By Brig. Gen. Gordon Davis Jr.
Best Defense guest respondent
Thanks for posting the letter from one of our faculty members to your blog. When people's livelihood is concerned, it is a matter of great importance -- and it demands care, transparency, and thoughtfulness.
I'd like to contribute to the discussion by explaining the 'why' of faculty changes ongoing at the Army's Command and General Staff School, as well as the'how' (partially addressed) and 'what' we are aiming to achieve.
First, we have great faculty, military and civilian, at the Army Command and General Staff College (of which CGSS is the largest school) who are committed to their mission of developing the Army's future leaders.
Our mission is the 'why' we have decided to change the ratio of civilian to military faculty. To develop our the Army's mid-grade leaders we need the right balance of graduate-level teaching skills, scholarship, continuity (provided by our civilian faculty) and serving role models, recent operational experience, and future military leaders (provided by our military faculty).
Before 9/11 that balance was roughly 10 percent civilian, 90 percent military. Due to the exigency of supporting the wars over the past decade that balance shifted to 70 percent civilian, 30 percent military. With reduction of commitments abroad and an opportunity to rebalance, the Army leadership has decided that the optimal ratio is 60 percent civilian, 40 percent military. We are, after all, an institution which provides Professional Military Education to Army leaders. To maintain the military expertise required in our ranks, to provide development opportunities (e.g. teaching experience), and to ensure the stewardship demanded of our profession, we need the right balance of military leaders teaching other military leaders -- a time-proven ingredient for a successful learning military. The decision to move to this ratio has been a matter of discussion for a couple of years and now we have the opportunity to move to it.
There had been serious discussion of reducing our faculty-to-student ratio due to defense budget reductions, which would have meant losing significant numbers of both civilian and military faculty. Fortunately, other offsets were made and we are able to maintain the investment in quality Professional Military Education, which our leaders need to be able to adapt and prevail against current and future threats.
As to the 'how' of our reduction, there are several key points I want to share. Faculty have been informed from the outset as options for change were being considered. We developed a plan in coordination with the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center at Fort Leavenworth to release civilian faculty members employed over a two-year period, so that the we could retain the highest performing employees and so that no employee would be released before the end of his/her term of employment. This allows faculty time to transition out of teaching positions as we gain military instructors. Each teaching department identified assessment criteria based on their respective content. For example, criteria for assessing faculty members were different for the Department of Military History than for the Department of Tactics or Department of Command & Leadership, etc. Each civilian faculty member was assessed -- high performer, average performer, below average performer -- and informed where they stood.
To reach a 60 percent civilian, 40 percent military faculty ratio required us to release up to 33 civilian faculty employed under provisions of Title 10, U.S. Code. However, that number has reduced as new teaching positions have arisen to address increased Distance Learning enrollment.
There are points made in the earlier blog which are not accurately represented. Some of the people referred to as leaving have left for personal reasons unrelated to our faculty changes as the author suggested. Some have left for higher paying jobs. However, we have lost a few good teachers and the changes in faculty retention may have played some part in their decisions. That part of any personnel change process is hard to avoid. What we can control is making sure that we retain or release the right faculty members and that those we release are treated fairly and respectfully.
Some readers may not be aware that employees hired under the provisions of Title 10 U.S.C. are not permanent employees. Our faculty do not receive tenure as in civilian colleges and universities. All new CGSC Title 10 employees receive initial terms of two years, and may apply for subsequent terms of one to five years. As a management process to deal with the new requirements, we have instituted a two year term letter for those seeking to be rehired. This policy was not meant to be permanent, but to allow us to reach the new faculty ratio.
Finally, we have an Advisory Council elected by the CGSC Staff and Faculty (primarily civilian) that I rely on for feedback on issues of concern or friction. I meet with the leadership regularly and the Dean, Directors, key Staff and I discuss each issue raised. The two year renewal policy has not been an item presented by the council for us to review. However, given the current situation I am going to ask the staff and faculty to provide feedback on the policy.
In conclusion, we are re-structuring our CGSS faculty to increase the numbers of active duty Army officers of the right caliber with fresh operational experience to meet our mission in preparing student officers as well as provide teaching experience to future military leaders.
Thank you for providing a medium for discussion, and I hope this information is useful. We are looking forward to your visit out to us at the end of this month.
Brig. Gen. (promotable) Gordon "Skip" Davis Jr. is Deputy Commanding General CAC Leader Development & Education Deputy Commandant CGSC. He commanded 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, and then was the Deputy Brigade Commander, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. He also commanded the 2nd Brigade, 78th Division (Training Support) at Fort Drum, New York, which he deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He also has served in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Mozambique, Zaire, Rwanda, Congo, and Liberia.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.