June 6, 2023



A lot more Armed forces Education Need to Be Like the ‘Strategic Thinkers Program’

A lot more Armed forces Education Need to Be Like the ‘Strategic Thinkers Program’

I used the final yr instructing in an officers’ graduate education and learning method that I did not style and design and, in the approach, uncovered just how excellent army education can be.

The system is the Secretary of Defense’s Strategic Thinker Software, or STP. Licensed by the Office environment of the Secretary of Defense in response to decades of dissatisfaction with professional military services education—especially, its inability to develop strategists—the method was introduced in 2019 by Daniel Marston, the completed military services historian, strategist and educator. 

The plan has four necessary factors: 1) intense, calendar year-extended, Oxford tutorial-style seminars that are portion of 2) a civilian coverage-concentrated schooling graduate program. The seminars tell 3) a pair of wargames that emphasize the strategic problems that belligerents confront in wartime and 4) the program’s culminating experiential learning practical experience: an global team journey intended to make the educational discussions occur to existence. A closer glimpse at these four parts tells us about the untapped probable of armed service education.

Intensive seminars. About the program of an educational yr, college students examine the mother nature and character of war, national policy, and specifically tactic in depth, width and context. The modified tutorial method signifies compact seminars (utmost of 10 college students), intense reading through (about 250 web pages for each seminar), graded penned assignments for every seminar, regime oral presentations, and college student-led conversations. Just about every seminar meets twice a week for 4 several hours to wring out the myriad dimensions of the strategic concerns being explored that day. The make contact with time might look abnormal, but it turns out that in a dialogue-oriented class, it is just enough. 

Plan-oriented college. The strategic training program is embedded in a civilian graduate university with a plan target. This lets students to take electives with civilian counterparts who share an curiosity in nationwide safety, and examine other educational interests in the process. 

The STP’s civilian residence is Johns Hopkins University’s University of Highly developed Worldwide Scientific tests. The connection is solid and symbiotic. Each functions vetted each and every other before agreeing to the partnership, and both equally routinely reassess the relationship to guarantee that STP programs enhance the school’s broader curriculum and vice versa. To set it bluntly, STP is not an additional Defense Department govt education program creating earnings for the university while students get a bit of a crack. 

Wargames and intercontinental staff members ride. These offer you the experiential finding out crucial to powerful adult training. In the wargames, students grapple with the strategic, logistical and alliance challenges, as properly as the fog and friction of conflict. The personnel trip delves into the element of a campaign that illuminates the depth, width and context of war in all of its intriguing and harrowing dimensions. This academic yr, the pupils traveled to the Somme to research 1918’s “100 Days Offensive” from the viewpoint of a few nations. The students ran every single section of the team trip, acquiring carried out exploration and planning for months in progress. They remaining the Somme just after an rigorous week, having solid a additional private connection with these who crafted the technique, led at all levels, fought, and, in a lot of situations, died throughout the offensive. 

The students’ roles in executing the staff experience highlights how necessary they on their own are to the program’s accomplishment. An exquisitely developed and led application is only as good as its pupils. To enroll in the Strategic Thinkers Application, U.S. army officers will have to be approved by both of those OSD and the University of Highly developed Intercontinental Scientific tests. By submitting to a twin application course of action, pupils are consciously committing to a a great deal extra extreme military schooling expertise than their contemporaries ahead of they ever set foot in a classroom. It also usually means they are accepting failure as an option: each the university and the program reserve the ideal to are unsuccessful a scholar. Even so, that probability is little, due to the fact students acknowledge upfront the significant workload related with correctly finishing the system. Having viewed the intellectual and professional advancement of this year’s cohort, I can attest to how pupils embrace the work and concentrate on thriving all through the program.


As an observer, I would argue possibly the best indication of results for the Strategic Thinkers Software is the expressed want inside of OSD, the Joint Staff, and the expert services to seek the services of its graduates. This system makes strategists who imagine continually about conflict and are often asking, “What’s up coming?” and “To what conclusion?” 

The program’s rigor and subsequent achievements of its graduates advise 5 critical points to take into account when discovering reforms to present PME plans (or, as with the Space Power, producing new types). 

1. Create courses with a singular goal. The Joint Chiefs of Staff members Eyesight assertion and the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff’s Officer Professional Military Instruction Coverage need to only be viewed as starting points. To thrive, PME plans have to concentrate on the unique variety of graduate they want to produce, and style and design the study course of study appropriately. Absent that emphasis, PME directors will keep on to pitch systems at the intermediate and senior stages to the lowest-common college student denominator. By distinction, STP is laser-centered on producing strategists who can personnel generals and flag officers at numerous amounts. 

2. Empower the plan director. Along with a singular objective, PME requirements to devolve electrical power to the software administrators. Suitable now, with the obligation for massive scholar throughput, of necessity a great deal authority for PME class design is centralized in the provosts, deans, and department chairs. This composition leaves minimal latitude to examine ground breaking instructional ideas like STP. One can not overstate the critical job of a committed method director, liable for each faculty and college students and empowered to innovate at the seminar degree. As PME institutions strive to reinvent by themselves, they might appear for possibilities to devolve authority, and empower system administrators to make far more calendar year-prolonged seminars especially created to carry a lot more rigor and focus to the learners. Plan directors, in return, ought to display how they are creating graduates to fulfill an crucial, provider- or joint-determined need to have.

3. Have an understanding of the U.S. govt-college romance. PME systems embedded in civilian universities (or in the circumstance of the Area Power, discovering this sort of partnering) really should shell out shut consideration to what the college is bringing to the connection. Is the college staking its track record (to any extent) on the achievement or failure of the program, or is it far more interested in generating revenue off it? Do the range of military students in a specific system preclude most interactions with civilian peers? What sort of diploma is currently being granted? Who are the school? Ahead of setting up a navy education program at a civilian university, it is necessary to know the responses to these and associated thoughts. Civilian higher education and learning is heading by way of its very own article-COVID reckoning, and U.S. government funding is engaging. Equally the U.S. govt and the associated college ought to be equally invested in the success of a armed forces instruction system.

4. The essentials of graduate instruction stay essential. No make any difference where it is dependent, the main of a demanding military services schooling plan must be tiny seminars, demanding assignments, program oral and created assessments, and frequent feed-back. Neither superior classroom know-how nor affiliation with an elite university can compensate for a classical, important-contemplating approach to educating method. Struggling to analyze, realize, and produce about national and navy procedures applying primary and secondary sources stays one of the most potent techniques to increase essential imagining competencies.

5. A program is only as great as its college students. Last but not least, just as learners are the essential to STP’s good results, so do they hold the crucial to arduous PME. Learners must have to apply for PME, just as they should have to apply for other selective army programs. Pupils ought to also be authorized to depart an academic program with no paying out a job penalty. In short, services need to have to feel more significantly about who must show up at skilled instruction plans and why. This signifies that the services should really forgo the longstanding, albeit casual exercise, of thinking about PME as family members time. If household time is essential, expert services need to create specific sabbatical systems for that purpose. Under the existing structure, they dilute the instruction and devalue the university student at the exact same time.  

As a teacher and observer, I have discovered that the Strategic Thinkers Plan stands out as the Defense Department’s most demanding and worthwhile army schooling method. If DOD can safeguard STP though working with classes gleaned from it to reform professional armed service schooling extra broadly, PME educational institutions could, at last, change away from teaching to a small normal, and start out giving the demanding education pupils are entitled to. With the Strategic Thinkers Software at least now a beacon exists for other PME establishments to comply with.

Paula G. Thornhill is a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier normal. She is an affiliate professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Faculty of Highly developed International Reports and is the author of Demystifying the American Armed service.