The Irregular Warfare Center Hosts Professional Military Education (PME) Day

The Irregular Warfare Center Hosts Professional Military Education (PME) Day

The newly established Irregular Warfare Center (IWC) hosted a Professional Military Education (PME) Day on April 27, 2023, at the Defense Security Cooperation University (DSCU) in Arlington, Va.

War colleges, staff colleges, senior NCO academies, and advanced studies programs as well as a number of key stakeholders were on hand for the first event of this type in what is intended to be an ongoing dialogue to address the irregular warfare (IW) education tasks directed by Congress across the DoD. The attendees participated in a workshop that answered the central question, “How can the IW Center collaborate with and contribute to PME so as to meet Congress’s direction for IW education in DoD?”

To set the stage for the workshop, Elisabeth Braw, author of Defender’s Dilemma: Identifying and Deterring Gray-Zone Aggression and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute was the keynote speaker. She discussed the challenges of using the military and security forces to address what is an inherently whole-of-government and whole-of-society problem. Using recent real-world examples to illustrate her points, she pressed the attendees to think about educating their students for gray-zone aggression and strategic competition in areas such as lawfare, economic coercion, diplomatic bullying, malign information, and cyber operations. During the break after her talk, Braw further engaged with the participants in one-on-one conversations that were more focused on specific irregular conflict issues their institutions were dealing with.

The second speaker was Col. (retired) Celestino “Tino” Perez, PhD, the Chair of Executive and Strategic Leadership at US Army War College. He spoke to the group about the importance of educating practitioners to transform the way DoD thinks about, plans for, and operates in the irregular conflict environment. Dr. Perez shared his thoughts on how problem-based learning has taken his students beyond the traditional Socratic methods of learning by giving them real-world problems that challenge them intellectually and emotionally. The innovative learning method he has instituted in his program takes the students out of their comfort zones by requiring them to research and gain deep understanding of the situation, the different cultures present, and the motivations, attitudes, and perceptions of the decision-makers so as to prepare them for the complex challenges of planning and strategy formulation in the overwhelmingly human domain that defines irregular and gray-zone conflicts.

Two additional speakers addressed the representatives from the PME institutions, Dr. Kari Thyne, PhD, an associate professor at the Joint Special Operations Enlisted Academy, and Dr. Douglas Borer, PhD, an associate professor in the Defense Analysis Department at the Naval Postgraduate School. Dr. Thyne delivered an insightful presentation on the ethical considerations related to IW, while Dr. Borer rounded out the presentations with a case study examining whole-of-society programs, activities, and results the government of Mongolia has instituted to resist Chinese and Russian gray-zone aggression.
After listening to what the participants wanted to get out of PME Day, an additional briefing by a member of the IW Center, Dr. Sandor Fabian, was added to explain how IW is viewed by other countries and the ongoing research being conducted to find commonality, or at least come to some sort of agreement when describing IW. This led to an animated discussion with suggestions by many of the participants.

The attending institutions were divided into three smaller working groups: senior level education (SLE), intermediate level education (ILE), and advanced studies programs. What the PME institutions needed from the IW Center was to facilitate shared curricula and best curriculum practices among the different institutions, provide a clearinghouse for common, current, and relevant IW resources, events, and opportunities, and enable future collaboration among the institutions. The IW Center’s Congressional taskings, coupled with the Center’s unique authorities and the mandate from DoD to make IW education a special area of emphasis for the next two academic years, provides the PME community a near-term opportunity to effect change.

Because of participant requests and recommendations, one possible collaborative opportunity the IW Center could deliver would be to design, develop, host, and facilitate a multi-dimensional simulation that all the different Service PME institution participated in.

A second major request from the participants was for the IW Center to create and deliver a faculty development program that addressed the learning objectives, standards, and foundational lessons and case studies that all should be common across the PME institutions. Accomplishing this is fully in keeping with the IW Center’s mission, authorities, and funding, and could be accomplished by hosting collaborative workshops, online learning modules, and continuing education seminars.

Brig. Gen. (retired) Chris Burns, the IW Center’s strategic advisor, and Lori Leffler, the IWC Chief of Staff, received the participants’ conclusions. In thanking the participants for their time and their efforts to define a way ahead for IW education, Burns and Leffler noted that everything the PME institutions needed was fully in keeping with Congress’s intent when they created the IW Center and DoD made IW education a special area of interest. The Center leadership agreed to take the participants’ requests and recommendations to heart and will begin developing appropriate educational programs, classroom exercises, and resources to support joint IW professional military education.

The IWC recently hosted several informative and educational irregular warfare-themed events including its inaugural event, The IW Medical Resiliency Workgroup (Feb. 2022), IWC International IW Week (March 2023), IWC IW Seminar at Georgetown University (March 2023) and University Days (April 2023).

The IWC serves as the central mechanism for developing the Department of Defense’s (DOD) irregular warfare knowledge and advancing the Department’s understanding of irregular warfare concepts and doctrine in collaboration with key allies and partners.