One of the great challenges the military faces is remaining current and preparing the current and future generations of soldiers for inevitable shifts to the geopolitical environment, technological changes, and shifts in both domestic and foreign policies. The importance of preparing officers for the new realities of unpredictable environments and non-state actors cannot be underestimated.[footnoteRef:1] The roles and goals of the AMSP and SAMS have not changed. These educational programs provide the requisite advanced and specialized knowledge to foster critical thinking and strategic analysis among military leaders. What must be remembered, however, is the need for organizational awareness and the willingness to change. [1: Edward B. Bankston, Boards vs. Bureaucracies: Field Grade Officer Education in the United States Army, 1946-1985. School of Advanced Military Studies Monograph, 2013.]
This analysis points out the importance of analyzing post-Cold War realities and adapting AMSP and SAMS programs accordingly to include such things as warfighting function and capacity building.[footnoteRef:2] Some critics have suggested that changes to the SAMS and AMSP program curricula since 2007 and 2008 have been ill suited for the current needs of the military and that SAMS might prove itself irrelevant to meeting the goals and needs of combat in the war on terror.[footnoteRef:3] This has led to the current research that aims to provide an empirical framework for analysis. [2: Eric L. Walker,, Achieving Operational Adaptability. School of Advanced Military Studies Monograph, 2010.] [3: Jeffrey J.,Goble, Wants and Needs: SMAS' Relationship with the Army. School of Advanced Military Studies Monograph, 2008.]
At the same time, adult and continuing education programs have become stronger, and have emphasized the importance for ongoing officer development.[footnoteRef:4] This research on the effectiveness of SAMS officers after three specific conflicts, coupled with a review of literature, shows that the Army has been adequately and fairly preparing officers through their educational programs.[footnoteRef:5] [4: Matthew R. McKinley, An Assessment of the Army Officer Education System from an Adult Learning Perspective. School of Advanced Military Studies Monograph, 2005.] [5: William T. Beck, Developing Army Leaders Through CGSOC/AMSP and BCTP. School of Advanced Military Studies Monograph, 2005.]
To recap for the purposes of analysis, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College (CGSC) is the parent organization to SAMS, which in turn operates AMSP along with several other key educational programs. Ideally, these programs work together under the CGSC rubric to promote the goals of the military by the development and training of capable leaders. AMSP curriculum focuses on a gamut of subject areas including military history, theory, doctrine, and practice. Upon completion of the program, the graduates receive a Masters in Military Art and Science. A degree as lofty and prestigious as the one issued from CGSC is only as good as the paper it is printed on, unless it can be proven effective in action. This research defines effectiveness as perceived preparedness for real life, real world scenarios that were only covered in theory during the courses of instruction. Graduates need to be fully prepared to analyze and strategize based on prevailing facts on the ground, historical precedent, and the nuances of the situation. Most importantly, graduates need to offer clear options to their commanders during military conflicts. Are AMSP graduates capable of thinking critically and creatively? If so, are they able to communicate effectively the various options, the reasoning behind those options, and make strong recommendations based on astute analysis? The effectiveness of the military depends on the decisions made by leaders, who count on AMSP graduates for their role as creative and critical thinkers.
This research revealed the efficacy of the AMSP, especially as curricula have changed to incorporate current and future contingencies in both combat and strategy. For example, the Design and Operational Art (DOA) program offers concrete means by which to engage in conceptual planning; whereas the Future Operational Art (FOA) encourages students to think creatively and critically about potential futures and how to respond to them effectively.
This research shows how AMSP graduates fared in three real-world conflicts: Operation Just Cause in Panama, Operations Desert Shield / Desert Storm in Iraq, and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq. Each of these conflicts presented unique problems, which challenged AMSP graduates and revealed strengths and weaknesses in the educational program and curricula. Based on an analysis of performance after Operation Just Cause, it was clearly evident that SAMS accomplished its goal of training officers in strategy, communications, critical thinking, and creative thinking. Successes on the field, and the fulfillment of stated goals in Panama prove the effectiveness of SAMS in this case.
Did success in Panama mean that SAMS could rest on its laurels? After the end of the Cold War, the rules of engagement changed completely and challenged SAMS, its administrators, and its graduates to reconsider the relevance of the curriculum for the AMSP. The 1990 invasion of Kuwait prompted immediate attention. During Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm, graduates were tested a lot more severely than they were in Panama.
One significant problem that arose during Desert Shield/Desert Storm was that SAMS graduates were viewed with increasing mistrust and jealousy, as officers perceived SAMS graduates as receiving special privileges. This does not suggest that SAMS needs to change its approach to curriculum development; but it does indicate that SAMS does need to improve its public relations and communications. Further analysis of the effect of SAMS graduates' presence in Iraq indicates that the strategic planners were highly effective in key situations, which did boost the reputation of the role of the graduates in aiding officers.
SAMS was keeping up with changes in the war, and changes in new technologies. Some situations required traditional MDMP; others required fresh approaches to novel situations involving surprises and unexpected scenarios. The final test for evaluating SAMS graduates effectiveness and preparedness is Operation Iraqi Freedom. One of the key reasons why Operation Iraqi Freedom tested SAMS graduates to an extent never before, and one of the reasons why this conflict in particular challenged the very efficacy of the organization, was because of September 11. Suddenly SAMS graduates were no longer the "Jedi" warriors belonging to an elite class; now they could be engaging in combat in a real war scenario. This put SAMS graduates on a more equal footing with their Army officer counterparts, but did the rigorous training of SAMS pay off on the field?
SAMS and AMSP remain highly relevant, and will continue to be so especially as it becomes necessary to respond to unique and unexpected scenarios in an era of non-state terrorism. Planning and strategy has become ever more essential and crucial at all levels of the military. Officers need SAMS graduates to provide strategic vision, the means by which to rethink specific scenarios, and the tools with which to grasp the bigger picture.
The global war on terrorism caused some curriculum changes in SAMS, and the expansion of several programs, in order to meet the needs of the new geopolitical landscape and America's role in it. Based on a thorough analysis of the responses of SAMS to three acute crises over the course of one generation, it can safely be determined that SAMS is a learning organization committed to effective change in order to fulfill the express duties and functions of the military in both wartime and peacetime. SAMS administrators, faculty, and student officers will continue to work together to retain core elements of the curriculum that are necessary, while altering or expanding those areas that need transformation.
When crafting Operational Art, it is essential to understand the scenario from multiple angles. SAMS programs empower officers to apply the core elements of the curriculum including military history and strategy to real world combat situations. Clearly, SAMS is not creating a set of graduates with little to no understanding of combat scenarios. Nor is SAMS producing a rank of graduates who can only think in terms of combat rather than more nuanced responses to peacetime scenarios or homeland security. The current and future SAMS programs will evolve to meet the needs of Americans, and to better service commanding officers.
Whether for wartime or peacetime, SAMS graduates offer a wealth of thinking tools and ways of approaching specific situations. The knowledge gained during the AMSP program is both theoretical and practical in nature. This research shows that SAMS officers do work side-by-side with combat officers and commanders to craft ideal solutions to immediate problems, both generalized and specific. Operational art and campaign, military structure and command, and essential strategy are all core components of the SAMS and AMSP curricula.
The greatest challenges facing AMSP and SAMS graduates in the future remain the uncertainties that past graduates have dealt with in conflicts like Operation Just Cause in Panama, Operations Desert Shield / Desert Storm in Iraq, and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq. Future conflicts will require the extensive knowledge of SAMS graduates, fused with officer training, to face the realities of trans-state terrorist actors and other unfortunate 21st century realities. Planning and strategy are specialized areas of training,…