- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has asked the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to provide options for cutting back military officer education during “stress periods” — such as during the war in Iraq — to allow greater numbers to be available for deployment.

At the same time, the Army’s 4th Infantry Division has decided to pull 29 officers out of its 10-month professional education curriculum early to send them to Iraq, said a Feb. 9 memo obtained by United Press International.

The 29 officers are being withdrawn a few weeks early from the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., at the request of the commander of the division, who has a critical need for 32 more officers before he deploys to Iraq. The officers will receive full credit for having finished the course, a Pentagon official said.

The college also will give up one instructor to the division for deployment, and two other officers have been identified in the field for the assignment.

The move is one more indication that the Army does not have sufficient numbers to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as prepare its officers for future conflict, said Pentagon and congressional sources close to the matter.

“We’re so good because of our professional education, and you can’t eliminate it, postpone it or reduce it if you want a professional military,” one senior Army officer said.

In a Jan. 31 memo, Mr. Rumsfeld directed Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to produce by mid-March options for reducing professional military education.

“Let’s come up with some options how we might shorten professional military education or abbreviate it during stress periods,” Mr. Rumsfeld wrote in a short memo marked “for official use only.” It went only to Gen. Myers and David Chu, defense undersecretary for personnel and readiness.

Mr. Rumsfeld’s proposal is meeting with resistance among the uniformed military.

“We’ve done this before, but on a case-by-case basis,” one officer said. “We’ve had other requests [during the Iraq war] that we’ve turned down.”

The matter also is raising concerns on Capitol Hill.

“You’ve got two missions, as I see it: to fight these wars and prepare for the next war,” said Rep. Ike Skelton, Missouri Democrat. “The golden age of professional military education was the period following World War I. It sustained the Army’s war fighting competency during those lean times and produced the commanders that lead the nation to victory in World War II.

“Today, warfare is becoming more complex at lower and lower levels, and our professional military education system must continue to evolve to develop the thinking warriors the future will require.”

Another senior defense official defended the proposal to cut back on professional military education, and said the Army is considering rethinking all of its scholarly assignments, such as fellowships.

“Some of the experiences they are getting today are better than anything they will get in a classroom,” the official said. “It’s not giving up something for nothing. We have a generation of leaders in the Army today that are battle-tested and are much more capable of leading the Army from the actual experience they have. It’s not an all-or-nothing choice.”

The official said it is not a fair assessment that increasing the size of the Army would alleviate the problem, because the officers being tapped for duty have years of experience under their belts and could not be replaced in the field by new recruits.

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