NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOL
OFFICE OF NAVAL RESEARCH
MILITARY EDUCATION FOR THE 21ST CENTURY WARRIOR
The Honorable Fred Pang
Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Management Policy
COL Harry Summers, USA (Ret)
Army War College Distinguished Fellow;
Columnist, Los Angeles Times; Editor, Vietnam magazine
Follow-on dialogue by Mr. Kitfield, COL Summers, Lt Gen Kinnan, COL Beauchamp
and LTG Chilcoat
Fred Pang:Let me first join my collegues in commending Congressman Skelton for giving impetus to this conference. I also commend the Naval Postgraduate School and Dick Elster for putting it on. I believe this is a very timely conference, especially as DoD and the Administration consider and Congress debates the implications of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), the National Defense Panel, and the Defense Reform Initiative for PME. I also want to commend the speakers on this panel for their excellent presentations.
I think it probably would be most useful for me to summarize what I think are the key issues that have emerged in this conference thus far, and then raise some questions that come to mind as I consider these issues.
First of all, there's no question that our national security environment is more complex, and more uncertain than it has ever been, and that it will become more so as we move into the 21st century. I also think there's no question that our military will get even smaller -- you can just look at the base-force size, the Bottom Up Review, and the QDR. The numbers aren't getting larger. They're getting smaller, and because of the resource pressure, I believe they will get even smaller. The downsizing isn't over, in my mind, and there are going to be a lot of pressures on leaders to squeeze more efficiencies out of the system.
I think there's no question that the technology revolution will continue at a rapid pace; and that our leaders need to deal with that and use this revolution to their advantage.
There's also no question that wartime operations and operations other than war will be more joint. Look at the Persian Gulf War, our operations in Bosnia, or read the CSIS report -- the Cheney Report. It's clear we're doing three times more operations other than war than we did before the collapse of the Soviet Union.
There's no question that our military and civilian leaders will be challenged by this very dynamic environment to make wise decisions about the allocation of scarce and competing resources. And there's no question that their decisions in peace and in war will come under greater public scrutiny. Unfortunately, their comportment in their private lives will as well.
There is no question that our PME institutions will be challenged in the vital task of educating our current and future leaders -- equipping them to deal effectively with 21st century challenges to our national security. Frankly, we've known and debated this for a long time. Indeed, the way we have gone about managing and equipping our leaders has evolved over time.
I remember when I was on the staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee, indeed even before that, when I worked on the OSD staff. We were working on DOPMA -- the Defense Office Personnel Management Act. It provided a uniform system for the accession of our officers, and for their professional and career development. It set the tenure points in law so that our services would operate and manage their officer forces in a more uniform way. I believe that was an effective foundation.
The Goldwater-Nichols Act followed, and then the Skelton Panel, which were all part of this evolution as we moved to more and more jointness.
So, how are we doing? We've heard from our panelists that the answer is, "We're doing quite well." We've heard that there are some difficulties with implementation; but, overall, when you look at the evidence -- and the evidence is in the performance of our forces -- I think the answer has to be that it's looking quite good.
What of the current status and future with regard to PME? And of our response to the guidance and recommendations of the Skelton Panel?
Before I came to this conference, I read CJCS Instruction 1800.01 (the OPMEP), which was published in March of 1996. That document clearly spells out the framework and policies for conducting JPME through the entire personnel life cycle. It is quite explicit. It embodies, I believe, the bulk of the Skelton Panel recommendations, and also institutionalizes and evaluates the process that never existed before. So, the framework and guidance are there; but what are the implications of this evolution that we ought to consider?
There are many questions, and we're not going to find the answers to all of them today. But I think it's worth considering, first, whether we need longer careers for some of our officers? Do we need to change DOPMA because of all the very, very difficult matters senior leaders must deal with? Should we get away from this notion that officers really have two careers: a military career and another one later? Should there be some who have only one career?
Do we need to do a better job of integrating the Reserves? Debbie Lee hit on that, and I agree with her. We cannot mount any kind of significant operation without calling on the Reserves.
Do we need to do a better job integrating our civilians? An earlier speaker pointed that out that DRI has called for a Chancellor of Education and Professional Development to look at the way we develop civilians. That has implications for military PME.
What elements of PME need to be strengthened? For example, should there be a greater emphasis on and continuity in presenting value systems and expectations of personal conduct -- of morality and ethics?
Are we satisfied with NCO JPME, or does it also need attention?
Today, in operations other than war, the forces we have are scattered about in very small groups. A question I think worth asking, is, "Are we satisfied in our programs and the visions that are articulated in Joint Vision 2010, the QDR, and other policy documents regarding our leadership requirements?" Given the critical role of PME, is it adequately programmed and resourced? That's a big question, because, in order to implement the bigger role implied in these documents, it's going to take money and resources.
These are some of the questions that have emerged thus far, and I hope I'll hear responses to these questions. I believe they should guide our debate as to where we've been and where we're headed.
So, thank you again for inviting me, Dick. This has really been an enjoyable experience.
COL Summers: Let me open, as well, with a comment about Congressman Skelton. Many view with alarm the fact that fewer and fewer of our congressmen have served in the military, as if that was a terribly bad thing. But we couldn't have a better friend in the military than Ike Skelton, who's never served a day on active duty. So, maybe we need to look beyond military service as a criterion for our congressional leaders.
Secondly, if you take nothing away from this conference except this -- it is that there is a bottom line to this whole business. And that bottom line is the battlefield, and we're getting farther and farther away from that reality. Fewer and fewer of our people have any firsthand battlefield experience.
Among other things, I am the founding editor and publisher of Vietnam Magazine, now in its tenth year. This last year, we had a piece by Major General Guy Meloy who, as some of you may know, as a lieutenant colonel in Vietnam, commanded the 1st and 27th Infantry "Wolfhounds." In November 1966, he got in a very severe fight with a Vietcong regiment. He normally commanded three rifle companies but, in the course of this battle, ended up commanding 11 rifle companies. He was reinforced piecemeal, by eight rifle companies from other battalions, and even beyond his brigade. In the conclusion to his article, he said that his other commanders didn't know him from Adam. They had never met him. They didn't even know his name. All they knew was a call sign over the radio. And all he knew about them was a call sign over the radio. But he ordered them, literally, to their deaths, and he got no argument. All he got was a "Roger" over the radio, as they closed with the enemy. He said, "If you want a testimonial to the military's educational system, you can't get a stronger one than that." They shared the same concepts, the same values, the same notions, the same tactics as he did, and they didn't need to know each other. They didn't need to know any more than a call sign over the radio that said, "Move out and close in on the enemy."
I think that is a lesson that we need to carry away. All of this military education has to focus on this point: when the time comes, does it work on the battlefield?
There was an earlier comment about the professionalism of study at the Army War College. I spent six years on the faculty there. I was in the Army Chief of Staff's office, and I was sent up to the Army War College with a mission directed by the Chief of Staff to inquire about what went wrong in Vietnam and to write a teaching text for the Army War College about it. I got that task because the Army, in particular, was avoiding Vietnam; they didn't want to talk about it, sweeping it under the rug as we had done with the Korean War. As I began my research, I came across a document that was being used at the Naval War College up in Newport. It was an article written in 1915 by Commander Dudley Knox on the role of doctrine and naval warfare. I would commend it to you today, as a matter of fact.
In his conclusion, he said -- and this is in 1915 -- "What we need desperately is a conception of war. Without a conception of war, we are like a ship in the fog -- uncertain of its bearings." As we think about it, that really has great applicability today.
As you think about the post-World War II era, we've had two faulty conceptions of war. First were the atomic purists, who said, "Conventional war is obsolete. Atomic war is the wave of the future and it will govern everything." It almost destroyed the Army and the Marine Corps, and didn't do any favors for the conventional forces of the Navy and Air Force, either.
As Colonel Jack Broughton in the Air Force first said, "When the tactical component of the Air Force first went into Vietnam, it had to relearn, at great cost, all the lessons it had forgotten from the Korean War, because it had been 'SAC-emcised.' It had forgotten about close-air support, it had forgotten about air-to-air combat, and it had to relearn them at a terrible cost."
The other great misconception was the idea of counterinsurgency. As that thinking went, "Conventional, forward war is maintenance; all wars of the future will be guerilla wars, wars of national liberation, and the like." As a recent Marine Corps University pamphlet by Joe Strange pointed out, "The major factor behind our loss in Vietnam was that we seized the wrong center of gravity." This is a basic military concept which, of course, was out of favor.
We owe a great deal to the Navy because these fallacies were destroying us until Stansfield Turner, at the Naval War College said, "Enough of this nonsense. Enough of these civilians, these wizards of Armageddon, if you will, and the social scientists of the counterinsurgency crowd telling us about our profession. We're going to go back to basics. We're going to go back to fundamentals. We're going to go back to Mahan, to Sir Julian Corber, to von Clausewitz." And conventional warfare became again the basis of military education after a hiatus of many years.
We are again in danger of forgetting that lesson, as the National Defense Panel goes on with a new version of counterinsurgency. Conventional wars on the battlefield are 'out.' They say there's going to be terrorism, and this and that and the other -- again moving the focus away from our basic mission in the Armed Forces, which is to win on the battlefield.
Most recently, General Reimer, the Army Chief of Staff, has come down on that thinking and, as General Powell did before him, reminded us that our basic function is to fight and win our nation's wars. "Yes," he said, "we can do other things. We can do peacekeeping and all these other tasks, but never at the expense of our primary mission." In a recent speech, General Reimer reinforced that again.
So, as we talk about military education, we need to talk about military education for what? I would submit that the real revolution of military affairs took place in 1972, at the Naval War College. As we sloughed off the false doctrines of atomic war and counterinsurgency, we came back to the basic trade that we're in -- conventional war -- and becoming masters of that profession.
Sir Michael Howard, a great strategist, in remarks on the revolution in military affairs given at a recent conference at the Army War College said, "Yes, the information age will bring with it great changes on the battlefield, as the industrial age before it brought great changes on the battlefield." We already see some of these revolutions. In Army field artillery, for example, what used to take hours to serve a battery, now can be done almost instantaneously with global positioning satellites. There are enormous changes taking place, and they will continue to take place on the battlefield, as digitalization goes apace. But Howard pointed out that while all this was well and good, and while we had to take advantage of it, we needed to remember that we also had to fight not only in the Industrial and Information ages, but also in the Agrarian age. Someone with a sharp stick can still put out your eye.
The task for the military today is to keep one foot in the war of the 21st Century without forgetting the ancient tenets that Julius Caesar knew -- that the spirit of the bayonet is still with us. You forget that at your peril.
The major challenge ahead -- the basic challenge ahead -- which is beyond the purview of the military, is to come up with what Dudley Knox called a conception of war. We haven't come up with that yet.
I spent 38 years on active duty -- 10 years as an enlisted man and 20 years as an officer. During that entire time, I knew who the bad guy was. It was the Cold War. But for the first time in 60 years, we don't know who the enemy is. And that has enormous ramifications, because you can train for a known enemy, as we did during that period, but you can only educate for an unknown enemy.
This reflects what some of the speakers have said before. Adaptability and flexibility are absolutes, because we don't know who the bad guys are, and we've got to have an officer corps educated to be able to rapidly adapt to a changing situation. That's the great challenge -- to prepare people for the 21st Century while retaining the virtues of past centuries.
As General Solomon, a former Army Chief of Staff, said, "Unless we have young men and women who will sail forward, fly forward, march forward into the face of the enemy, all the rest of the stuff is just junk." That's the lesson we need to remember as we go forth. Thank you very much.