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UNITED STATES: War Colleges
General Michael Sullivan informs us about little known developments in US War Colleges: "I think the days of "who has the best War College" rivalries don't exist any more as a Congressional committee ended up pretty much standardizing the curriculums to ensure the tax payers got their money's worth after giving senior officers a year's sabatical for advanced studies. I attended the Naval War College in '75-'76 and it had a really demanding curriculum, whereas the other War Colleges (Army, Carlisle, Pa, Air Force. Momtgomery, Al, National and Industrial College of the Armed Forces, both Wash DC) were "gentlemen's" or "country club" courses with no grading or rigorous academic endeavor required. At NWC we had 3 semesters consisting of Strategy (reading 1200 pages a week from 4 different books on the same topic with four different opinions), Quantitative and Non-Quantitative Analysis (learning 7 different models of statistics for analysis for procuring military hardware and awarding contracts and Naval Operations (which was a joint warfighting course to get all the services aware of the others' capabilities for future Joint operations. This was a high-level staff-planning course;10% of the students would make flag rank. We had 63 Navy, 24 Army , 20 Air Force and 20 Marines, plus 33 foreign officers (who didn't do the statistics course and were removed from any classes that covered classified info) and about 20 civilians from State, CIA and Dept of Defense). At the NWC we had mid terms, finals, written requirements and a thesis. Our diplomas stated that the course was equivalent to a academic Masters Degree. The other War Colleges let their students attend local universities and earn Masters Degrees as the university or college would give them maximum credit for attending the War College and they could meet the requirements in the year while attending the War College. The NWC started doing this a few years later with a small girls' college in Newport, R.I., Salve Regina. You only had to take a few, I think 4 courses from them and they'd confer the Masters Degree. The degree is worth little in the civilian academic world, but it gives the officer an "X" in the advanced degree box when he comes up for promotion. I sat on 6 General and 2 Colonel promotion boards and Masters earned this way were given little merit but attending a War College was a must. We had an excellent faculty, world famous lecturers from Heads of State to Cabinet members to heads of services to politicians of all political leanings. We had several liberal professors, mainly from Harvard, which gave real balance and some testy times. We had a "media week" where the gurus of the media (press and TV) were invited down to take us on as there was a tremendous adversarial relationship between the media and the military as the Vietnam war had only been over for 2 years. The seminars got really wild and just short of the push and shove stage. When it was all over we shook hands and all of us believed we understood the other guy's point of view a little better. Bottom line is that in a free society there will always be and adversarial relationship between the two. Now it's even more pronounced as so few media personalities have served in the military. My year at the NWC was very rewarding as it was the toughest academic environment I'd ever been in and I did more reading about military history and world shaping events that I had ever done before. It was lucky that we never had to do the statistics after we graduated as we had analysts to do it in our commands but the point of teaching us all those models was so we could understand what model they used and could ask the right questions to find out how they arrived at their recommendation. After all that, a non-quant decision is made most of the time! Newport was a great place to live even though they had severe winters. Great pubs, lot of history close by, abundant sailing opportunities and New York and Boston close enough to go see Broadway shows and do some real tourist stuff. The NWC buildings, wargaming facility and library were exceptional and a true academic environment prevailed. It is tax dollars well spent!"
My comment: I come from another time and another place. The student body at Oxford was small, entry very difficult, and a rather monastic life. It was a shock to me when I came to the U.S. and heard teachers saying " I plan to take 5 units this summer (the units system was unknown to me), so that I will be in a higher rank and get a $500 salary increase". The new US system seems to have won out almost everywhere.
Ronald Hilton - 4/18/02