By the time Gen. Raymond Odierno became the Army chief of staff in 2011, he fully realized the tension between thinking and doing in the US Army. Amid the high operational tempo of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, officers had become, as retired Maj. Gen. Robert Scales described it, “too busy to learn,” devoting increasing time and energy to operations at the expense of professional study. And the Army, Scales noted, largely acquiesced by de-prioritizing professional military education in favor of meeting the requirements of securing, stabilizing, and democratizing two countries. In observing this challenge, Scales reiterated a point made by Bernard Brodie, the strategist par excellence, nearly fifty years earlier. In 1973, he wrote that even the premier education received by colonels at the US military’s war colleges was “too brief, too casual, comes too late in life and keeps the military consorting with each other.”
In 2012, Odierno developed the Advanced Strategic Planning and Policy Program, commonly referred to as ASP3, suggesting he took these insights seriously. He designed the program to afford qualified officers the opportunity to pursue a fully funded doctorate in a field of study that benefits the Army’s modernization and diverse missions. Odierno’s intent was to use this stable of officers, who are referred to as General Andrew Jackson Goodpaster Scholars, as a means to help the Army strike a better balance between a warrior ethos that emphasizes martial virtues on the one hand, and critical thinking on the other. The program aims to develop Goodpaster Scholars as both strategic thinkers and future senior leaders. It reflects a recognition that operational experiences should not be the only factor shaping officers’ promotion through the ranks. These experiences, when combined with an ability to reason and communicate, best inform officers’ potential to serve as institutional leaders given an increasingly complex operating environment.
While chiefs of staff since Odierno have retained managerial oversight of ASP3, the evolving pandemic presents a troubling inflection point. The unprecedented scale of the US government’s stimulus spending to offset record financial losses promises to impose budgetary constraints across the Department of Defense that have caused some officials to question the program’s merits. ASP3’s price tag pales in comparison to other programs and initiatives, including those central to the Army’s ongoing modernization efforts. Nevertheless, critics contend it is more responsible to recapitalize the funding in other training and material initiatives, especially considering Army officers can outsource critical thinking to the War College, Command and General Staff College, and West Point. More to the point, paying for a doctorate is arguably profligate because it is not required for, as an example, selection for battalion command—widely regarded as the benchmark defining a successful career—or an equivalent-level staff position. Others, adopting an argument made by US military historian Peter Schifferle, disagree. They point to the Army’s pattern of continued investment in education since World War I, even amid periods of austerity, as a key tool that has helped retain talented officers and underpinned warfighting readiness.
As a member of the recently selected cohort of Goodpaster Scholars, I want to engage this debate by arguing that the Army should retain ASP3 as a key talent management and modernization priority in its own right. Indeed, upon assuming his current role as chief of staff of the Army in August 2019, Gen. James McConville’s message to the service was clear: “People are always my #1 priority.” He added, “it is our people who will deliver on our readiness, modernization and reform efforts.” ASP3’s short history has already produced a number of successes, and its vision and objectives link the program closely to Gen. McConville’s priority. Moreover, the program has a meaningful impact on officer professional development and supports broader adjustments in the military’s approach to professional military education. Still, the question remains: Does the Army benefit from producing strategic thinkers and future senior leaders with PhDs?
While ASP3 is often confused with other programs, including the training of strategists at the School of Advanced Military Studies as well as the selection of faculty at West Point, it is none of these. The vision of ASP3 is to develop “field-grade officers as strategic thinkers through a combination of practical experience, senior-level professional military education, and a doctoral degree from a university in a field of study related to strategy in order to produce broadly networked future senior officers with strategic acumen, credentials, and skills.” The program is administered on behalf of the chief of staff of the Army at the School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. It is also governed under Army Regulation 350-1, Army Training and Leader Development. To overcome what retired Lt. Gen. James Dubik refers to as the Army’s “strategic learning disability,” Goodpaster Scholars are expected to achieve three key objectives.
First, they must earn a doctorate at a university that best balances their research interests, faculty expertise, and anticipated payoff to the Army. Second, after finishing graduate school, Goodpaster Scholars complete any number of utilization assignments. The purpose of these postings is to capitalize on their expertise to contribute to the development of military strategy, which bridges America’s political objectives and military power. The range of opportunities includes assignments with the interagency, the joint force, combatant commands, Army headquarters, Army commands, Army service component commands, and direct reporting units such as the Human Resources Command. The program’s ultimate objective, however, is for Goodpaster Scholars to emerge as institutional leaders. Over time, it is expected that Goodpaster Scholars, similar to their title’s namesake—who held a PhD from Princeton University—will rise to the rank of general officer.
Since 2012, the collective performance of Goodpaster Scholars has arguably met Odierno’s initial vision. Of the nearly one hundred officers selected as Goodpaster Scholars, who are predominantly lieutenant colonels and majors drawn from across all branches, approximately a third have so far completed their doctorates. The remaining two-thirds of Goodpaster Scholars are at various stages in completing their coursework or dissertations. This is a remarkable achievement when considering the attrition rate for doctoral programs consistently hovers around 50 percent. More impressively, because of professional timeline constraints, Goodpaster Scholars usually complete a doctorate in three years. After completing their doctorates, they also demonstrate key returns on the investment. As of February 2020, 81 percent of the eligible Goodpaster Scholars were selected as battalion or brigade commanders, and most in the primary category. Others have fulfilled their utilization assignments as strategic planners in support of a litany of challenging and demanding requirements that capitalize on their unique expertise.
Even with this impressive track record, some still question the merits of funding Goodpaster Scholars’ doctoral studies. Are the costs of a PhD, in terms of time and money, really worth it for the Army given competing modernization priorities that must now contend with a budgetary crunch on account of the coronavirus pandemic’s financial impacts?
Studying Drone Warfare at Cornell
While my experience is certainly not the best evidence of the program’s meaningful contribution to officer professional development and the Army’s modernization, given the caliber of other Goodpaster Scholars, I hope it offers a window into ASP3’s purpose. I graduated from the United States Military Academy as a member of the “Class of 9/11” and commissioned as an intelligence officer. Although 9/11 represented the leitmotif of our studies at West Point, my classmates and I could not have predicted the impact of the terrorist attacks on the Army’s focus. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have consumed our careers. In my own case, I have served in the 75th Ranger Regiment for the better part of fifteen years and deployed multiple times in support of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations in both countries. Most recently, I served as the senior intelligence officer for the joint special operations task force in Afghanistan. During this rotation, the task force confronted the emergence of the Islamic State in the country, arguably the parent group’s most virulent redoubt. Given the unique nature of this and other assignments, I have interpreted it as a moral obligation to share my experiences in support of the Army’s modernization to maintain overmatch against near-peer competitors. During key assignments in my career, therefore, I have wrestled with an important question. How, exactly, can I best capitalize on my experiences to critically investigate the complex warfighting challenges that confront the Army?
During a recent assignment at the Pentagon, where I served as an executive officer to the Army’s G-2, I applied to ASP3, attracted to the time and space it afforded me to study a topic germane to the Army’s modernization. My family and I were humbled and honored to learn of my selection as a Goodpaster Scholar last year. Although the decision of where to study was tough, I chose to pursue a doctorate in international relations at Cornell University for several reasons. First and foremost, Cornell offered me the ability to learn from one of the world’s leading authorities on drone warfare, Professor Sarah Kreps. Her supervision, coupled with the Department of Government’s interdisciplinary approach, promises to best capitalize on my experience and interest in further exploring drone warfare. Under Professor Kreps’s tutelage, I plan to pursue a project that relates to the Army’s adoption of Multi-Domain Operations, its new operating concept. Specifically, I intend to study the implications of drone warfare on the relationship between America’s interests and international norms.
A review of the literature on drone warfare suggests several puzzles that have yet to be solved, but that the Army has a core interest in better understanding. These puzzles have led me to a research question: How does the intended purpose of America’s use of drone warfare inform the balance between its vital national security interests and international norms? Is this a question of utmost importance to the Army? Of course, there’s room for disagreement. But, given the shifting character of war, which emphasizes the use of precision munitions aided by machine learning and artificial intelligence to shorten the sensor-to-shooter timeline against near-peer competitors, while also adhering to the Laws of Armed Conflict, I believe this study will make an important contribution. And that’s the key point. Although the Army has a cacophony of master’s degree producing programs, such as the Downing Scholarship, no other broadening program affords officers the time and space for deep study of a topic. Doing so at this stage in their careers, when they have sufficient practical experience to pair with and inform that study, allows officers to become producers of knowledge for the Army and not merely consumers. This is clearly a benefit to the Army that is compounded by an emerging debate on the health of US civil-military relations.
The Impact of ASP3 on Professional Military Education
The benefits provided by Goodpaster Scholars to the Army, of course, are much broader than this or that research project. Despite—and arguably because of—the budgetary limbo, continued investment in ASP3 will help the Army fulfill the Joint Chiefs of Staff guidance to optimize professional military education. They have directed the services to build “strategically minded warfighters or applied strategists who can execute and adapt strategy through campaigns and operations.” To be fair, senior leaders do emphasize the centrality of soldier-scholars to the Army’s modernization and missions, particularly among junior and field-grade officers. In part, this explains the Army’s adoption of an assessment program to select battalion commanders, who Gen. McConville refers to as the “seed corn of the Army.” But as Brodie noted in 1973, and Dubik and Scales reiterated a decade ago, it is the Army’s culture that threatens to undermine the limited investments in a program, ASP3, that is integral to the service’s strategic learning.
But it does not have to be this way. Given its vision and objectives, dedicated funding of ASP3 will continue to provide immeasurable value to the Army. On the one hand, the Goodpaster Scholars are a useful pathway to feed critically formed insights on the shifting character of war back into operational and training units. This is especially true if Goodpaster Scholars habitually fill billets as military advisors to Army senior leaders—including the secretary, chief of staff, and vice chief of staff of the Army—as well as the Army’s four-star commands. There is also untapped potential for Goodpaster Scholars to fill both joint and interagency billets and leverage their unique qualifications to help influence policymaking and strategic decisions that also support the Army’s equities. On the other hand, Goodpaster Scholars help sustain momentum on what Lt. Gen. James Rainey, commander of the Combined Arms Center, refers to as “collaborative self-development.” The judicious use of social media enables Goodpaster Scholars to develop and mentor others to reinforce readiness. It is for these organizational dividends paid by the program, both vertical and horizontal, and so many more, that the Army should retain ASP3 even amid scarce resources.
Maj. Paul Andrew Lushenko is an intelligence officer in the US Army, Council on Foreign Relations term member, PhD candidate at Cornell University, and adjunct research lecturer for the Australian Graduate School of Policing and Security located at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, Australia.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the United States Military Academy, Department of the Army, or Department of Defense.
Image credit: Paul VanDerWerf
WWII – Win
Korea – Tie
Afghanistan – ?(not looking good)
Iraq-? (not looking good)
It should read: Vietnam – Win, despite the Ivory Tower types who never went to war and know so little about it.
Sorry it is a loss, when the clock ran out the NVA had more points on the board. It does not matter if we where never defeated in battle as that not the only way to get points on the board. This shows a very limited understanding of war, plus in the end of the war how was South Vietnam. This sums it up.
We are repeating the same mistakes and not really learning from why we lost the Vietnam War and it is one of the main reasons for repeating the mistakes.
Link didn't work, not that Rand matters much – I've had too many dealings with them before.
Regardless, "points" only shows you weren't probably there. The mistakes were political. Afghanistan is more that the generals haven't studied the success we were having when Abrams took over and, as a consequence, can't get their acts together.
This is really one giant false argument. Degrees are not required for education. We need educated officers without a doubt. But degrees aren't education, they are validation processes. Degrees in the modern context are used to "signal" behaviors that are not desirable within military leaders. See Caplan's "The Case Against Education" for further information. The real question at hand is how do we keep military leaders continuously learning and what methods should be used to assess the military utility of this education. Appropriately supporting Self-Development would be a good start.
Keep in mind this is coming from an individual that had a doctorate by the time I was a Captain.
The Army needs thinkers at all levels, and the strategic thought needed as a general officer isn't necessarily learned as a tactical and operational thinker at lower levels.
Education outside the haste and groupthink of the military is one way to open minds to stategic thought, but not the only way. More important than any education "push" is the "pull" of selecting generals based on their ability to unpack problems and generate tomorrow's solutions, rather than just being really good colonels, skilled at hitting problems with the tools available today.
I've seen generals (and read autobiographies) using the same line of thinking they've had since they were a captain, just with more practice and efficiency. In complicated wars that require insight, as most do, this doesn't end well. Best case we smash enough that we effectually hit the right things, more often wer don't.
So wer need more insightful generals, regardless of how they get their insight, although advanced education can be a good way to broaden kinds.
There is "groupthink" in contemporary academia too.
ASP3 needs to be looked at as a venture capital investment. The Army is investing a minuscule sum (in relations to other modernization programs) into a high risk/high reward program. As good share of the officers will probably not make any more impact on the organization, than they otherwise would if we had kept them working in standard PME and assignments. However, the organization will have out sized positive return on a handful.
What I would be interested in knowing is how can the Army figure out how to send officers to foreign universities for ASP3, but can't do it for other Advanced Civil Schooling? While America's universities are outstanding, if we want to expand our view of the world (and our potential allies and adversaries) we need to expand the aperture of school availability.
According to a 2019 Duke University study, the median time to complete a Humanities Ph.D. is 6.3 years. The median time to earn a Social Science Ph.D. is 5.7 years. How is it that Army officers are able to complete degrees so much faster (3 years!) than full-time civilian students? Please, serious answers only as I am genuinely curious. Is their program truncated? Are expectations different (e.g. dissertation topics, length, rigor; course load….), and if so, how? Does General X with a Princeton Ph.D really have a commensurate degree of training in, and understanding of, a select academic discipline as civilian Dr. Jane Smith? This question matters when General X and Dr. Smith compete for an academic position at various universities, especially the service academies and war colleges…..
As an officer (now retired) who was sent off on a 3 yr (36 month) PhD assignment to a civilian school to obtain a PhD, I will say that completing all in 3 yrs is almost impossible. From start to finish (successful dissertation defense), it took 44 months, 8 months beyond 3 years. As noted, there is a "never finish PhD" rate. My sending mil unit had about a 50% no finish rate. That usually means all coursework, comps done, but never finished dissertation to committee's satisfaction. While some wrap all up in 3, most officers have to complete the dissertation after the 3 yr tour, after they return to their jobs. Officers who complete in 3 or 1-3 yrs after PhD tour due so b/c of fanatical work ethic, supportive faculty advisor, diss committee. The academic dept, faculty must help–offer right courses, comps at right time. Some civ socio sci/humanities PhD students are lazy. Serious civ students who stay around campus longer LEARN MORE! Apprenticeship is key to big PhD success! PhD officers didn't get the apprenticeship!
As a further point of reference. Both LTG McMaster and GEN Petraeus finished their PHds towards the end of their tours as instructors at USMA, putting the total time of completion from start to finish at close to 5 years. The few of my peers who have been in ASP3 took considerable time after completing their tour at the academic institution to complete the dissertation. A few had a more truncated tmelines, but they also had previously received a masters at the same instituion.
Six or even give years for a degree program I s ludicrous! That's a money grab, not a degree milk. The program needs to be disciplined to keep the students on track – the objective is to complete the degree, not explore the world of higher ed. After three years it's time to be done and move on to a productive one that is adding to the body of the knowledge of that field. Isn't that the point of the Doctorate?
In this case, there are variances in quality, but many simply do nothing else while on their ACS tour. The real gray area that bears more scrutiny is the ever-expanding and sometimes opaque Army Fellowship Program. Having personal experience, I have sat in rooms with people who never did a day of resident class work, and yet still managed to hang a masters degree on their office wall from VE RI TAS. Many claim to be Army Fellows on their social media profiles, but are unaware that they are in another, Defense-sponsored educational program. Many of these programs such as MIT’s Seminar XXI among many others, are real revenue streams for these institutions, and perhaps some might be considered “gentlemen’s courses.” But I suppose to your point, if the education quality is not equivalent, you can probably bet that General X has sufficiently more bureaucratic survival skills and hyena-like focus on the prize to outweigh any deficiencies in comparison to a civilian counterpart.
Great question and difficult to answer well. PhD typically includes four things to obtain. Coursework, comprehensive exam, dissertation proposal and dissertation defense.
Coursework is two years. Kind of what you think but mainly about research methods, statistics and seminars on existing research in your field. Upon completing this, you have your comprehensive exam. It differs everywhere but basically a test to see if you learned enough and can bring it together in something with the potential for academia. Upon completing this you become a PhD Candidate.
The next step is the proposal. This the research question and how you will get after it. Most candidates take a good year to sort out. It's difficult to come up with something unique, doable, supported by your advisor and committee. It helps for military because we have a good idea of the area of interest. For example I'm a med service IT Officer, so the domain of health IT really narrows the area for my proposal and selection of advisors.
The next thing to consider is a PhD also has unofficial levels. This has to do more with what your goals are. If you want to be marketable to Stanford, we'll then you need something really Impactful. Fortunately or unfortunately Officers have guaranteed placement afterwards. So it becomes less making sure your research is the next big thing, and more signing off on your capability as a Researcher.
The last thing to consider is that with a time-line, we have to choose methodology that is a bit easier to get data by. Choosing to run a two year longitudinal experiment is inappropriate. I would take a guess that most selected for this assignment decide to use archival data, as it doesn't require IRB and can be an easier win.
So choose a method that works, get your committee behind you and get to work. We also have an advantage in that we are pretty good at backwards planning. So hopefully we do some parallel work while working towards the comp to get a head start and the proposal, so we can tackle the Dissertation afterwards.
Hope that helps understand it a bit more.
@PD, As you note, a typical Ph.D. student takes about 5-7 years to matriculate. These students are typically younger, having recently completed their Bachelor and Masters degrees. From my observation, they do not have any significant real-world, career experience. Doctoral programs are also, for many, a pipeline for academia to produce future faculty. Typically, a young, traditional Ph.D. student will take 9hrs a semester, spending their additional time as a graduate research/teaching assistant, getting experience in front of a classroom of undergrads or doing research for a mentor that will augment their own dissertation work. Add to all this that many young Ph.D. students are still figuring out life, getting married, having kids, etc., so many drop out or have to extend their studies for personal reasons. There's also the challenge of the dissertation and gathering data, which some have already replied and described the associated challenges.
For military students, it's a bit different. We are older. We're a bit more mature. We're focused and disciplined. We're attending full-time, taking 12hrs a semester and full loads over every summer break. We complete our course work on time, and we've set conditions for the dissertation that keep us on track for completion within 3yrs. My personal experience is that I did much of my dissertation research and had 2 chapters written before my dissertation proposal was approved. I gathered my own original data, as well. When my dissertation proposal was approved, I wasted no time. I had full drafts completed within 10 months, edited and prepared for my defense, and was cleared by my advisor to defend in the last month of my program. It was incredibly challenging. But, no corners were cut. I took the same comprehensive exams as all the other students. My committee included members from multiple departments to ensure university standards were met. My defense was open to the public and attended by four outside audience members, two of which were from SAMS. All this to say that a 3yr Ph.D. is feasible.
My first reaction to this article was, Another German General Staff? An officer class of elites might very well produce a "best and brightest" group, at the same time it would discourage those not chosen to participate. A cynic might also ask whether or not this program would retain talented officers or keep the well-connected dead wood?
Mid-level officers exhibiting brilliance run the risk of showing up their superiors, which would result in a bad OER. And one of those in an otherwise sterling career can torpedo further promotions. Result: brilliance is suppressed in order to retain and further rank.
Military intelligence's reliance on artificial intelligence and the use of drones is both inevitable and unnerving. It opens up new areas of error and avoidance of responsibility: "Hey, I did what the computer program told me to do!" Previous replacement of HUMINT with ELINT had limited success and lasting regrets. We need people with field experience and critical thinking; one without the other is a mistake.
I am interested in the general discussion here of time allowed and/or expected to credibly accomplish the credential. The most unnecessary constraint we have placed on the force (which almost no other nation’s military subscribes to) is age discrimination. Now that the emerging generations of officers no longer have a fixed benefit scheme to look forward to after 20 years, maybe it would be better to retain these folks in uniform until they can collect social security or even longer, rather than the usual “retire and rehire” process that allows COL X to come back in a few weeks as Mr. (or, god forbid, Dr.) X, so he can earn a second retirement from the same source. It’s not unreasonable to believe that we could alter or eliminate the artificiality imposed by DOPMA, and then allow departures for quality education and broadening assignments, mostly because those officers doing so wouldn’t need to worry about time in grade or mandatory removal issues. Maybe then it wouldn’t be so bad to have a guy take is time in school, or even just take a break now and then before becoming a GO.
The pre-WWII military career was 40 years, which did permit significant time for educational self discovery and deeper dives into technical qualifications (Chester Nimitz several years in Germany training in diesel engine engineering with Mercedez Benz comes to mind). The post WWII up or out system recognized that individuals at the time did have a higher change of succuming to age related issues after their early 50s, so topped the career at 30 for all but GOs (which was initially capped at 35 yos)
As people are now living longer and more productive lives, it is well past time to consider the value of the max 30 year career, or even other options for part time service of some officers to leverage these investment.
FAO had the opportunity to experiment with longer service periods for select officers 12-15 years ago. The good news was that several officers were able to serve beyond 30 years in some critical assignments. The down side, due to hard caps on officer rank end strength at the field grade level, was that this program required the ritual sacrifice of several up and coming LTCs to make happen.