Professional Military Education for Air Force Officers : Comments and Criticisms
This study is based on an examination of professional military education (PME) for United States Air Force officers that was conducted in 1988 at the Airpower Research Institutes (ARI), Air University Center for Aerospace Doctrine, Research, and Education (AUCADRE), Maxwell AFT, Alabama. The original study researched the history and evolution of the Air Force's PME systems, assessed the current status of Air Force PME, and compared the PME systems of the other US military services to that of the Air Force. This extract, however, restricts itself to the history of Air Force PME between 1946 and 1987. Originally, seven ARI officers, including the editors of this study, worked on the project. Collectively, they examined more than 345 documents, - letters, regulations, manual, studies, reports, catalogs, and histories - in an effort to fully understand the criticisms made of Air Force PME throughout its history. The capstone of Air Force PME is Air University (AU), located at Maxwell Air Force Base. AU consists of three schools: Squadron Officer School, Air Command Staff College, and Air War College. During the more than 40 years examined here, PME became thoroughly institutionalized. Further, the quality of professional education offered by AU was constantly assessed and reassessed. External observers (those outside the Air Force) and internal observers (both military and civilian, assigned from within the Air Force) regularly examined the qualifications and teaching methods of the schools' faculty, as well as the schools' curricula. Throughout this period, PME's purpose was the subject of ongoing discussion: whether it should provide broad or specialized instruction and whether it should address only military issues or include political and related topics. These questions remain unanswered because the Air Force has never effectively defined what it wanted its officers to know or to be. Although the assessments described in this book are not exhaustive, they are representative of both internal and external commentary over the entire four-decade period. Internal criticism is especially difficult to assess since it is often only implicit in recommendations for changes made by the various groups that conducted studies of PME. In addition, internal Air Force reviews of AU and the schools tended to become less critical as the schools became institutionalized, thus making an objective assessment even more difficult. On the other hand, external criticisms - particularly those from non-Department of Defense observers - were prone to find fault with PME. These evaluations were more likely to be explicitly critical, often bluntly so, and they too were perhaps not wholly objective. This study seeks a balance between the two types of criticisms and attempts to determine how they complement each other.