Conference Center Educates Today's Leaders
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
GARMISCH, Germany, Aug. 12, 1998 U.S. Army Lt. Col. Steve Hebert is not a teacher per se, but for the past several years, he helped fledging democracies learn about defense planning, budgeting and management.
Hebert, operations officer at the 7th Army Combat Maneuver and Training Center in Grafenwoehr, recently wrapped up a four-year tour at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies here in southern Bavaria. As chief of the plans and resources division for the school's conference center, he scheduled meetings and seminars based on requests from nearly 35 countries. He also designed courses, developed program content and coordinated guest speakers for events at the school and on the road.
The United States and Germany opened the Marshall Center in 1993 to provide advanced professional education to military and civilian officials from North America, Europe and Asia. The school aims to create a more stable security environment by advancing democratic defense institutions, promoting active, peaceful engagement and enhancing enduring partnerships.
Since 1993, Hebert said, about 4,000 Central and Eastern Europeans from 22 countries have attended more than 50 conferences sponsored by the Marshall Center. About 750 people a year attend 15 conference center events. The school hosts half the events. Traveling teams take the rest to places like Budapest, Hungary; Ashgabat, Turkmenistan; and Vilnius, Lithuania.
The conference center program, funded by the Partnership for Peace, helps nations establish national security structures and institutions compatible with democratic principles, he said. Annual multinational conferences highlight such topics as civil-military relations and geo-political issues. Other sessions, he said, help individual nations learn about such specific areas as media relations and the role of a national guard in Western society.
"Conference center" is somewhat of a misnomer, Hebert said. He was involved in far more than making auditoriums available for speakers to address conferees. "We were basically an educational extension of the [Marshall Center] college. We hosted more seminars and workshops than conferences," he said.
While the college teaches the next generation of leadership in these emerging democracies, he said, his program aimed at the leaders in control now. "Civilian control of the military, for instance, is a very difficult concept for them to understand," he said.
"The role of the parliament and its legislative requirements may not be well understood by folks in the ministry of defense, who are very used to being 'stovepiped' [a strict, narrow, vertical chain of command] and getting information directly from the party. We learned to require cross-participation with people from the ministry of foreign affairs, parliament, as well as the ministry of defense," he said.
Participants come from academia, the government and the military, so they learn from each other, Hebert continued. "When they all go back to their organizations, that little bit of learning begins to permeate every institution and every agency."
"We spent a lot of time doing assessment visits, flying into their [individual nations'] capitals, talking with their leadership," Hebert said. Last year, for example, Lithuania requested a seminar on defense planning, programming and budgeting. Romania asked for a session on civil-military relations, and Kazakhstan wanted a Central Asian parliamentary conference. All were held in the requesting nations.
A program designed for one country may be used again at other locations. He said word of mouth is key. In 1995 a program on budgeting for the Russian parliament was used about two months later in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Kazakhstan
The next step in the learning process is for nations to host their own programs, Hebert said. For instance, he said, the conference center recently helped Lithuania set up a three-day public affairs conference, including participation by local and Western media representatives. The conference center allocated Partnership for Peace funds to pay for appearances by four guest speakers.
"When you see these countries begin to help themselves, that's success," Hebert said.
For more information on the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, visit the center Web site at: http://www.marshall.adsn.int/marshall.html.