Washington, D.C. – Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Vic Snyder (D-Ark.) and Ranking Member Rob Wittman (R-Va.) announced the completion of the subcommittee’s year-long assessment of the professional military education (PME) system, May 6. The report, “Another Crossroads? Professional Military Education Two Decades After the Goldwater-Nichols Act and the Skelton Panel
,”is the first comprehensive congressional review of the PME system since the Skelton Panel’s groundbreaking review in 1989.
“Over the 20 years since Goldwater-Nichols was passed and the Skelton Panel completed its work, many legislative and policy changes have occurred that directly impact the PME system,” said Chairman Snyder.
“The subcommittee reviewed the state of the officer in-residence PME system to determine the accumulated effects of these changes, and we’ve made some recommendations on what can, and should, be done to improve PME amid the complex and dynamic national security environment we face. I am very pleased with the results of our review, and look forward to working with my colleagues and the Department of Defense to ensure the PME system is strong and well-suited for the challenges we will face in the next 20 years.”
“I had great confidence in the professionalism of our officer corps when we began this study, and have even more now that we are finished,” said Ranking Member Wittman. “Our professional military education system continues to evolve from its historic roots and remains sound. As expected in any large dynamic enterprise, we found a number of areas that need attention, and I look forward to working with the Department to make professional military education even better.”
“I congratulate Chairman Snyder, Ranking Member Wittman, and all of the members of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee on their thorough and insightful review of the PME system,” said Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton. “I encourage the Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs to work with the men and women at our PME institutions to implement the recommendations made by the subcommittee. PME is critical to our military officers’ development and directly affects their ability to lead and operate in the dangerous and dynamic environments of today’s conflicts. The House Armed Services Committee stands ready to help the Department’s civilian and military leaders strengthen and improve the PME system.”
During its year-long review of PME, the subcommittee conducted six open hearings, visited all of the PME schools and institutions, met with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and all of the Service Chiefs, met with nine of the ten Combatant Commanders and their staffs, and had discussions with countless experts, educators, operational leaders, and current and former officers about the current state and future direction of PME.
The subcommittee found that while today’s PME system is basically sound there are areas that need improvement and the attention of senior leaders. One such area is the growing disconnect between joint professional military education (JPME) and joint duty assignments: many officers complete JPME courses concurrently with or after their first joint duty assignment, and therefore many serve in joint assignments without the proper preparation or joint skills. The subcommittee recommends that the Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff implement policies and propose legislative remedies to reinforce the relationship between JPME and joint duty assignments while maintaining the flexibility to meet operational requirements.
The subcommittee also found that joint and Service-specific efforts to cultivate and educate strategists are disconnected. The subcommittee recommends that the services enhance efforts to develop strategists to assume positions of senior command authority. The subcommittee also studied curriculum standards related to developing officers with broad joint, intergovernmental, international, and multinational knowledge and skills. The subcommittee recommends that the Department and the Services continue to strengthen the PME curriculum as well as the composition of the faculties and student bodies with respect to helping officers learn to work across agency boundaries, with foreign governments and militaries, and with industry and nongovernmental organizations.
Another area of concern is the content and timing of PME curricula. The subcommittee is concerned by the lack of a coherent, comprehensive, and effective program to improve the critical thinking skills of officers throughout their careers. In particular, programs to enhance the critical thinking skills of junior officers are important for preparing them for today’s operational environment as junior officers are increasingly called on to make decisions with strategic implications.
Finally, in recognizing that people are the most important element of the PME enterprise, the subcommittee recommends that senior leaders have a long enough tenure to provide for stability, that faculties are better supported, and that students are chosen both for what they will gain from a particular course and what they will contribute to it. PME institutions must be appropriately resourced with the right people and adequate funding if they are to effectively accomplish their mission of educating the leaders of our military forces.
The full Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee report on PME is available from the House Armed Services Committee website at: http://armedservices.house.gov/