Educating Army Leaders at Foreign Staff Colleges
Maj. Christopher Gin, U.S. Army
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Education is the most reliable strategic investment that the Army can make in the face of an uncertain future.
—The Army University White Paper
The U.S. Army’s officer professional military education system underscores the organization’s investment in its people. Scholarships are available to four-year universities and military academies, civilian graduate schools, and a plethora of other educational opportunities during a typical officer’s twenty-year career. Why does the Department of Defense choose to spend millions of dollars to educate officers beyond the training required for managing violence in warfare? The answer, perhaps, lies in the Army’s role in American foreign policy and national security—the Army supports national strategic goals, and its senior officers must function as strategic leaders. One way of growing strategic leaders who operate effectively in a complex world and give their best military advice to civilian leaders is through a more deliberate investment in Army officers’ worldly education.
This paper is a summarized version of the author’s School of Advanced Military Studies monograph and investigates an important aspect of the current officer education system: the attendance of U.S. Army officers at foreign military staff colleges.1 Increasing the number of Army officers sent to foreign staff colleges would add significant value to the Army by increasing the number of strategic leaders who have the knowledge and experience to contextualize complex international systems with clarity and meaning for their organizations.2
Since the Spanish-American War of 1898, the Army’s forward presence has kept it at the tip of U.S. diplomacy, both as a security guarantor at global fault lines and as the physical manifestation of U.S. might and interests. For example, for nearly seventy years on the Korean peninsula, U.S. forces have stood as a deterrent to North Korean aggression and as a committed ally to the Republic of Korea. As a testament to the importance of strategic alliances, the U.S. Army 2nd Infantry Division, headquartered north of Seoul, is the only combined division in the U.S. Army where U.S. and Republic of Korea staffs are integrated throughout the headquarters. In Europe, as Gen. Mark A. Milley explained during his 2015 confirmation hearing, U.S. forces in coordination with NATO continue to bolster Europe’s defense amid fears of a resurgent Russia.3 As the international commitments of the United States grow and threats arise, it is essential that Army leaders are comfortable operating in the world beyond America’s borders. Since nearly all Army officers are graduates of American universities, it can be reasonably assumed some find themselves living abroad for the first time when on an operational deployment. Once abroad, they are forced to simultaneously experience the stress of a real-world mission and the anxiety of cultural dissonance.
The U.S. Army Operating Concept: Win in a Complex World, published in October 2014, emphasizes the complex world in which the Army is one of many actors.4 As the Army’s operations are global, it derives significant benefits from deliberately sending officers abroad to be educated in regions where they can then be assigned to serve. Specifically, graduate-level education at foreign staff colleges provides officers with an intimate understanding of partner states’ military organizations and capabilities. More important, such an experience sheds light on the “fear, honor, and interests” of others, which are more easily ascertained through significant interaction.5
Senior leaders depend on their subordinates to draw clarity from unclear information and help direct organizational action in an efficacious manner.6 Foreign staff college graduates are a valuable information conduit. In international environments, they can collectively contribute a high degree of what Harvard Business School professor Tarun Khanna calls contextual intelligence: “the ability to understand the limits of our knowledge and to adapt that knowledge to an environment different from the one in which it was developed.”7 The value of foreign staff college graduates’ experience will be reflected in the way they can articulate meaning in a complex, adaptive world to their subordinates, leaders, and organizations.
Echoes from the Past
From 1936 to 1938, then Capt. Albert C. Wedemeyer studied the military theory taught at the German Staff College, the Kriegsakademie, in Berlin. His experience far from American shores, at the heart of what would become Nazi Germany’s army, and among German peers and instructors, presumably left an indelible impression on Wedemeyer. It would underpin his understanding of how Nazi Germany would conduct operations in World War II. What he learned about the German army’s preference for a war of movement, as opposed to the trench warfare experience in the First World War, informed senior American leaders. It also added to Wedemeyer’s credibility as one of few American officers who possessed contextual intelligence that could be applied directly against Nazi Germany.8
Though Wedemeyer’s education at the Kriegsakademie preceded the entry of the United States into World War II, the likelihood of future hostilities must have been apparent to the young American officer during his time as a student. In addition to improving his mastery of German, he took every opportunity to gather information for a comprehensive report he would later write on the modern German army.9 Most important, his report, and the interviews Army leaders sought with him upon his return to the United States, showed that his contextual intelligence about Nazi Germany helped inform American strategy in ways both meaningful and efficacious in pursuit of ultimate victory. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson acknowledged the direct value of Wedemeyer’s foreign staff college education on America’s war plans to defeat Germany:
[Wedemeyer] was a student at the German Staff School from 1936 to 1938 and has furnished our Staff with much valuable information about German methods. I have found that among certain gossips in Washington such a connection is enough to make a man suspected but without such first-hand information as to what the Germans are doing we should be badly off indeed.10
Chief of the War Plans Division Brig. Gen. George C. Marshall took a particular interest in Wedemeyer’s final report from his foreign staff college experience, and he ordered Wedemeyer to serve on his staff and help write the Victory Program for Nazi Germany’s defeat.11 Wedemeyer’s experience illustrates the value that foreign staff college education had on a notable strategic leader. It serves as an example of how foreign military schooling can contribute to success during military operations against potential future enemies, or in a concerted effort with allies, within complex environments described in The Army Operating Concept.12
The Education of a Strategic Leader
Like many Army senior officers entrusted with the highest responsibilities for the Nation’s defense, Wedemeyer was a product of his studies. The foundation for his critical service and contribution to the Allied cause was his attendance at the Kriegsakademie from 1936 to 1938.13 His experience in Berlin among America’s future enemies, and the report he wrote upon his return, provided the basis of his credibility, intellect, and leadership potential that senior officers identified as rare but important traits, which they needed to create a winning strategy.
His time at the Kriegsakademie allowed him the first-hand opportunity to make note of German capabilities and doctrine that would have otherwise been known through conjecture, intelligence estimates, or second-hand information sources. He later told aspiring planners, “The strategic planner notes the capabilities of other nations and makes a comparative appraisal of his own available resources, and thus evolves flexible plans for the attainment of national objectives.”14 Because he was able to build a working subject-matter expertise on the enemy from his experiences at their staff college, he was able to contribute to the strategic planning process better than his peers. Were it not for this unique opportunity, and the knowledge manifested in Wedemeyer’s report, it is unlikely that Marshall would have hand-selected Wedemeyer in 1939 for such a high position on the War Plans Division staff. Wedemeyer’s insights went beyond just manning and equipment; they spoke to the soul of the enemy he had come to know.
In today’s foreign staff college exchange programs, U.S. Army officers may interact with military students from countries with whom the United States does not have an official exchange program. Regardless of the potential for relationships to shift, a good understanding of partners is always important. Interaction at staff colleges offers an opportunity for soft-power influence, and it may even provide placement and access to information that future Army leaders may otherwise not have access to in such a personal way.15 The value of the education is manifested in those graduates who draw on their experiences to make significant contributions during their careers.
This article draws from the results of the author’s online, cross-sectional survey of Army officers who attended foreign staff colleges since 2005.16 The purpose was to assess whether the staff college exchange program adds value to the Army. A key finding was that 95 percent of survey respondents reported their participation in the Schools of Other Nations program, the umbrella organization that administers overseas professional military education, provided value to the Army. The survey used content analysis to capture the value of their experiences in the context of when they attended the schools, and how those experiences affected their contributions to the Army in the following years.17
Results of the Survey
Out of the 176 foreign staff college graduates identified, ninety-four initially started the survey, with eighty-two completing it in varying amounts of detail to five objective demographics questions and seven open-ended questions.18 The eighty-two officers who submitted completed surveys are referred to as “respondents” throughout this paper and are the only data the author draws from. Several comments from graduates of different Army commissioning year groups indicate those who applied for foreign staff college did so at a time when U.S. Army Command and General Staff College (CGSC) attendance was open to all majors, as opposed to a board-selected group, thus creating a waiting list for attendance at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Unaffectionately referred to as the “no major left behind” years, many applicants to foreign staff colleges perceived CGSC to lack the prestige and rigor of a highly selective foreign staff college. When asked about why they chose a foreign staff college instead of CGSC, two common themes were a competitive educational opportunity not offered to everyone and a measured consideration for future career impact, as illustrated in the following comment:
I elected to go to a foreign staff college for two reasons. The first reason was to be able to do something different during my career. I have not wanted to do the same thing as everyone else in the Army, but want to have unique experiences that most people in the United States are not able to experience. The second reason was the timing of when my branch manager had scheduled me to the U.S. ILE [intermediate-level education]. By attending a foreign school, I was able to attend a qualifying ILE, graduate from SAMS [School of Advanced Military Studies], complete a utilization tour, and complete a key development job prior to the primary selection board for lieutenant colonel.19
Another response highlights the same themes:
Part of the decision included an awareness that potentially I would miss out on a portion of the standard education or even relationship building that my peers were receiving and had the opportunity to make at Leavenworth. However, when General Petraeus briefed my cohorts who were slated to attend foreign staff colleges, he mentioned that we would be well-postured and he discussed the “decathlete” concept of well-rounded leaders, and finished by communicating the idea that no one set path leads to success. Ultimately, I felt that the opportunity to attend a foreign staff college was simply an opportunity that my peers did not recognize or were even afraid to embark on.20
Eighty-six percent of respondents reported being moderately or very proficient in the host nation’s language of instruction prior to attending their respective foreign staff colleges.21 Furthermore, 89 percent received fewer than three months of formal language training prior to attending school.22 Only two respondents said they were inadequately prepared to participate in class due to language limitations, indicating that the Schools of Other Nations screening criteria for language requirements prior to attending a foreign staff college are generally effective.23
Three of the twelve survey questions asked respondents to reflect on positive and negative aspects of their experience, and then comment on whether or not the experience added value to the Army. Unsurprisingly, 27 percent of open-ended negative comments centered on the opportunity cost of not interacting with U.S. Army peers.24 While many enjoyed representing the Army abroad, some lamented their inability to expand their organizational network at CGSC. A typical response was, “I was not able to develop contacts within my peer group. I also missed out on opportunities to interview with unit chiefs of staff and Human Resource Command during their visits to Fort Leavenworth.”25 However, no comment explicitly stated in hindsight that the military student would give up the foreign staff college experience to attend CGSC, but two did advocate officers being allowed to complete both.26
Despite some frustrations, a majority of respondents found their experiences increased their value as staff officers. When asked what value the Army gained from sending them to a foreign staff college, most lauded the soft power they felt they were able to exert on host-country nationals, as well as other international students from less friendly nations such as China, Russia, Iran, and Syria. One respondent wrote, “Relationship building was invaluable. Putting a face to the U.S. Army often changed the host [nation’s] foreign students’ thoughts and perspectives on who we are as a military and as a people.”27 Fifty-nine percent of respondents regarded their foreign network of professionals as a valuable takeaway and believed they could leverage those relationships in future operations.28
A second positive theme from the survey was the contextual intelligence that an officer could later contribute to his or her future roles. Eighty-three percent of those surveyed indicated an increase in strategic thinking or regional expertise based on their experience.29 One officer stated that the Army gained “an officer with a broader operational and strategic perspective who can rapidly build a multinational team and work in a complex, multinational environment.”30 Another wrote that he became “a more capable officer with more robust analytical skills and knowledge to enable [engagement] at the highest levels of operational and strategy roles.”31 Most comments like this centered on feeling better prepared for the future and more confident in their ability to operate “without U.S. infrastructure … in an international environment.”32
Of eighty-two respondents, 95 percent agreed that the Schools of Other Nations program added value to the Army.33 This feedback is useful to evaluate the program holistically in a way that the Army as an institution does not seem to capture at the moment. One poignant comment stated, “This, like many programs, is on cruise control and not being used properly as an element of soft power or influence.”34 Another mentioned, “There was no feedback loop. After training concluded an [after action review] could have been required; lessons learned could have been harvested. Organizational and personal profiles could have been developed or updated.”35 By capturing a segment of reflections from ten years of experience, this research provides analysis that can lead to better optimization and higher-value returns to the Army.
Preparing for a Complex Future
Throughout his life, Albert Wedemeyer continued to reflect on his career of service, and he keenly identified persistent problems with how Americans approached strategy. Biographer Keith E. Eiler conducted an interview with Wedemeyer in 1982, in which this insightful exchange regarding strategic thinking occurred:
[Eiler: ] General, as you look back on the history of your time, what thoughts predominate? … What can or should be done?
[Wedemeyer:] Americans simply must become more forehanded and consistent in the way we manage our public affairs. As populations grow and the struggle for space and resources becomes more intense, a lot of heat is generated. We can’t afford simply to sit back, let events take their course, and jump in with a military solution when a crisis gets out of hand. There are so many ways in which the course of events can be influenced without the use or threat of force. Economic, diplomatic, cultural, psychological, and other means are available in limitless variety. If all these “instruments of national policy” are employed in a timely, coordinated, and imaginative way, in accordance with a reasonably steady game plan, there is good reason to hope for progress toward a better world without the scourge of war.
[Eiler:] I guess you are saying that we should all become strategists—in the broader sense of that term?
The general’s decree strikes to the heart of the critical need for the right education for strategic leaders in the military. Wedemeyer, a man of common career beginnings, became more than the product of his own experience through a personal commitment to education, but that was only half of the equation the Army needed to reap the value he offered. The more important half was the Army’s institutional commitment to growing strategic thinkers when it first established the educational exchange program, and then it selected Wedemeyer as the best candidate to attend. There was no prescient way for the Army to know the eventual return for sending Wedemeyer abroad, but by sending him, and then a stream of exchange officers annually to many countries, the Army maintained a strategic foothold—not through technology and firepower but through the contextual intelligence its officers gained while being educated abroad.37
The officer surveys conducted for this paper attest to the value of foreign staff college education. The soft-power leverage and contextual intelligence graduates gained, in most cases, readily translated into job placement and effectiveness. The topic of officer education to meet the Army’s strategic challenges remains relevant and subject to debate. For example, in “The Centurion Mindset and the Army’s Strategic Leader Paradigm,” Jason Warren discusses the importance of improving how the Army manages the intellectual development of its leaders.38 The foreign staff college education program offers an intellectual line of effort that can link the self-reflective centurions of today to the strategic masterminds the Army will need them to be in the future.
The Way Ahead
The foreign staff college education experience develops both soft-power leverage and the contextual intelligence that strategic leaders need to be effective in a complex world. Currently, the program is suboptimized because it has not expanded into areas where weighted national security interests lie. Of note, in the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) area of responsibility, South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines do not offer staff college education to their army officers, though their officers routinely attend CGSC at Fort Leavenworth. These countries represent three out of four U.S. security treaty allies in USPACOM, with Japan being the fourth. In Europe, there is also a noticeable dearth of opportunities in former Soviet Bloc states, though more substantial opportunities exist in Western Europe. There are currently fewer than ten participants in most other combatant commands, with none at schools in countries included in U.S. Africa Command. While any major program changes necessitate coordination, funding, and agreement beyond the scope of this paper, it may be worthwhile to explore how a future program that could garner more value for the Army might look. Based on the key findings of the survey responses, the following recommendations suggest a way ahead.
Recommendation 1: The program should better align with foreseeable threats in light of The Army Operating Concept, specifically in Asia and Eastern Europe. The onus is on the theater armies to use their existing soft power with partnered nations to host more numerous and frequent Army staff college students. This thrust should be accompanied with cogent narrative about the benefits for reciprocal education for professional officer populations, centered on shared national security interests that include alliances, interoperability of forces, and potential enemies.
Recommendation 2: The resident CGSC course should be a prerequisite for attendance at a foreign staff college. This would ensure that Army officers have already been competitively selected for professional education based on their performance and promotion potential. It would also provide a one-year, standardized education in American doctrine prior to being sent abroad. Selected officers at CGSC would still have the opportunity to form a network of peers that many in the survey mentioned they missed out on by attending only a foreign staff college.
Recommendation 3: The Army should consider making the program automatically available to the top 10 percent of each graduating CGSC class, roughly one hundred students per year. An order-of-merit list at CGSC is already an annual endeavor and could easily identify the top contenders for the program, but potential to represent the heart and intellect of the U.S. Army abroad may be more readily apparent in person than on the Officer Record Brief electronic resume. A final selection committee comprised of Schools of Other Nations representatives, CGSC instructors, and representatives from the different combatant commands could conduct in-person interviews to assess the best-suited officers for each school and region.
Recommendation 4: Organizational leaders must control the internal, strategic narrative. Senior leader support will be necessary to reassure selected officers that their broadened education is truly valued and that their professional timelines would be bolstered, rather than adversely affected, should they be selected to attend a foreign staff college. The Advanced Military Studies Program (AMSP) at the School of Advanced Military Studies is heralded as a worthwhile year of education for those selected to attend precisely because of the incentivized value it adds to both the individual and the organization. AMSP students are competitively selected, so they are seen as the elite of CGSC. They typically forego immediate key developmental positions for a year of education, followed by a year of utilization. Their fears for promotion potential are assuaged by the value the institution places on the experience, which is echoed in the rhetoric of senior commanders, and reflected in the data of AMSP graduates who are selected for battalion command in greater percentage than their nongraduate peers.39 In order for the Schools of Other Nations program to reach its potential, it must appreciate that perceptions of the program’s value affect both the quality of the applicant pool and the future effectiveness of its graduates.
The Army consistently states that producing adaptive, broadly educated officers is a strategic priority.40 Foreign staff college education, deliberately arranged around the world in common purpose, increases the probability of strategically adept leaders who can guide the organization in a complex world. It also makes those military leaders better prepared for contextualizing the national security effects of military options to civilian leaders.
Epigraph. “The Army University White Paper: Educating Leaders to Win in a Complex World” (U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, KS, 2015).
- Christopher Gin, Soldiers, Scholars, Diplomats: Educating Strategic Leaders at Foreign Staff Colleges (monograph, School of Advanced Military Studies [SAMS] Fort Leavenworth, KS, 2016).
- Foreign staff colleges are defined and limited in this study to those schools in other nations that train midcareer, field-grade officers for further service, and are not to be combined with national war colleges that typically educate more senior officers.
- Committee on Armed Services, Hearing to Consider the Nomination of General Mark A. Milley, USA, to be Chief of Staff of the Army, 114th Cong. (Washington, DC, 21 July 2015), 31, accessed 4 January 2017, http://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/15-64%20-%207-21-15.pdf.
- U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Pamphlet (TP) 525-3-1, The U.S. Army Operating Concept: Win in a Complex World, 2020-2040 (Fort Eustis, VA: TRADOC, 2014).
- Thucydides, The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War, ed. Robert B. Strassler, trans. Richard Crawley (New York: The Free Press, 1996), 43.
- Gen. David G. Perkins, “Army Operating Concept: Delivering the Future,” Army Magazine, October 2014, 68, accessed 4 January 2017, http://www1.ausa.org/publications/armymagazine/archive/2014/Documents/11November14/Perkins_GRBook2014.pdf. According to Perkins, commander of TRADOC, Army priorities include “optimizing soldier and team performance” and “developing adaptive and innovative leaders and institutions to understand and operate in complex environments.”
- Tarun Khanna, “A Case for Contextual Intelligence,” Management International Review 55, no. 2 (April 2015): 181–90. See also Khanna, “Contextual Intelligence,” Harvard Business Review 92, no. 5 (September 2014): 58–68.
- “Captain Wedemeyer Report on the Kriegsakademie,” 11 July 1938, Albert C. Wedemeyer Papers, box 6, folder 35, page 12, Hoover Institution Archives.
- Ibid., page 68.
- “Henry L. Stimson letter to President Roosevelt,” 2 March 1942, Albert C. Wedemeyer Papers, box 71, folder 6, Hoover Institution Archives. Stimson also said of Wedemeyer, “Colonel Wedemeyer is one of the very best officers we have in the General Staff. He is the right hand man of the Chief of the War Plans Division and has the confidence of everybody from Marshall down,” underlining the effectiveness of an educated but relatively junior officer.
- “Memorandum to Colonel Eiler,” 9 April 1985, Albert C. Wedemeyer Papers, box 6, folder 35, Hoover Institution Archives; preface page to “Captain Wedemeyer Report on the Kriegsakademie,” 11 July 1938, Hoover Institution Archives.
- TP 525-3-1, The U.S. Army Operating Concept: Win in a Complex World, 2020-2040.
- Charles E. Kirkpatrick, An Unknown Future and a Doubtful Present: Writing the Victory Plan of 1941 (Washington, DC: Center of Military History, 1992), 13–15, accessed 17 January 2017, http://www.history.army.mil/html/books/093/93-10/CMH_Pub_93-10.pdf; app. A shows “The Army Portion of the Victory Plan.”
- “U.S. Postwar Strategy,” speech to the National War College, 17 February 1949, Albert C. Wedemeyer Papers, box 8, folder 5, page 5, Hoover Institution Archives.
- Joseph S. Nye, “Soft Power and Higher Education,” Educause Review (January 2005): 34. Nye defines his concept of “soft power” as “The ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments.” All of the author’s references to soft power in this paper adopt Nye’s definition.
- Christopher Gin, “Foreign Staff College Graduate Survey,” online questionnaire, conducted January to February 2016, as reported in Gin, Soldiers, Scholars Diplomats: Educating Strategic Leaders at Foreign Staff Colleges. This survey was conducted as part of the author’s SAMS monograph research. U.S. Army Human Resources Command provided contact information for officers who attended a foreign staff college between 2005 and 2015. The U.S. Army Command and General Staff College provided quality assurance and quality control for the survey, assisted in its distribution via email, and received the results. Per the statement of consent for participation in the survey, the participants remain anonymous. Per Arlene Fink, How to Conduct Surveys: A Step-by-Step Guide, 4th ed. (Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications, 2009), 66–67, in a cross-sectional survey, data are collected at one time.
- Fink, How to Conduct Surveys, 89, defines content analysis as “a method of analyzing qualitative data for the purpose of drawing inferences about the meaning of recorded information such as the open-ended responses and comments made by survey respondents.”
- Gin, “Foreign Staff College Graduate Survey.” See R. M. Groves, “Experiments in Producing Nonresponse Bias,” Public Opinion Quarterly 70, no. 5 (2006): 720–36, as quoted in Floyd J. Fowler, Survey Research Methods, 4th ed. (Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications, 2009), 177. For this survey, only a 53 percent response rate of the sample population was made available for contact. Although error due to nonresponse can be large, the amount of error is not highly correlated with the response rate. Therefore, it is hard to say when a response rate is too low to be of use. The author concedes a credibility concession with a seemingly high nonresponse rate, but feels this compromise does not essentially detract from the value of the survey responses.
- Gin, “Foreign Staff College Graduate Survey.”
- Keith Eiler, “The Man Who Planned the Victory,” Hoover Digest 4 (30 October 2001), accessed 5 January 2017, http://www.hoover.org/research/man-who-planned-victory. Eiler’s original interview notes are available in the Inventory of the Keith E. Eiler Papers, 1880-2003, box 1, folder 4, pages 44–45, “Interview by Keith E. Eiler with General A. C. Wedemeyer draft of 29 November 1982,” Hoover Institution Archives.
- Jörg Muth, Command Culture: Officer Education in the U.S. Army and the German Armed Forces, 1901-1940, and the Consequences for World War II (Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 2011), 305. Several other American officers also attended the Kriegsakademie in the same period as Wedemeyer, and also produced reports of their experience.
- Jason W. Warren, “The Centurion Mindset and the Army’s Strategic Leader Paradigm,” Parameters 45, no 3. (2015): 27–38. The “centurion mindset,” embodied in Gen. Creighton Abrams, discounts the tradition of great American generals who were broadly experienced and educated.
- U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, “SAMS Overview,” PowerPoint presentation, 3 August 2015, slide 6, accessed 4 February 2016, https://partis.leavenworth.army.mil/student/SitePages/Home.aspx. Data under the heading “US Army Command Selection Analysis & Advanced Military Studies Program (AMSP) Graduates,” show that from 2012 to 2014, AMSP graduates were selected for the primary command select list at a 17 percent, 16 percent, and 10 percent higher frequency than their peers without AMSP, respectively. AMSP Army active alumni also include three generals, eight lieutenant generals, twelve major generals, and fifteen brigadier generals. The concluding message is that attending AMSP does not hurt its graduates’ careers.
- David G. Perkins, Strategic Business Plan for the Army University (Fort Leavenworth, KS: Combined Arms Center, 2015).
Maj. Christopher Gin, U.S. Army, serves on the 2nd Infantry Division Combined Division Staff in South Korea. He is a recent U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Art of War Scholar and is a graduate of the School of Advanced Military Studies, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He holds a BS from the U.S. Military Academy and an MA from the University of Hawaii, where he was a graduate degree fellow with the East–West Center.
The Victory Plan
An Intellectual Tour de Force
Army downsizing planners face an intellectual challenge, as did World War II planners charged with rapid upsizing.1 Overcoming planning challenges depends on strategic thought.
In An Unknown Future and a Doubtful Present: Writing the Victory Plan of 1941, published in 1989, historian Charles E. Kirkpatrick writes of the World War II mobilization plan developed by then Maj. Albert C. Wedemeyer: “Very few staff papers have ever had its prescience, its impact, or its far-reaching consequences,” and “in only fourteen pages [The Victory Plan of 1941] lays out the strategic objectives of the United States in the event of war, states American strategic military requirements for such a war, and develops and outlines the force structure.”2 Maj. Christopher Gin points out in “Strategic Scholars: Educating Army Leaders at Foreign Staff Colleges,” this issue of Military Review, that professional military study in Germany enhanced Wedemeyer’s strategic perspective.
According to Kirkpatrick, with whom Wedemeyer collaborated in the 1980s, “Quantitative issues often preoccupy modern planners who try to figure the number of divisions, types and quantities of weapons, training, and deployment … . In fact, [these] are almost always variables that depend upon the social, political, military, and technological contexts of the day. Rather, therefore, than seeking numerical answers to constantly evolving questions, the modern planner must devise a rational approach to solving a problem that has endless and conflicting variables. …"
“The prevailing political and military conditions decisively affect the possible choices open to the planner. … Any military plan, to be effective, must relate to attainable national objectives. … Mobilization planning cannot be considered distinct from operational and logistical planning, for all three must be components of any comprehensive strategic plan.”3
The New York Times reported that in 1987, a few years before retired Gen. Wedemeyer died, British military historian John Keegan called him “one of the most intellectual and farsighted military minds America has ever produced.”4 Kirkpatrick describes Wedemeyer’s plan as an “intellectual tour de force.”5
- Michelle Tan, “Army Lays Out Plan to Cut 40,000 Soldiers,” Army Times website, 9 July 2015, accessed 17 January 2017, https://www.armytimes.com/story/military/pentagon/2015/07/09/army-outlines-40000-cuts/29923339/, summarizes downsizing plans begun in 2012.
- Charles E. Kirkpatrick, An Unknown Future and a Doubtful Present: Writing the Victory Plan of 1941 (Washington, DC: Center of Military History, 1992), 13–15, accessed 17 January 2017, http://www.history.army.mil/html/books/093/93-10/CMH_Pub_93-10.pdf; app. A shows “The Army Portion of the Victory Plan.”
- Kirkpatrick, An Unknown Future and a Doubtful Present, 2.
- John Keegan, quoted in “Gen. Albert C. Wedemeyer, 92, Noted Military Planner for U.S.,” New York Times Obituaries, 20 December 1989, accessed 12 January 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/1989/12/20/obituaries/gen-albert-c-wedemeyer-92-noted-military-planner-for-us.html.
- Kirkpatrick, An Unknown Future and a Doubtful Present, 1.