"...do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

"For the good of the Air Force, for the good of the armed services and for the good of our country, I urge you to reject convention and careerism..."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Maxwell AFB, April 21, 2008

"You will need to challenge conventional wisdom and call things like you see them to subordinates and superiors alike."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, United States Air Force Academy, March 4, 2011

Monday, October 12, 2009

Do Officers Really Need to be Educated?

There is a great article in today's Air Force Times by Rick Maze entitled, Expert: Officers Need More Time in Classroom. Reading it reminded me of a recent Tom Ricks blog post where he asked if officers were better educated with an engineering or a degree in the humanities. This is an important conversation and perhaps a decade too late.

From the Maze article:

Retired Army Lt. Gen. David Barno, director of the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, said education for professional officers is “drifting off course,” partly because so much is expected of officers that there is little time for academics in a military career.

In addition, military culture — and rewards like promotions — do not put much emphasis on being brilliant, he said.

I think our military education needs serious reform as many will note reading this blog. I think the importance of "fluffy" education needs to be highlighted. It's great to study engineering and computer science and those are great skills. They are the degrees that allow a person to build something and act as a tool to create something tactically useful. But in the warfighting business, and especially in the people based COIN realm, we need reflective people who seek to understand themselves and others. Those are the people who can best use such tools to craft a strategy that wins wars.

There may have been a time when shallow but committed fighting men were more useful than their thinking counterparts. I think that time is over.

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