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.