Wednesday, December 1, 2010

House Armed Services Committee Holds Hearings on PME

Bob Feidler
Director, Defense Education Forum

On November 28, the Investigations and Oversight Committee of the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing to review Professional Military Education issues and receive reaction to a House report on that topic issued earlier this year. A panel of witnesses reflecting various elements of the Department of Defense and the services broadly praised the House report for documenting the evolution of PME and citing various problems that still existed and potential solutions.

ROA White Paper: Senior service school distance education program graduates, who meet JCS accreditation standards, should receive Joint Professional Military Education Phase II credit

The panel noted that the military has a range of evaluation techniques they now employ to ascertain if the substance and methodologies of PME meet the needs of both the students and the Combatant Commands. DoD requested support for an amendment to the law that would extend the number of sites at which the Joint Military Professional Education (JPME) program now presented at the Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC) might be given. Each COCOM as well as the Pentagon would become sites where the JPME program might be offered. This would enhance, marginally, the ability of RC officers who might be serving at these locations to more easily take the JPME program and receive Phase II credit toward attaining their Joint Qualified Officer (JQO) status.

Retired Maj. Gen. David R. Bockel, executive director of ROA, visits the Gettysburg
battlefield with expert guides provided by the U.S. Army War College as part of the
College's 2010 Distance Learning residency final week.
For RC officers today, it is difficult to obtain the Phase II credit. Phase II credit is extended only to in-residence graduates of the senior service schools, not to the distance learning graduates despite the fact that they often have a similar curriculum and also receive a Masters degree as do their AC counterparts. The DL students take roughly two years of non-resident distance learning programs as well as four weeks in residence for which they only receive Phase I credit. To achieve Phase II-like credit, they must also attend the JFSC non-resident program entitled AJPME – ten months of distance learning and four weeks in residence. For many RC officers, this is asking too much in terms of time and commitment.

ROA has been pushing to award senior service school graduates the Phase II credit in recognition that their educational experience is very similar to that of the resident graduates. If it is felt that the “affected” learning – being in close contact for 9 months with classmates from other services – is essential, perhaps adding a couple of weeks of intense Joint related training for the RC students, in addition to their four weeks in residence, might satisfy the need joint interaction. It would qualify many more RC officers and at minimal cost. Right now, RC officers serve on many Joint staffs and do so with distinction – there is no evidence that a non-resident graduate of the senior service schools is lacking in any way.

The committee did inquire about issues faced by RC officers in achieving JPME Phase II credit. It was acknowledged by the panel that there were issues in getting sufficient numbers of RC students into residence “seats” for the two highest educational levels – senior service school and CAPSTONE. The witness panel also suggested that distance learning had come a long way over the past ten years and now offered many opportunities for the non-resident students to interact with classmates from other services. One of the panelists was going to be at the Naval War College next week to review the various creative ways that distance learning students might receive their education in a way that provided them the joint experience.

Although the Subcommittee appeared to have some interest in the issue of RC officers having a greater opportunity to obtain the Phase II credit, they also appeared to wish to proceed methodically. A comment from one member was that “an Army institution teaching joint methods might be a bridge too far.” The likely outcome is that no substantial progress – either with a permanent change to the law to ease the requirement that JPME II can only be obtained by a resident student or calling for a pilot program re: the RC – is likely to be adopted in the upcoming NDAA11. It is possible that the committee will agree to expand the number of sites the JPME course can be given by the JFSC. But all is dependent upon passing an NDAA this year. No NDAA, no change.

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