A 22 February United Press International story by Pentagon correspondent Pamela Hess reported that the secretary of Defense has asked the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to "cut back military officer education during 'stress periods'-such as during the war in Iraq-to allow greater numbers to be available for deployment." The U.S. Army already has shortened the tours of some student officers assigned to the Command and General Staff College and the Army War College.
This cut in education is drawing expressions of concern from senior military officers and Representative Ike Skelton (D-MO), a champion of professional military education, who said, "You've got two missions: to fight these wars and prepare for the next war."
To amend Representative Skelton's thought slightly, without basic disagreement: We are in the next war-with no quick end in sight. After all, the Cold War lasted nearly a half-century. Lessons learned from the current fights are flowing in for analysis day by day.
So the educational process must be a continuing one, even as we fight. We must carry out both missions simultaneously-and not create a zero-sum standoff in which one vital mission is advanced only at the expense of the other.
Let us stipulate that military training and education have progressed exponentially over the past half-century, keeping pace with the tactical, technological, and operational advances of the times. How and where can we cut back to best carry out both missions?
Officers' basic-level training should be maintained at current levels and intensified where needed. The battlefield is no place for on-the-job training by officers entrusted with mission accomplishment and the safety and welfare of personnel under their command.
Intermediate-level schools might be condensed from nine to six months, along the model of the Armed Forces Staff College, thus producing twice as many graduates each year. To preserve course content, it may not be unthinkable to have the students work on Saturdays, more like their contemporaries who are fighting around the clock.
As a former Commandant of the Army's Command and General Staff College has suggested, the grade of major/ lieutenant commander is not too early to begin weaning officer students from "school solutions" to tactical and operational problems and start them thinking about how to think about warfare as it has evolved over the centuries. The Naval War College seems to be in agreement, for after the Admiral Stansfield Turner "revolution" of the 1970s the course offerings of the Naval Command and Staff College and the senior College of Naval Warfare became nearly identical. This suggests highlevel and top-level schools might eventually be merged, bringing proven "operators" into a policy-making mind-set they will need as senior officers in the Pentagon and elsewhere-one grade earlier.