News: A Case for Changing the Professional Military Education Paradigm
By Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Faris
U.S. Special Operations Command Senior Enlisted Adviser
MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - Our junior leaders – commissioned and noncommissioned officers – operate more independently and with greater responsibility than ever before. It is time to change our professional military education paradigm to match the expectations we place on these leaders. “Above your pay grade” is a thing of the past. “Early to need” is what they require now.
Our junior leaders – commissioned and noncommissioned officers – operate more independently and with greater responsibility than ever before. It is time to change our professional military education paradigm to match the expectations we place on these leaders. “Above your pay grade” is a thing of the past. “Early to need” is what they require now.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey published his white paper, “America’s Military – A Profession of Arms” in February 2012. In this paper he makes a singular challenge to us – the volunteer force. Dempsey states, “Renewing our commitment to the profession of arms is essential to ensure we maintain the best led and best trained force in the world – leadership is the foundation of our profession.”
The chairman’s statement demands examination and an honest look at our force. It demands that we ask ourselves how we groom leaders and are we doing it either correctly or the best way we can? Each service has its own leadership development model that accounts for both tangible and intangible dynamics, and each is influenced heavily by their roles, missions and culture, especially in the intangible dynamic arena. However, if we look at our military as a whole, the one common tangible dynamic is our professional military education The services may have a different PME emphasis for both officers and NCOs, but they do share the commonality of PME and I submit they do share the same PME paradigm.
The current paradigm for PME is based upon the belief that a military career is a progression from tactical to operational to strategic leadership as you attain each level of war or control. This is convenient and allows a nice and neat stove piping by rank and position. This convenience also creates barriers. Has anyone ever been told that an answer to a question is “above their pay grade” or “that’s in the operational or strategic realm and you need to focus on the tactical?” We all have. Has anyone ever asked why those are the default answers?
Let’s examine the “why” under the current paradigm. If you look at the following diagram (admittedly simplified for discussion) it is clear to see that these solid barriers exist because institutionally we created the modality that supports both the attitude and the belief. We intentionally stove pipe rank into each level of war or control. The answers in the previous paragraph came about because of this delineation. As a second order effect these barriers also prevent an honest examination of the levels of war or control to determine what should be “early to need” regardless of rank or position.
For example, according to the current paradigm an E-6 or 0-3 does not have a requirement (and according to some attitudes a need) to understand Title 22 or Title 18 authorities. Yet the future force in its Phase 0 (Shape) and Phase 1 (Deter) Building Partnership Capacity roles should understand these authorities at the appropriate level. What good is capacity if it can’t be fully employed to counter a nation state’s threats and adversaries? What good is capacity if those who are training that capacity do not understand the context in which it will or should be employed? Many resources are available under the two above authorities that do not exist in Title 10.
Under the current paradigm do we truly support Mission Command and its intent? Mission Command consists of three key attributes – understanding, intent and trust. If we overlay our current PME paradigm to these three attributes, does it support the proper leader development for Joint Force 2020? These and the previous questions will best be answered after proposing a new paradigm.
I submit that a military career is truly about a progression from individual leadership to organizational leadership along the levels of war and control continuum. The diagram below, in the simplest of terms, shows how, while leadership is the focus, the continuum obviously is ever-present and influencing. Notice the gap between individual leadership and organizational leadership. This is intentional from a PME perspective, allowing the services to appropriately fill based upon roles, missions and culture. This is the gap that should be filled with elements from the operational and strategic levels to meet “early to need” requirements.
Why is the idea of early to need important to this paradigm? It will be the early to need curricula that will bridge (or leap) the gap from individual to organizational leadership. Early to need curricula will reinforce Mission Command key attributes to a greater extent. So what is the early to need concept?
I define early to need as an examination across the operational and strategic levels of war and control, not just operationally as applied in joint full spectrum conflict, but also in Title 10 force generation, training, management and budgeting aspects, and then appropriately applied based upon career progression pertinent to duties and responsibilities. For example, section 1206 of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2006 provides the Secretary of Defense with authority to train and equip foreign military forces for two specified purposes – counterterrorism and stability operations – and foreign maritime security forces for counterterrorism operations. Funds, however, may only be obligated with approval by the Secretary of Defense and there is a $350 million dollar cap per year. This approval process requires a concept of operation staffed through the Joint Staff.
This is definitely something our E-6 and E-7 and 0-1 to 0-4 populations should know about. They are the ones who are on the ground and will be working with partner nation forces. They are the ones who can, as a part of their after action reports, identify and propose 1206 candidates to the geographic combatant commanders. How many of the above population are aware of this authority? Where in the current PME paradigm would they get access to such knowledge?
Also, why do we wait so late in a career to truly expose our service members to joint capabilities? As we move into shape and deter operations through building PN capabilities, service members should know what a Seabee or a Red Horse can do for them. If I have to train an element within reach of a Marine Expeditionary Unit/Amphibious Ready Group and its assets, how can I leverage that to enhance host nation interoperability if I do not know what they bring? This is not about educating at joint war fighting at early career levels, this is educating joint capabilities. Ultimately this will enhance joint war fighting as a second order effect in the long term but will immediately enhance joint training.
In terms of Title 10 man, train and equip responsibilities why do we not educate our service members on something as simple as “the colors of money?” Especially in these fiscally tumultuous times a basic understanding beginning at the E-6 and 0-1 level and appropriately progressing would lend tremendous understanding to the decisions that are being made at the Department of Defense and service level. Why do we not educate a basic understanding of the Program Objective Memorandum process and its cycle so that troops understand that their respective service hasn’t even finished a current POM and yet are half way through the next? They do not need to know “how” to do the process but do need to know “of” the process.
The above are only a few examples but I believe that one can see the validity and make the connection to examining the benefits for a new paradigm. This shift is not just theory. At U.S. Special Operations Command I am implementing this for my NCO corps through a program called the Continuing Education Program. CEP consists of four levels starting with E-6 and culminating with a Summit Course geared to grooming nominative level E-9s. No course is redundant to service NCOES and each is all about early to need. Currently CEP-3, geared to promotable E-8s, has been running for three years. This past July we completed the pilot course for the CEP-4, or Summit Course, and class 2 began August 2013. The CEP-1 pilot commenced September 2013 with the CEP-2 pilot due to begin in March 2014. All of this is intended to get at making better organizational leaders who are effective from day one vice having to play catch up on their knowledge deficits.
If knowledge is power as the saying goes, then why are we not truly empowering our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen with the right knowledge at the right times in their careers? We no longer have the luxury to stay service-centric in our thinking. We must know our joint capabilities and how to leverage and capitalize on them. We must know our inter-agency partners’ authorities and how to use them to enhance our whole of government approach to partnering. The sad part is that under the current PME paradigm we wait too late into a career to educate ourselves and gain the knowledge.