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    Decisive Point Podcast – Ep 3-25 – Dr. Richard A. Lacquement and Dr. Thomas P. Galvin – Framing the Future of the US Military Profession

    Decisive Point Podcast – Ep 3-25 – Dr. Richard A. Lacquement and Dr. Thomas P. Galvin – Framing the Future of the US Military Profession

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    Audio by Kristen Taylor 

    U.S. Army War College Public Affairs

    The military profession needs to be redefined by examination of its expertise and jurisdictions of practice, whereas previously the focus was on securing its professional identity. Twenty years ago, the original Future of the Army Profession research project responded to growing concerns among officers that the Army was no longer a profession in light of the post–Cold War drawdown and the onset of global operations including Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, the profession faces recurrent challenges raised by the changing character of war, the renewal of great-power competition, crises surrounding issues of sexual harassment and assault, the effects of a major global pandemic and associated social and political unrest, and the growing societal distrust toward professions in general. Richard Lacquement and Thomas Galvin propose that the questions of professional identity, while still important, are now less salient than those about the professions’ jurisdictions of practice and domains of expert knowledge. Clarifying them will help better prepare US military professionals to exercise discretionary judgment effectively. They also propose a new Future of the US Military Profession research effort that addresses these jurisdictions across service, joint, and defense enterprises to clarify the divisions of professional work and responsibilities. This is a must-read for any steward of the military profession.

    Read the monograph:

    Episode Transcript: “Framing the Future of the US Military Profession”

    Stephanie Crider (Host)

    Welcome to Decisive Point, a US Army War College Press production featuring distinguished authors and contributors who get to the heart of the matter in national security affairs.

    The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are those of the podcast guests and are not necessarily those of the Department of the Army, US Army War College, or any other agency of the US government.

    Decisive Point welcomes, Dr. Richard Lacquement and Dr. Thomas P. Galvin, authors of Framing the Future of the US Military Profession, published by the US Army War College Press in January 2022. Lacquement is a research professor at the (US Army) War College Strategic Studies Institute, and Galvin is an associate professor at the (US) Army War College.

    Welcome to Decisive Point, Richard and Tom. I hear your piece won the Madigan award at the (US) Army War College. Congratulations! That’s really exciting.

    (Richard Lacquement)
    Thank you.

    (Thomas Galvin)
    Thank you.

    I’m really glad to have you here today. Let’s talk about your monograph. This piece builds on previous work. Give our listeners some background and tell us about the original project from 2002 and 2005, please.

    Sure. I want to shout out to one of our former professors here at the (US) Army War College, Dr. Don Snider, who had also worked at West Point (Academy) for many years, who was the lead of what was called the “Future of the Army Profession project.” It ended up with two edited volumes that came out in 2002 (first edition) and then in 2005. And I had been fortunate to join a group: probably about two to three dozen scholars who all worked on different elements of what is the US Army profession, partly dealing with the post-Cold War challenges coming out of the 90s and right about the time we went into what became the Global War on Terror (war on terrorism).

    And I had been part of that project, and, looking back on it with Don Snider a few years ago, we thought it could use an update based on . . . it’s been over 15 years, and—oh, by the way though, the project was focused on the US Army—our sense was that it really applied to the entire US military; we wanted to broaden the scope to do that.

    So, once I got the chance to go on sabbatical, I sort of took that as my sabbatical project to help build it out and recruited Tom. I’m a political scientist, and then Tom worked in our Department of Command, Leadership, and Management and studied the sociology more. And I really needed that perspective on how to understand the evolution and how professions are understood and studied to help flesh out how we would apply that going on 15 to 20 years after the Future Army Profession project, which had used a cortex by Andrew Abbott out of the University of Chicago. That’s very solid but couldn’t do everything we would like it to do as we thought about the whole profession.


    Thanks, Richard. Tom?

    I came into the project at Richard’s invitation because I had done some work in studying Abbott and also other related works in organization theory, management science. So that’s the lens that I’m coming into this. There were some . . . what I had always felt were some gaps in the previous work. The previous work is absolutely fantastic in terms of laying out a way of thinking about expert knowledge and how the professions compete, but there were some other things that were not as robustly represented, such as how do the various parts of the military collaborate? Because, at the same time we’re competing, we’re also collaborating. And there was, uh, opportunities to bring in a wider sociological framework to think about the totality of how the military serves as a profession, serves as an organization, and help address some of the emerging problems and challenges that the military faces today.

    What gaps does your work seek to fill?

    So I wanted to identify a few things that we were trying to get at. Tom just talked about some of the literature and how to frame it. But, more importantly, I think in terms of what are the challenges to the US military profession in the United States today? Part of it was the evolution of things that had happened over the last 15 to 20 years—particularly, some of the technological changes bringing in domains of cyberspace and sort of maturity or for the way our understanding of how space affects military operations—how that’s matured. Challenges in terms of actual strategic performance. Looking at events in Afghanistan and Iraq, Syria and Libya, and unsatisfying strategic outcomes to say the least in what we could do to better articulate what the military should have known better. What should we learn from that, and how do we understand what the expertise of the military is and how that’s evolved because of the changing character of war and the changing international environment? And how to do a better job at sort of, again, expanding from just the Army to the entire US military, but looking at those particularly daunting challenges in the changing character of war, changing strategic context, and also some of the societal demands—diversity, equity, inclusion, gender roles, for example—and how those have evolved. And what does that mean for the military profession going forward?

    I would add that a gap is that the previous work had focused heavily on the operational aspects of the military profession—you know, the expertise in fighting and winning wars—much less on the institutional side. And there’s a lot of important professional work that’s done in terms of running and resourcing the military that hasn’t been as appreciated. There’s also some elements from the research agenda that the 2005 project left, such as, “Should there be a joint profession?” Well, I think, 15 years later, we’re in a better position to answer those kinds of questions. And so, we want to look at not just the services, but also what is the role and function of the Joint layer? What about defense agencies? How does the existence, the growth of those entities put pressure on the services? On the Army as a profession?

    And I also believe an important gap, getting back to the point about collaboration, is about how professions . . . we do a lot of boundary spanning. So, we have the Army as a profession, but we also have different communities of practice, which handles certain requirements that the military needs to be able to sustain itself or to be able to perform its mission that cross professional boundaries, such as resource management; such as the special operations community; such as the special professions of military doctors, military lawyers, military chaplains. Those, I think, deserve a treatment because they are a very, very important part of the profession, but their role has not really been explored as much as it could be.

    The monograph maps a way forward to three practical outcomes. Will you please briefly explain them for our listeners?

    Sure. If I were to put a gloss on all three of them, it’s what I described sometimes being kind of an owner’s manual of how to understand the military. My sense is that the word “military” is a pretty big and amorphous one that is misunderstood by many. Either there’s an assumption about a very narrow view of maybe just battle or combat or a very broad one, which gets to that three-million-person organization, the Department of Defense, and everything it does, which goes way beyond just battle and combat. So articulating sort of what it is that the US military does do. What is its expertise? What expertise is kind of unique to the military as well as ones it shares with other professions or other segments of society? So, helping US citizens and members of the military understand what is the military and who are military professionals.

    Secondly is civilian leaders—particularly, the ones in the federal government or the government, meaning legislative as well as executive branch. And, really, at the state and national level, to sort of help them understand what that expertise is, what the profession does. And so, since they’re the ones who ultimately put it to use, civilians decide how to use it, helping those leaders understand what it does and how to use it. And then, also, the flip side of that for the military leaders: that they understand how to be good stewards of the profession, which includes helping civilians understand what we do. But I think a lot of it is we tend to internally and externally be very vague about or have common misunderstandings about precisely what we do or should do or what we think we should do and to be open to the fact that this evolves over time and that that’s a negotiation between civilian and military leaders and the military and society as a whole. To clarify what we do for the country.

    What are the objectives you hope this will accomplish?

    Well, I think that first off is to get people talking about this, we’ve been expanding the circle. I think Don Snider did a wonderful job. And his group expanded within the Army, and there are some touchpoints with folks beyond the Army. But I sense that those principles and, though he scoped it to the Army, this principle certainly apply well beyond. We’ve talked to some folks in the Air Force, Navy communities, and trying to expand that discussion, partly thinking this framework is a strong one that should be used more broadly to understand how we really respond to things that change. So, you mentioned gaps earlier, but, frankly, one of the main things that drives this is this is a living profession, and the needs that the profession, you know, meets evolve over time. And so a lot of this is just a renewal, but I think also extending the way that Don Snider and others helped us talk about the Army profession so that we socialized that more broadly. So an edited volume probably is the concrete product within the next couple years that we would like to see with a lot of contributors. But, really, to generate more importantly, you know—try to shift the conversation a bit onto these terms of professions and their communities of practice in understanding the expertise in jurisdictions that we perform for American society.

    Yeah, I would add that this is an opportunity to really get more in depth about what stewardship really means because that means a lot of things to a lot of people. One of the things that I think we as a profession overlook is the responsibility to maintain and make useful our domains of expert knowledge. We don’t spend as much time doing that. We spend a lot more time trying to turn the crank at the bureaucratic machine. What does it mean to be a steward? Is it worth further exploring? Because it tends towards the skewing towards particular functions of maintaining the norms and values of the organization, but not as much about, say, some of the professional responsibilities that Abbott cites in his work.

    Another main outcome of this, we hope, is that, uh, we will sustain and strengthen society’s trust in the military profession. Now for some time, the military has been cited as one of the most trusted of institutions within the United States. It’s still one of the most trusted, but those trust numbers are declining, and some of it is not necessarily what the military is doing. But it also was reflective of changes that have happened, say, in the past few years. And so, there’s always room to do some introspection and think about what it is that we as a military profession should be doing better, especially given the pressures that we anticipate coming in terms of increasing budgetary pressures about what we’re going to be able to do and increasing demands for using the military in ways that may be outside of what we consider to be our professional jurisdictions. It’s a conversation that needs to continue. It’s time to renew that conversation, and it’s time to do another inward look. See what it is that we are doing well, not doing well, what we should be doing better.

    Final thoughts before we go?

    I was thinking if I were gonna shelve this somewhere, you know, in a bookstore or library, where would I stick it? And I’d probably put it on the shelf for American civil-military relations . . . is that, although we’re talking about professions, it sounds maybe a little bit esoteric and sort of inward looking and just about what the military profession is. Ultimately, the most important contribution I we’ll contribute to—I don’t think we solved the issue—is trying to support healthy civil-military relations, which really starts with clarity about how we understand. I mean, if there’s broad assumptions about you, we will serve civilians. That is an American foundational principle: that civilians are in charge. But the civilians mean leaders in the executive branch, Congress, and society more broadly; all the American people. And being able to help both members of the military—understand that servant role and how the leaders are stewards of that profession on behalf of American society—requires that we be, I think, clearer about how we articulate that, how we understand and discuss. Because the military can’t just declare, “This is what we do.” We have to negotiate that this is how we serve society, and society, civilians, decide. And so, I think that element of capturing it, pulling it all together, this is important to, I think, healthier civil-military relations through better understanding of roles and responsibilities.

    And I would say that we’re titling this Framing the Future of the US Military Profession, but a very sizable chunk of the work that we’ve already done and the work that we will continue to do in this applies to any military in a democratic society. Just because it’s labeled as for the US military profession . . . I think that the monograph that we’ve written and the project that we’re undertaking—there’s a lot of room for how this can be useful for other militaries or militaries of other nations.

    What a treat to talk with you today. Thank you so much for sharing your time, sharing your insight.

    Thank you. I enjoyed it.

    Same here.


    If you’d like to dig a litter deeper into this topic, you can find this publication at

    If you enjoyed this episode of Decisive Point and would like to hear more, look for us on Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or any other major podcasting platform.



    Date Taken: 08.08.2022
    Date Posted: 06.20.2023 15:09
    Category: Newscasts
    Audio ID: 74939
    Filename: 2306/DOD_109717776.mp3
    Length: 00:12:43
    Artist US Army War College Press
    Album Decisive Point – Season 3
    Track # 25
    Year 2022
    Genre Podcast
    Location: US

    Web Views: 4
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