A Response to Dr. Moyar on COIN in Army PME

Dr. Mark Moyar's response to "Overdue Bill" is exactly the kind of discussion I hoped the essay would engender. Dr. Moyar correctly points out the difficulty of creating change in academic institutions and Professional Military Education (PME). The four outcomes listed in the original paper which Dr. Moyar discusses were developed in 2007 by a group that included many CGSC instructors, whose advice shaped the recommendation in significant ways. The tradeoffs Dr. Moyar describes are very real, and over the past years within TRADOC cut classroom hours and readings in order to provide balance for soldiers exhausted by multiple deployments, and to shorten course length to return Soldiers to the operational force more quickly. Most of the low hanging fruit or non-critical courses have already been cut. Therefore, adding any new instruction at this point inherently forces tradeoffs with other vital topics. Given unconstrained classroom hours and students —to do extra reading, I am sure resistance to additional COIN instruction would evaporate. However, the shortcomings of current COIN instruction and ongoing operational challenges demand a thoughtful reconsideration of the weights assigned to various topics.

By virtue of where we currently sit, Dr. Moyar and I are viewing this debate through the lens of mid-level staff college education, which is generally provided to junior Majors with approximately twelve years of service. It is the last schooling the majority will receive in their military careers, except for those lucky individuals eventually selected for senior service colleges as full Colonels. The debate about what to devote limited instructional hours therefore becomes more important as the institution must consider what skills are most critical to impart on a field grade officer for what is likely the final decade of their military service. It is also the first military educational instruction that considers itself graduate level, thus increasing the ability to expose officers to more conceptual/theoretical material.

However, I think it is crucial to conceptualize the problem across all of PME, from initial entry training to the senior service colleges. Addressing one institution to the exclusion of others adds to the gaps that currently exist on COIN. While the staff and senior service colleges are full of PhD level talent, the institutions that train junior officers and NCOs generally are not stacked with such educational background. The Army does not possess the significant Marine Corps advantage of co-locating its doctrine, education, and thought institutions on one post in Northern Virginia. The Army faces the challenge across over a dozen schools and centers, widely separated by geography and each with multiple general officers shaping its approach. Therefore, the recommended educational outcomes in my essay are broad and scalable, yet applicable as to all levels of schooling and military specialties.

Dr. Moyar is correct to criticize FM 3-24 as an imperfect manual. He correctly points out some of its shortcomings. The reason I chose to focus on doctrine was twofold: first, doctrine by definition is an agreed upon set of norms by an institution, and second, despite debates on its finer points; it is an excellent introduction to COIN in a way no other singular text currently provides. In short, we could do a lot worse. I confess in an ideal world, the mid and senior level staff colleges would adapt a graduate level seminar utilizing many of the readings he suggests, analyzing and debating the finer points of COIN agreement and disagreement between various works. Given that this type of seminar is only realistic at these levels, FM 3-24 and its related texts provide an adequate foundation to build upon across the force. Perhaps the Army and Marine Corps will revise FM 3-24 in the coming years to address some of the more glaring criticisms, improving its applicability to the classroom.

Dr. Moyar's most recent book focuses on the central role of quality leadership by external counterinsurgents and the host nation to positive counterinsurgency outcomes. Providing a solid educational foundation on COIN to all Soldiers remains perhaps the most effective way of achieving effective counterinsurgency outcomes.

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I alluded to last week on Neil's original article, and see that Dr. Moyar wrote an excellent commentary that we have made a lot of progress in reforming Army education, and I also assisted Marine Corps EWS, their great cadre led by COL Brian Beaudreault and some great majors and captains over there with evolving the way the teach. Since July when I did my two day workshop, I have returned three times for Bill Lind's Advanced Warfighting Seminar, and Dr. Bruce Gudmundsson's Case Study classes, and the course has jumped leaps and bounds forward from previous years.

The Army and Marine courses I have worked with (as well as some with the Brits, and police departments here) are using Outcomes Based Training and Education (OBTE) and one of its methods of teaching called the Adaptive Leader Methodology (ALM).

After seven years of research on Army Education adn training, I found that the Armys training system creates dependencies that flow from task deconstruction intended for universal application rather than a more cohesive concern for development of the individual. Similarly, Army schools and courses provide instruction to Soldiers and leaders that span both training and education, each with their unique requirements. Yet somehow learning that is durable and useful across the entire spectrum of operational settings. With ever increasing application of technologies and new TTPs was not produced.

I concluded from my observations of training and education -- especially those conducted in institutional settings -- that there is far too much emphasis on "presenting" instruction. This occurred everywhere, whether it is a conference (in practice a lecture format), discussion, the dependence upon power point and a script is far too prevalent.

Similarly, objective evaluations to assess the extent of learning had more to do with determining the extent of short-term recall than any real measure of whether learning occurred. I recognized that much of this is an inevitable result of too few instructors, too few training developers, too many topics, too little time, and a desire for conformity and uniformity in information presented to students. But the result is that little procedural and declarative knowledge is retained unless it is acted upon and constantly refreshed. More importantly, many of the end users of the "product," the commanders of units, dissatisfied with their return on investment.

While some knowledge will come with experience, it is also a reflection of a capacity for judgment; that capacity was not sufficiently developed when the student attended schools. When course design revolves around tasks and blocks of time to teach them, the developmental needs of the attributes students need were often lost or ignored. The focus of attention tended to be on an event and not on individuals whose development is the reason for the event. I kept saying that if Army does not get it at the tactical level, how are we going to get it at the operational or/and strategic level of development?

What we did with years of thoroughly study on how the Army trains, was to develop a practical solution. While at Georgetown, we called it the Adaptive Course Model, then later, while working at TRADOC's ARCIC Forward, it was changed to Adaptive Leader Course, and finally has come to be known as the Adaptive Leader Methodology (ALM). The name means little to us as long as it worked.

ALM stresses effective decision-making and adaptability through experiential learning. In keeping with the outcomes-based approach to training, ALM focuses on the fundamental principles (the "why") and encourages experimentation and innovation. Aspiring leaders are allowed to try, and sometimes fail, as they struggle to solve increasingly complex tactical problems. Each individuals strength of character is tested through a crucible of decision-making exercises and communication drills that require the students to brief and then defend their decisions against focused criticism from their peers and instructors.

ALM emphasizes nurturing effective decision-making and adaptability through experiential learning. Experimentation comes first through the execution of Tactical Decision-Making Games or as they are called at West Point, Exercises (TDEs) followed by student briefings of their decisions, plans or orders.

The student explains himself and responds to criticism from his peers and instructor. The group then executes an intense instructor-facilitated after-action review (AARs). The "teaching" is accomplished through these AARs as the students discover for themselves the concepts and principles included in that lessons learning objectives.

Only after the event with AAR has occurred is the "theory" or doctrine formally introduced by the instructor. The students generally find themselves saying something like this: "Wow! That is what you call it!" There are no preparatory reading assignments or lectures prior to the execution of the TDE. Instead, these readings come afterward, allowing the cadets to more effectively absorb the information within the context that they already established during their experimentation in the classroom.

In the summer of 2007, I was introduced to members of the Asymmetric Warfare Group who were also tackling with ways to evolve Army training doctrine to improve unit performance for irregular operations. Their approach was called Outcomes Based Training and Education (OBT&E), an idea championed by COL Casey Haskins, who at time I met him more than two years ago, was commanding an Army training brigade for training infantry Soldiers. I was so impressed by his work on evolving OBT&E training approach at initial entry training (IET) that I incorporated it into my recent book Manning the Legions (Praeger October 2008). We now had a "principles" structure to overarch ALM.

Don Vandergriff
vandergriffdonald@usa.net
571-229-0962

Ken,
I suspected that might be the case, as it is with other impediments to getting the right capabilities and the needed reform.

As such, the HASC and SASC should take up the matter, as opposed to investigating some of the symptoms of the problem. I'm sure it will take a long time, and as such we should do what we can now (and have proven to make it work out OK), however, getting the problem identified, and a process that supports continued reform should be the long term goal.

I do think internally we could do a better job of getting our azimuth right, and making what changes we can just by doing the hard work of evaluating the UJTL and service task lists in light of current and anticipated requirements.

Its frustrating, but its the way we've built a constraining system - not all of which is necessarily bad I guess.

Best, Rob

Here is another point that Neil makes or rather I will add my 2 cents. FM 3-24.2 Tactics In COIN is a BETTER manual than the original FM 3-24. It covers enough of the historical context for Junior Officers and NCO's but more important it is a How To Do COIN to an acceptable standard. And it starts with a basic systems analysis (5 Rings) in this case 6 Rings ASCOPE,this is tool to understand ANY COIN siuation and that is what the Army (miliatry) needs. General purpose Leadership thinking tools that will allow you to understand the local variables of ANY conflict.

You're of course correct, Rob -- the problem is that the US political system, Congress, budgeting process and political divisions to include within DoD and among and within the Armed Forces mitigate against doing what you suggest as needed and which would be perfectly logical. Or, at least those factors will delay any decisions and will be used to block many needed reforms due to various factors and actors.

In the near term the decisions on "how we recruit, assess, organize, train, assign, educate, equip and build our people to do the tasks we anticipate them having to do" are going to be made by DoD and DA with excessive Congressional input but little Congressional oversight and will be reactive rather than innovative. Mostly because we certainly cannot truly anticipate what will be required in the future and bureaucracies tend to be cautious; they like to reply on what's proven to work -- even if it's also proven to be unlikely...

If we improve and adapt our training and education to full spectrum warfare and significantly improve the training at entry and early career levels, the kids will make it work.

The studies are fine and can aim for future improvement but what you recommend (aside from IMO being not possilbe for the reasons I cited) would take years. So study, yes, that's okay and we like to do that with GOSCs and Councils of Colonels. We may be advised to do what you suggest but more important by far is that we fix training now.

While I beleive this debate is important, I also see it in the ocntext of the larger question what do you want your people to be capable of doing. What I find a bit frustrating is we seem to incline toward piecemealing our way to answering the question.

I know many here know this, but it is not just a leader development and education problem.

This is a problem that cuts across DOTMLPF because it gets to how we recruit, assess, organize, train, assign, educate, equip and build our people to do the tasks we anticipate them having to do.

Until we really answer the question of what tasks we want our people to be capable of doing, I'm not even sure we can address individual and leader capability development piecemeal as the rational for selecting a prioritizng resources (both as an institution and as individuals) is limited to current demmands and anecdotal evidence.

What should we teach, train, etc.? It depends on what you want our people at each grade and position to be capable of doing. When we answer that question, we can maybe look at the whole problem and turn all the DOTMLPF gears together to support producing the people we need to do the tasks we've identified.

Adjusting DOTMLPF to meet our needs is not new (and DOTMLPF itself is just a contruct for thinking about it). What we require I think is some hard work commissioned by the services' and DoD's executive authroties and tasked down to our generating and operating forces to nail down these requirements as they relate both to current and future demands, and then do the analysis to figure out what capabilities our people need. My guess is that some will remain consistent, and some may be new. Then they can figure out what gears to turn in the system (DOTMLPF)to make it happen.

Best, Rob

Niel, you've made three very critical points which bear repetition...

"The debate about what to devote limited instructional hours therefore becomes more important as the institution must consider what skills are most critical to impart on a field grade officer for what is likely the final decade of their military service..." (emphasis added / kw)

This is one case where 'better late than never' doe not apply. It effectively means the bulk of the army will not be adequately exposed to full spectrum training and education. That is a long standing flaw that urgently requires correction for, as you also say:

"However, I think it is crucial to conceptualize the problem across all of PME, from initial entry training to the senior service colleges..." (emphasis added /kw)

More than conceptualization is required -- it should have been implemented five years ago. It is borderline criminal that our adaptation process is so slow; the pace of future combat may not be as kind to us.

"The Army does not possess the significant Marine Corps advantage of co-locating its doctrine, education, and thought institutions on one post in Northern Virginia. The Army faces the challenge across over a dozen schools and centers, widely separated by geography and each with multiple general officers shaping its approach. Therefore, the recommended educational outcomes in my essay are broad and scalable, yet applicable as to all levels of schooling and military specialties."

That is a truth and it is both an advantage and a disadvantage. It is a disadvantage due to the mechanics of dispersion and, even more so, to foolish and very wasteful branch parochiality, desire for school primacy or lead and the corrupting Staffing Guides and the budgeting process. It is an advantage because it allows multiple paths of experiment to determine best practices. All that's required to accentuate the advantage and decrement the parochiality is a firm hand somewhere.

What after all is the goal? Collegiality among Flag Officers? Ascendancy or primacy of a Branch? Increasing staffing? Lower fail or 'no-go' rates? Or taking care of Soldiers -- particularly the Troops that do the work and the young Captains, Lieutenants and NCOs that actually lead them...