August 1, 2011  

Changing threats Distance learning

Retired Col. Bob Killebrew’s insightful article on the changing nature of national security threats [“A Darwinian world,” May AFJ] seemed to mirror the mission set faced by Army North (Fifth Army) every day.

This is not the Fifth Army many recall. In 2006, the command was re-missioned to serve as the land component of U.S. Northern Command with exclusive focus on the U.S. homeland and the near-abroad of greater North America. In addition to traditional homeland defense and disaster response missions, we at Army North find ourselves dealing with a growing, metastasizing set of domestic security challenges, albeit in support of others: federal agencies, local and state jurisdictions, law enforcement officials, intelligence services, Mexican and Canadian security forces, and even nongovernment organizations and private-sector entities.

But many in the federal government are understandably reluctant to apply “military” solutions to the challenges Bob raised — the growing convergence of insurgent, nonstate and ideological threats with ruthless and strengthening transnational criminal cartels — especially in this domestic “theater of operations.”

But this emerging hybrid threat is not just a law enforcement problem, and in my view it will take all elements of our national security apparatus from local to federal, civil and military, to defeat. We cannot go on with antiquated, stovepiped and parochial methods while our adversaries exploit the many seams of our federal system.

Where we have applied all elements of our security apparatus, such as against networked adversaries like al-Qaida in Iraq, we have been highly successful. But this has largely been limited to overseas war zones. We need that level of collaboration and cooperation here in order to build a megacommunity committed to collective threat response.

The private sector must also be mobilized as a full partner because it is that portion of America’s fabric that is most threatened in this environment. Partnerships between government-run security services and private-sector vendors, service providers and subject-matter experts are crucial — yet we continue to struggle with outdated laws, policies and regulatory authorities while the bad guys take advantage.

Since 9/11, we have had success integrating and synchronizing local and state security and response operations with those of the federal government, though well-known challenges persist. Where we need to go next is toward a more “open architecture” that no longer views contractors, private businesses and others as “always trying to sell something.” There is huge expertise in this sector that, frankly, limits our ability to accomplish the mission for as long as it goes untapped.

I am optimistic that we will overcome these hurdles, but it will take time and I hope it does not take a catastrophic event to get our attention.

Lt. Gen. Guy C. Swan III

Commanding general

U.S. Army North (Fifth Army)

Fort Sam Houston, Texas

Reading retired Col. Gwynne T. Burke’s article [“A better way to educate,” March AFJ], I wanted to offer my thoughts. I believe intermediate-level education distance learning (ILE-DL) should be required by all officers, active and reserve.

Recent budget news underscores the need to refocus efforts on the offerings of ILE-DL as a cost-saving mechanism for the Defense Department. Since returning to active duty, I’ve met several recently promoted lieutenant colonels who were promoted without ILE or Command and General Staff College (CGSC) education. That standard is lower than the standard required for reservists to be promoted to lieutenant colonel. Somewhat understandably, due to the current operational tempo, the Army has allowed PME requirements to slide.

To meet the challenge of educating the backlog for our war fighters, the Army should mandate its CGSC expand distance-learning offerings to encompass more active-component personnel. The Air Force requires all officers to take their CGSC equivalent via correspondence. Army reservists are required to complete their ILE in this manner while working in their civilian occupation. Why does the active component have the luxury of a resident (full-time) program? Years ago, only select officers were afforded the opportunity to attend the resident course. Those who weren’t selected were required to complete the CGSC program via correspondence in order to be eligible for promotion.

The ILE-DL program is exceptional, and with a little fine-tuning, the Army could save the cost of permanent-change-of-station and temporary-duty moves by making the ILE-DL program the standard. If it is not the standard, then it at least should be the standard for admission to the resident program, much like it is for the Air Force. Implementing this program will allow the “train me” generation to demonstrate the wherewithal and the tenacity required of professionals.

Maj. Todd H. Bonham

C5 Contingency Plans

Combined Forces Command Korea