Strategic Broadening Seminar- Defense Academy of the United Kingdom

During the seminar, leaders conducted a land combat power visit

This blog piece is written by CPT Curtis L. Radoff. Curtis enlisted in the Army on 15 September 2005 and completed Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. He received his Advanced Individual Training at Fort Lee, Virginia and was awarded the MOS 92Y, Unit Supply Specialist. After completing more than 4 years of enlisted service, CPT Radoff was selected to attend Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, GA and received his commission in March 2010. He is a graduate of the Quartermaster Basic Officer Leadership Course and Logistics Captains Career Course at Fort Lee, Virginia. He is currently the S3 Mobility OIC for 39th Transportation Battalion (MC), Kaiserslautern, Germany.

I was part of a group of US Army Officers, 24 Captains & 5 Majors who were selected to attend the FY2016- HQDA Strategic Broadening Seminar Program; a 6 week program at the Defense Academy of the United Kingdom, Shrivenham, England, Intermediate Command and Staff Course (Land) (ICSC-L), the course is equivalent to the US Army Intermediate Level Education (ILE) course. I attended the course because I wanted to understand the global spectrum of culture throughout the United Kingdom, explore geopolitics and their effects on leadership, and develop a greater knowledge of how the United Kingdom’s military operates and makes strategic decisions. The opportunity to attend a foreign military school and experience their way of life was very attractive.The Officers attended the program from 16 September 2016 through 28 October 2016. We came from all components (Active, Reserve and National Guard) and all around the world, to include: Germany, South Korea, Guam, Hawaii, HRC, the Pentagon and multiple bases around the continental US. Represented branches and specialties included Logistics, Aviation, Force Management, Military Intelligence, Special Forces, and Rangers, to name just a few. The purpose of the seminar was to enhance our understanding of the complexities associated with British Army strategic choices, the British Army’s culture and its approach to strategic decision making, planning and command.

The Defense Academy of the United Kingdom offered a unique training opportunity for us to study at the master’s level to enhance their strategic thinking, evaluate the calculus of strategy, develop critical and creative thinking skills and critically analyze command issues from an allied perspective. We worked alongside British Army and Royal Marine Majors undertaking the Intermediate Command and Staff Course. We were taught by a mixture of military staff, staff from the Military of Defence (MOD), visiting lecturers from multiple agencies, and professors from both King’s College London and Cranfield University.

We began with three days of classes on critical and creative thinking, led by professors from Cranfield University. These classes prepared us to think in a way that would help us get the most out of the entire six week program. Throughout the three days, there were lectures on Management Theory, the Army as a Learning Organization, Organizational Thinking, and Thinking Skills for Leaders.

An overarching theme in the program was that the UK military must provide national defense during a very challenging time. The UK government has decided to reduce the number of military service members and military spending in order to balance the budget, while simultaneously requiring the military to do more with less. As a US Soldier, I can understand how strategic decision making, planning and command comes into play when organizations have to do more with less. When the commander tells their company they have to execute a mission, knowing they don’t have enough capability to accomplish it, the Soldiers will always work together to ensure mission success. The UK is forced to take a larger role in the region as a result of increased military activities by a resurgent Russia, and also because of the decreased role that the US has taken throughout the world. This tumultuous landscape requires government and military leaders to make difficult strategic decision making and planning about how best to change the military to maximize its capabilities if there is a conflict with Russia. The multinational reliance partnership between the US and UK in both regional and worldwide patterns ensure mutual security against real and perceived threats from any country, conduct foreign humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, while engaging in peace operations together.

The Strategic Defense and Security Review (SDSR) is like the US’s National Defense Strategy (NDS): it provides some direction for military leaders so that the military can further evolve and focus on national priorities. Shortly after the SDSR is released, the government publishes a Comprehensive Spending Review which will also impact the future of the UK military. Most of the UK Officers that we met were anxious about the effects that these two documents will have on their military and it often came up in discussions. Military leaders study the Army Command Plan (ACP) 16, similar to the US DOD fiscal year budget request as it constitutes the Chief of General Staff’s (CGS) contract with Head Office and has been agreed by the Chief of Directorate Staff. CGS will be held to account against the delivery of its content. The plan covers FY 16/17 in detail. It sets out how the Army will deliver the tasks and objectives given in Defence Strategic Direction (DSD) 16 and Defence Plan (DP) 16 within allocated resources. It includes a consideration of risks and a summary of the Army’s key dependencies. As a US Soldier, I was able to teach them about the yearly budget and the cumbersome process that always comes down to a last minute deal for the fiscal year funding, the next fiscal year, how it plays into the overall operations of the government and the strategic decision making and planning when it comes to deciding what military programs & equipment need to be cut or added to the budget.

SDSR (UK)

NDS (US)

ACP (UK)

US DOD FISCAL YEAR BUDGET REQUEST (US)

In light of the volatile global environment, the UK will continue to rely heavily on international relationships to further UK interests and no nation is more important to the UK than the US. The UK Army does a masterful job of assessing capability gaps, identifying other nations that can bridge those gaps, and then working with those nations in order to achieve the desired effects. The UK is working closely with the US on interoperability so that a UK Brigade can work directly for a US Division and vice versa. As a US Soldier, understanding their capability gaps will allow me to ensure those are filled with the capabilities within the command I fall under by planning ahead to ensure mission success when training is planned with our UK partners. It also allows me to brief the US Soldiers within my command the challenges that will be encountered when training with our UK partners and how the command will be able to overcome those challenges. More than providing military capabilities, the UK develops relationships in the International System in order to achieve its goals. As a long standing major political actor, the UK has had a substantial effect on rules and patterns of interaction within the International System. The UK will continue to fulfill its roles in organizations like the United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union as well as bilateral agreements as effective ways to achieve ends.

I learned a great deal about UK strategy and by contrast a great deal about US strategy. I will be able to apply what I learned throughout the course in future multinational operations with our UK partners. As a logistician, it has truly given me a broader understanding of how logistics work within the UK military and how they operate throughout the world and how they integrate themselves with its allies as well as supporting its Soldiers. US Officers should continue to attend this program as it will allow them to build on strategic thinking, evaluate the calculus of strategy, develop critical and creative thinking skills and critically analyze command issues from an allied perspective while making the UK alliance stronger.

Visits of interest: Ministry of Defense, Army HQ, Land Combat Power Visit, Northwood (Permanent Joint Headquarters, Joint Forces Command, and Joint Forces Command Headquarters), Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) while they were in the field @Cornwall, Stonehenge, Salisbury (Magna Carte), London (multiple sites including a picture in front of Prime Minister Theresa May’s home on 10 Downing Street) and Oxford.

For future officers who would like to apply for this program, MG John S. Kem, U.S. Army
 Provost came to visit us while we were attending the program and informed us that Army University will start managing the Strategic Broadening Seminar Program in 2017. Here is the link to the Army University if you would like to find out more information: http://armyu.army.mil/.

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