Professional Military Education (PME) covers a wide range of activities. In one sense it refers to a plethora of training, continuing education, and other activities designed to provide development to members of the military at various points in their career and to prepare them for the next level of responsibilities. The U.S. military requires professional education for both officers and enlisted personnel and its form, content, and objective varies across rank, service, and military role. But what is its overarching purpose? Why do we invest so much in this effort?
It is oft quoted in numerous aphorisms and proverbs that we should learn from the past. According to Napoléon Bonaparte’s last maxim, in his Maximes de Guerre de Napoléon, one should “Lisez, relisez les campagnes d’Alexandre, Annibal, César, Gustave, Turenne, Eugène, et de Frédéric; modelez-vous sur eux; voilà le seul moyen de devenir grand capitaine, et de surprendre les secrets de l’art de la guerre” [“Read, reread the campaigns of Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Julius Caesar, Gustavus Adolphus, Vicomte of Turenne, Prince Eugene of Savoy and Frederick the Great; model yourself on them; that there is the only way to become a great commander, and to obtain the secrets of the art of war.”]
Success will largely hinge on the willingness of the various services (critical thinking is important in all domains) to make significant changes. This is a goal that may be even more elusive than increased funding, however. If that is so, then the product of the U.S. professional military education programs will continue to be largely the result of the quality going in and luck in who facilitates instruction, thus remaining inconsistent.