by Dan McCauley
Joint Professional Military Education: Anticipating at the Speed of the Environment
A major change in the strategic environment that causes a fundamental shift in thinking or acting is called a strategic inflection point. The collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s was one such strategic inflection point that saw the United States emerge as a global hegemon. Under the leadership of the U.S., the last decade of the 20th Century was viewed as the beginning of an era in which capitalism would take root in areas of the world previously denied by communist ideology. It was assumed that Western financial prosperity, and along with it Western democratic ideals and values, would be embraced by nation-states, cultures, and peoples world-wide.
This era, however, was one part reality and one part illusion, and subsequently short-lived. On the one hand, many areas of the world formerly under communist control did embrace capitalism and democracy, and have flourished economically. On the other hand, with the specter of communism gone, Western capitalism and its associated values were seen as the new threat to local and traditional cultures. With hindsight, this dissatisfaction with a U.S.-led globalization effort was evident through periodic acts of terrorism around the world. Most leaders, however, misjudged these key indicators as cautionary viewpoints were undermined by economic optimism.
Unfortunately, this economic optimism was fragile, and the events of September 11, 2001 marked a new strategic inflection point for the U.S. Global economic prosperity, if it were to continue, needed to have a security strategy that facilitated global stability and security. The U.S. took the lead as the global security provider, but has encountered a global environment marked by national pluralism, weak states, individual empowerment, and the proliferation of technology among a host of other conditions that were not resident in the previous Cold War paradigm.
This new security environment requires a new security strategy, a new way of conducting security operations, and a new way of thinking. To develop the Joint leaders with the requisite values and strategic thinking competencies needed to keep pace with the changing environment, education and training programs and policies must change at the same rate. This essay advocates the implementation of an anticipatory management process and the development of issue management teams within the Joint Staff J-7, responsible for Joint force development, to identify, prioritize, and integrate educational and training issues that affect the Joint force. To support this recommendation, a brief discussion of the shortfalls within the current Professional Military Education (PME) Review Process is presented followed by an explanation of the anticipatory management process. Next an example is used to illustrate the anticipatory management process in the context of the PME system. Finally, recommendations for the Joint education and training community are presented.
Current PME Review Process
The Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 levied a requirement on the Defense community to institute a Joint education program as part of a broader Joint officer management effort. The Officer Professional Military Education Policy (OPMEP) is the Chairman’s instruction that defines the policies, procedures, and objectives that comprise the officer PME and Joint PME systems. The OPMEP identifies the required joint learning areas and objectives for all accredited PME institutions. A PME review process ensures the effectiveness of the program. The review process consists of three components: feedback mechanisms, update mechanisms, and JPME assessments. This report focuses solely on the update mechanisms.
The update mechanism relies upon four processes to ensure issue currency and relevancy. At the policy level, the Joint Staff conducts a thorough review of the Chairman’s policies every five years. At the institutional level, each school regularly reviews and updates its curriculum and initiates revisions as needed. At the enterprise level, the Joint Staff conducts periodic assessments of all PME institutions to ensure prescribed Joint educational requirements are met. Also at the enterprise level, the Joint Staff hosts an annual meeting of the PME community to present emerging concepts and other material relevant to the schools. Concerns of the broader Joint community, to include the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Services, combatant commands, Defense agencies, and the Joint Staff are solicited by the Joint Staff/J-7 Joint Education Branch and presented at these annual meetings as potential CJCS special areas of emphasis (SAE). Concept advocates brief the conference members who vote whether to recommend their approval into PME curricula.
Although the JFEC conference and SAE process provided opportunities for emerging issues to be integrated into Joint curricula, LtGen Flynn (previous Joint Staff J-7 Director) called it ineffective. As a result, there have not been new SAEs since May 16, 2011. The process has the following shortcomings:
- SAEs are frequently proposed to help concepts and ideas gain traction and funding regardless of academic requirements.
- The SAE process does not ensure consideration of the most important issues.
- The JFEC process is dependent on how well the advocate can ‘sell’ the idea.
- JFEC membership often votes with a limited understanding of the issue.
- SAEs are recommendations, not requirements, leaving it up to individual institutions to determine inclusion.
- SAEs are unfunded, and require schools and colleges to develop the supporting curriculum, obtain the requisite expertise to teach, and purchase any supporting materials.
The SAE process has proven ineffective in that it generally fails to present timely and relevant issues to the PME community. The process lacks a proactive component that facilitates understanding environmental conditions before they reach a crisis. Today, waiting for an issue to reach a crisis after external stakeholders have already developed a response creates difficulties for an organization’s public affairs to contain the issue, its public relations to explain the issue, and its operations to develop appropriate responses.
Clearly, one of the challenges for leadership is to recognize an approaching crisis, communicate its consequences, and position the organization to react appropriately if the crisis plays out as foreseen. A poor understanding of key environmental issues and delays in recognizing changes can have catastrophic consequences for national security. Therefore, the challenge for the PME community is to develop a PME review process that facilitates the development of Joint leaders who better understand the environment, who can recognize impending changes, and who can guide their organization through the challenges presented in the operating environment.
One such process that has been used successfully by Fortune 500 Companies, law enforcement agencies, and public works agencies is anticipatory management. The anticipatory management process is similar to current operational intelligence processes within the Department of Defense. Anticipatory management facilitates organizational anticipation of potential issues before they reach the crisis stage, often revealing insights into leveraging opportunities that might otherwise be missed.
Graham Molitor, noted public policy and social change expert, developed a change model based upon 50 years of experience in public policy making for organizations ranging from the White House to Fortune 500 companies. As depicted in his Model of Change (Figure 1), anticipatory management facilitates the integration of issues through a three-step change process: framing, advancing, and resolving. Issues are culled from the environment and framed through understanding and innovation. Subsequent events that confirm the issue are then advanced for further consideration. Once identified, issues are analyzed and assessed further and communicated throughout the organization for additional insights. Change agents are highlighted, and catalysts sought to either facilitate or mitigate the effects of the issue. Once the issue has sufficiently matured, policy must be developed to keep pace with the change dynamics through the development of informal rules, settlements, laws, and other agreements. Depending upon the issue, this process may take decades or even generations.
Just as early warning signals are available to intelligence analysts and operational planners, these same signals are available to educators. If educators and trainers wish to manage issues, as opposed to being managed by them, they will have to take a more operational approach to the education and curriculum development process. One way to ‘operationalize’ education is to think of issues as having a life cycle (Figure 2). This will enable the education and training community to anticipate the effects of an issue on the defense enterprise, and make timely and relevant adjustments to education and training policies and programs.
Managers often dismiss early weak environmental signals as anomalies that do not fit the current paradigm. Over time, these environmental signals increase in magnitude and the issue takes on a more mature identity. At this point, when policy should be formulated, some managers are still in the denial stage. It often takes a crisis to emerge before managers recognize the need for policy formalization and action, but the magnitude of the needed response is typically underestimated. Only after control mechanisms, such as enforcement and compliance agencies, are put into place that organizations make the necessary adjustments.
An anticipatory paradigm (Figure 3) that integrates issues management begins with strategic planning. Linking the external environment to the internal environment of an organization is critical to decision making and to the relevancy and responsiveness of institutions. Strategic direction provides the broad approach to integrating those issues that are most immediate to the institution, which, in turn, enables the associated functions of operations, human resources, public affairs (increases the effectiveness of strategic communication with stakeholders and can address immediate concerns), and public relations (integrates diverse perspectives and facilitates collaboration) to be integrated into a strategic plan. This is an iterative process that ‘flexes’ in response to changes within the environment.
The anticipatory management process (Figure 4) identifies and prioritizes issues using criticality and probability of affect. Three categories are used to manage the issues: 1) those requiring immediate action; 2) those that do not require immediate action but require additional assessment and policy decisions; and 3) those that require no action other than monitoring. Once prioritized, an issues management team (IMT), an issues maintenance team, or an issues monitoring team is assigned (Figure 5). On an ‘as needed’ basis, teams present issues to the governing broad who approves an action plan and/or policy change.
Issue management teams use a 10-step process to anticipate and manage issues that affect or could affect education and training institutions. The 10-step process is:
- Designate an issue owner. Most issues are cross-disciplinary and thus require ownership to facilitate responsibility and follow-up.
- Form an action team. Team members are cross-organizational front-line people with first-hand knowledge of information.
- Conduct a situational assessment (Define the issue and gather information). Often the issue is poorly defined or a symptom of another issue.
- Study the results. The effect on the enterprise must be understood.
- Identify stakeholders. Primary and secondary stakeholders must be identified and integrated into the process.
- Formalize the enterprise position. The organization should clearly define its position on the issue, the desired outcome, and any obstacles for consideration.
- Develop stakeholder objectives. The needs of stakeholders vary and thus the broader enterprise objectives must be interpreted for individual organizational context.
- Develop organizational objectives. Individual organizational action plans must be developed and tested against clear criteria.
- Implement the action plan and establish a communication plan. Changes to the organization are best managed comprehensively. Concepts such as DOTMLPF (doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel, and facilities) facilitate success.
- Monitor and fine-tune. Plans must be monitored and assessed for effectiveness and continued relevancy.
Applied Anticipatory Management
Within the Joint education community, the anticipatory management process will likely reside within the Joint Staff J-7 and leverage processes and products from its five core functions of Joint Training and Exercise, Joint Education, Joint Doctrine, Joint Lessons Learned, and Joint Concepts. The Joint Education Branch will act as anticipatory management process owner as it is responsible for the PME Review Process. The first step in the process identifies external and internal issues that may affect the U.S. Joint Forces through strategic trend analysis. The J-7’s Joint Concepts Branch will develop external issues as it has responsibility for developing a comprehensive view of the future operating environment. For this example, the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds and the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2012, 7th Edition provided external issues. The J-7’s Joint Lessons Learned Branch analyzes the effectiveness of lessons learned over time and would be responsible for generating internal issues. In this example, The Joint Staff J-7/Joint Center for Operational Analysis’ Decade of War, Volume 1 provided internal issues.
Once identified, issue briefs are written covering the source, author, date (of publication or observance), summary, implications for the organization, and the monitor’s name. For example, an issue brief for a wider scope of instability in the Middle East and South Asia would look like the following:
Source: Global Trends 2030.
Author: National Intelligence Council
Date: December 2012
Summary: Regional dynamics in several different theaters during the next couple decades will have the potential to spill over and create global insecurity. The Middle East and South Asia are the two regions most likely to trigger broader instability. An increasingly multipolar Asia lacking a well-anchored regional security framework able to arbitrate and mitigate rising tensions constitutes a significant global threat; an unstable Asia would cause large-scale damage to the global economy.
Implications: Increased conflicts in either region undermine global energy sources and disrupt global economies.
Monitor: Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies
Following the writing of issues briefs, the next step is to prioritize the issues. The J-7 Joint Education Branch will solicit an assessment of the issues across the interagency using the Delphi Rating Model. In this example, nine senior national security professionals rated a group of external and internal issues as to 1) whether immediate action is necessary; 2) no immediate action; or 3) no action required, but issue must be monitored and periodically reassessed. Of the 18 external issues identified over 75% of survey respondents characterized one issue (16 – nuclear war or WMD/cyber attacks) as needing immediate action (Figure 6). Thirteen issues required no immediate action, but did require issues maintenance. Only four issues (11, 12, 13, and 17) needed no immediate action other than monitoring.
Eight senior national security professionals rated eleven internal issues from The Decade of War, Volume 1. In this case, six Category 1 issues (numbers 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 9) emerged: understanding the environment; battle for the narrative; managing strategic and operational transitions; adaptation; interagency coordination; and host-nation partnering (Figure 7). Interestingly, all eight respondents identified ‘understanding the environment’ as needing immediate action, the only issue, internal or external, to garner 100% of vote. Only one issue, special operations forces and general purpose force integration for large-scale operations, required no action other than monitoring.
Following issue identification and prioritization, issue management, maintenance, or monitoring teams are assigned and managed by the J-7 Education Branch. Using the example of understanding the environment (UE), a Category I issue from the Internal Issue Categorization worksheet, an issue management team would be designated. The PME enterprise would be surveyed for the best issue team. In this example, the J-7’s Joint Concepts Branch would be selected as the issue management team. The issues management team uses the 10-step process to identify and assess the issue further, identify stakeholders, and develop, implement, and assess the action plan across the Joint education and training enterprise.
External and internal issues also can be plotted on a life cycle diagram to gain a better understanding of an issue as it matures over time in response to changes within the environment. For example, plotting the 11 internal issues would yield an array as shown in the figure below (Figure 8). This visualization of issues provides a relative comparison of strength of environmental signals along with the institutional response to the issue. As shown, the magnitude of signals for the issue of understanding the environment (UE) is extremely high, but its maturation is still relatively low. U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan highlight the unanticipated problems and costs associated with a lack of environmental understanding.
Although current Joint doctrine places greater emphasis on environmental understanding, the issue remains a concern as evidenced by the survey responses. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has recognized this issue demand signal and the need for further maturation by directing the Joint education and training community to integrate understanding the environment, anticipating and adapting to surprise and uncertainty, and recognizing change and leading transitions into curricula. However, under the current PME review construct, by leaving this critical issue to be developed and integrated by individual PME institutions it will lack consistency as well as the requisite depth and breadth of development necessary for classroom application. An issues management team would be able to develop the issue using insights from within the Joint Concepts Branch; identify stakeholder requirements, formalize an enterprise response, and ensure issue integration into PME curricula through the Joint Education Branch; and ensure the issue is integrated and updated through the Joint Doctrine Branch.
Clearly, the SAE process within the broader PME Review Process is ineffective identifying relevant issues for the Joint education and training community. The Joint education and training enterprise, however, must not be like most organizations that limit proposed solutions by either looking back at how things were done in the past or laterally to see how others are operating. Instead, the Joint education and training enterprise must transcend the status quo by looking for new ways to augment current thinking with a process that facilitates understanding and anticipation. In other words, it must possess the same attributes proposed by the CJCS for desired leader attributes: it must be focused on the environment; it must be capable of anticipation and adaptation; it must be attuned to the hard and soft signals within the environment; it must be sensitive to individual Service and Joint educational and training requirements; it must be responsive to the demands of the Profession of Arms; and it must use critical and strategic thinking when considering issues that may affect the application of joint warfighting principles and concepts.
An anticipatory management process meets all of these criteria. Therefore, the following suggestions are recommended for the Joint education and training community:
- Create an anticipatory management process within the JPME community to replace the ineffective SAE process.
- Designate the J-7 Joint Education Branch as process lead.
- Transform the current PME Review Process as described in Enclosure C of CJCSI 1800-01D into the Anticipatory PME Management Process.
- Leverage NDU’s centers of excellence as well as other defense educational and research centers of excellence as issues management, maintenance, or monitoring teams.
- Create a strategic trends analysis system within the J-7’s Joint Concepts Branch to identify shifts in issues and driving forces for the PME community.
Even when an entire community or organization recognizes the need for change, it brings with it a degree of uncertainty. With uncertainty comes fear which drives organizational resistance and can cause the organization to continue to embrace outdated processes and thinking. An anticipatory management process, if introduced as an extension of the Joint Staff/J-7s strategic plan, coupled with a strong public affairs and public relations approach, can decrease uncertainty and mitigate resistance within stakeholder organizations until roles, responsibilities, and relationships are defined and understood.
The current SAE process has proven itself ineffective and a replacement process that is as agile, responsive, and as adaptable as the environment is needed to allow the Joint education and training enterprise to keep pace with the speed of change within the environment. An anticipatory management process will provide educational institutions with those issues deemed most important to current and future operations by a team of experts. It will focus issues for educational and training needs instead of those seeking support and funding. It will provide educators and trainers with the depth and breadth of issue understanding necessary to integrate it appropriately within individual institutional curriculum. Finally, an anticipatory management process will enable the Joint education and training community the tools it needs to develop curricula that out-thinks and out-anticipates competitors. Only then can it educate and train leaders who can do the same.
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