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Preparing for strategic competition: The need for irregular warfare professional military education
BY CHARLES T. CLEVELAND, DANIEL EGEL, DAVID MAXWELL AND HY ROTHSTEIN, OPINION CONTRIBUTORS - 01/31/23 12:00 PM ET
The Department of Defense (DOD) does not provide the irregular warfare (IW) professional military education necessary for success in competition and conflict in the 21st century. This is a not a new problem, but it is one that may deserve new attention from the Congress and the Pentagon.
More than 30 years ago, the late Ambassador Michael Sheehan, who also served as the assistant secretary of defense responsible for irregular warfare, observed that IW had “lost its significance as a separate type of conflict that requires different doctrine and training.” Sheehan concluded that a consequence was that the United States lacked the “operational level and campaign planning” necessary for irregular warfare above the tactical level.
Congress — reflecting on the findings from the Skelton Panel in the 21st century — has affirmed that “the primary purpose of [professional military education] is to develop military officers, throughout their careers, for the rigorous intellectual demands of complex contingencies and major conflicts.” It is perhaps unsurprising that the United States was unable to assemble high-level irregular-warfare-proficient campaign headquarters in either Afghanistan or Iraq — which may provide a critical vulnerability as U.S. adversaries are increasingly turning to irregular approaches to undermine U.S. conventional supremacy.
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