As an officer benefitting from a minority within the US Army fighting an internal insurgency for enlightened policies toward officer education, this article from the Army Times gives me hope. While I have not yet been able to locate a copy of the House Armed Services Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee’s report online (if any readers find it, please post a link in the comments
UPDATE: Thanks to Christopher for the link to the report (more to follow once I’ve had a chance to read it).
Here is what the Committee’s website says about its mandate to look at ‘professional military education’:
Professional military education is the backbone in the development of the nation’s armed forces and the quality of that military education distinguishes U.S. forces around the world. The committee remains committed to ensuring that the quality and availability of professional military education programs remain a priority for the services and the Department, even during times of high-operational tempo, when the Department may be tempted to shortchange educational opportunities to provide manpower in the short term. As part of its oversight responsibilities, the committee will actively engage in monitoring the rigor and relevance of the curricula being offered at all levels, including those provided to meet joint professional military educational requirements. Additionally, an important part of this program includes opportunities for service members to attend advanced civil schooling in a wide variety of disciplines, including the liberal arts, and the committee will explore innovative approaches to providing such opportunities to the widest group of service members possible.
From personal experience, I can assure you that there are parts of the US Army that undoubtedly ‘shortchange educational opportunities to provide manpower in the short term’. It was no small fight to get me back to graduate school; more of my peers deserve the opportunity and the military needs well-educated officers for 21st century wars.
The article above fails to put into context the important civil-military aspect of having more serving officers in civilian graduate schools. I stopped being a civilian the day I put on a uniform over 13 years ago. Immersing myself in civilian culture for a couple of years as a student is a good reminder of the society I’m supposed to be serving, and reminds them that those in uniform are not uniform, but individuals like them. Culture gaps do exist and this helps to ameliorate them.
One of the blocks I had to check before getting here to London was the captain’s career course, the second significant block of training for US Army officers. It was treated as a respite from operations rather than an opportunity for professional enlightenment, in my experience. It is hit or miss at the ground level (‘Relevance’, yes. ‘Rigor’, not so much.), so I would welcome increased congressional oversight in this area broadly to ensure the taxpayer is getting maximum return on investment. Unfortunately, the only way to create more time in an officer’s career for education is to have more personnel to cover the same number of operational requirements while a portion of the force is in school or training. Even in the relative surplus that is the American defence budget compared to the UK’s, that’s a big ask.