coercive force on behalf of the American people." In abbreviated form, "Expertise is leadership of Army soldiers in the organized application of coercive force. …

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