USAWC's New Emphasis on Homeland Security

The United States Army War College (USAWC) in Carlisle Barracks, PA., already one of the most prestigious institutions in the U.S. military educational system, is becoming even more so by continuing to evolve not only to “keep up with the times” but also to anticipate the course of events in future conflicts in which its graduates will be both personally and professionally involved.

The most prominent recent example is the institution’s increased emphasis on the field of homeland security, a once relatively minor topic in the USAWC curriculum that has substantially grown in importance in the past three years.

Established by Secretary of War Elihu Root in 1901, the USAWC had several previous homes before permanently moving in 1951 to Carlisle Barracks, which has long been associated with the military educational system. Before hosting the USAWC, Carlisle was the home of the first permanent School of Artillery for the Continental Army, the Army’s School of Cavalry in pre-Civil War America, and the site of the Indian Industrial School in the latter part of the 19th century and early years of the 20th century.

Because change is constant in the educational process, the USAWC curriculum has always grown and evolved in reaction to changes in the world-security situation as outlined in current U.S. strategic security documents – which also evolve and change on a continuing basis. The requirement for a shift in focus of the USAWC curriculum was probably never more evident, though, than in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center Towers and the Pentagon. In fact, not since the early days of World War II has the topic of homeland security been given so much attention not only at the USAWC and other U.S. naval and military educational institutions but also at the Pentagon and White House, and on Capitol Hill.

“To Preserve Peace … to Study and Confer” The recent changes in the USAWC curriculum come as no surprise, though, to anyone familiar with the school’s history. Secretary Root made it clear from the beginning that the principal purpose of the USAWC would not be to promote war, “but to preserve peace by intelligent and adequate preparation to repel aggression … [and] to study and confer on the great problems of national defense, of military science, and of responsible command.” Obviously, because the “great problems of national defense” Root referred to change so frequently – and often without warning – the USAWC curriculum also should, and must, change if it is to carry out the mandate it has been assigned.

Maj. Gen. David Huntoon Jr., the current USAWC commandant, echoes Root’s sentiments in his own mission statement, which simply and succinctly states that, “We have recently analyzed our mission, reassessed why we exist, and how we accomplish the mission through our principal functions of education, research, and publication, strategic communication, and well being. These functional areas will continue to be the focus of what we do. Our task is clear: We must anticipate and shape the future, and then effectively manage institutional change and increase the effectiveness and efficiency in all that we have been charged to do.

“We achieve this purpose,” the mission statement continues, “by accomplishing the mission derived from Army Regulation 10-44 and TRADOC [Training and Doctrine Command] Regulation 10-10, ‘USAWC’: To prepare selected military, civilian, and international leaders for the responsibilities of strategic leadership; educate current and future leaders on the development and employment of land-power in a joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational environment; research and publish on national security and military strategy; and engage in activities that support the Army’s strategic communication efforts.”

The Guiding Principle of Constant Change In the field of homeland security, it is to the Army’s, and Huntoon’s, credit that the USAWC curriculum has changed not only to anticipate but also to eventually help shape the future. Which should not be too surprising – naval/military theorists and contingency planners throughout the world have long recognized that in times of war the guiding principle should be the old adage that “the only constant is change.”

The truth of those words has been demonstrated many times throughout the post-WWII era, when – despite the ominous shadow cast by the Cold War – there have been numerous changes in traditional war-fighting scenarios – e.g., from the major theaters of war that were the strategic focus during World War II to an emphasis on brushfire and guerrilla wars and other localized conflicts.

In addition, and with only a few exceptions, warfare has also, in recent years, encompassed more, and more violent, intrastate and interstate rivalries. In fact, it has seemed at times, and in certain areas of the world, an encore performance of how world affairs were carried out in the two centuries preceding World Wars I and II. There were in that era, for example, various “Small War” contingencies in the Philippines and the Caribbean (where U.S. forces were heavily involved in the so-called “Banana Wars”).

More recently – i.e., since the attacks of 11 September 2001 – the face of warfare has further evolved, and the nation’s strategic planners now face the multifaceted challenge of combating transnational terrorism, a massive but asymmetrical threat to U.S. national security that involves not only defense of the American homeland but also the potential use of military forces to protect critical infrastructure sites.

The second- and third-level effects of what planners see as a constantly changing battlefield of the future have necessitated a reexamination of all previous doctrinal and training practices and subjects. In the U.S. Army, soldier and leader development comes in the form of training the individual, both in the unit and in the institution. Institutional training refers to the MOS (military occupational specialty) -producing “school house” or institution for each functional branch of the Army – e.g., Ft. Benning (GA.) for the Infantry Branch and Ft. Knox (KY.) for the Armor and Cavalry Branch. At these and other posts, the training for traditional military operations has been excellent for many years, and has prepared the Army well for the conduct of major theater warfare.

Tremendous Progress, and a Less-Than-Stellar Record In confronting the anomalies of asymmetric warfare, however – particularly as waged by the forces of international terrorism – the service’s track record has been somewhat less stellar. Again, though, this is not surprising. Even today, few if any of the military forces of any nation in the world could be considered fully prepared to combat terrorism. The same is true, of course, of most if not quite all national governments and political leaders as well.

With the introduction, a full century ago, of codified doctrine in the form of printed Field Manuals (FMs), the U.S. Army started a long era of tremendous progress in training and doctrine policies and procedures. As the latest version of The Army (U.S. Army Field Manual FM-1) states, “Since the 1980s, the Army developed a comprehensive doctrinal construct for assessing current capabilities and managing change. The Army maintains a trained and ready force and develops future capabilities by carefully balancing six imperatives: doctrine, organizations, materiel, leader development, training, and Soldiers.” These six imperatives are to be synchronized with one another to ensure an effective fighting force.

The resulting effects on institutional training of the changing battlefield have been recognized at the highest levels of the Army and incorporated into the current curriculum of the USAWC. For example, resident students must now, among other requirements, successfully complete six core courses in addition to four electives and a strategic research project; the latter is a written paper on a topic decided upon in collaboration with a faculty advisor.

The USAWC core courses consist of: Fundamentals of Strategic Thinking, Theory of War and Strategy, Strategic Leadership, National Security Policy and Strategy, Implementing National Military Strategy, and Joint Processes and Landpower Development.

Electives: The Most Notable Change Although each core course reflects the change in focus from traditional operations to the asymmetric threat, the most notable change is in the elective courses offered by each teaching department of the USAWC.

For example, the school’s Department of Command, Leadership, and Management now offers the following electives: Military Assistance to Civil Authorities; and Reserve Components: Organization, Roles, and Issues. The Department of National Security and Strategy offers Regional Studies electives, including the Americas, Civil-Military Relations in Comparative Perspective, Homeland Security Policy and Strategy, and Militant Islam.

In addition to the institution’s teaching departments, the USAWC Center for Strategic Leadership offers an elective on Weapons of Mass Destruction. The electives named, combined with other curriculum changes, represent a marked increase in focus not only on the overall field of homeland security but also on a number of ancillary topics that are related to and/or affect U.S. homeland security in various ways.

In addition, the topics selected by students as their strategic-research projects reflect the same recent increased emphasis on homeland-security issues. USAWC students have always had a wide variety of subjects to consider when choosing their strategic-research topics. Since the beginning of the 2002 school year, however, no fewer than 75 students, close to ten percent of the eligible student population, selected a topic related to homeland security. Not surprisingly, in view of their mission, many National Guard and Reserve students are included in that number, but quite a few active-component students also selected homeland-security issues for their projects.

Thanks to the focus on the future displayed by the USAWC leadership, and the commitment of students and faculty alike to stay on the “leading edge” of current changes in U.S. national-security policies, the institution’s ability to adapt an always demanding curriculum to meet the changing paradigms of warfare has been nothing less than exceptional. It seems obvious; therefore, that the USAWC has continued to follow the mandate of scholarly excellence postulated by Secretary Root more than a century ago and fully deserves the place of honor it holds in both the military and private-sector educational communities.

Brent Bankus

Brent C. Bankus retired as a promotable Lieutenant Colonel from the Army National Guard Active Guard Reserve Program with over 25 years service. His military career, beginning in 1979 as an Armor/Cavalry officer encompassed command and staff positions in the U.S. Army, Army National Guard, and the Army Reserve. He has served in assignments within the United States and Germany as well as missions to Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania, Sinai, Eritrea, Guam and Hawaii. He has a BS from Bloomsburg University, PA, an MS in Information Management from Strayer University, VA and an MS in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps Command and General Staff Colleges and the U.S. Army War College. He is a consultant with Resource Consultants, Inc.



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