Officials Announce Findings of Military Education Reviews
By Jim Garamone and Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 20, 2012 Officials have completed reviews of a Joint Forces Staff College elective course and a larger review of professional military education ordered by Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pentagon officials announced today.
With the exception of the elective course, officials said, the inquiries showed that adequate academic standards exist for approving course curricula and presentations and for selecting guest lecturers.
The Joint Staff, the military services, the National Guard Bureau and the combatant commands conducted the reviews.
According to Marine Corps Col. David Lapan, special assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for public affairs, the curriculum in question “itself didn’t contain current U.S. government policy on countering violent extremism.”
Also, the course material on Islam “was presented almost all in a negative light,” Lapan added.
Lapan said the curriculum in question did not include “U.S. policy and things that would show that the United States isn’t at war with Islam."
The inquiry into a Joint Forces Staff College elective course titled “Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism” found that “institutional failures in oversight and judgment” allowed the course to drift over time so the course stopped including instruction in U.S. counterterrorism strategy and in policy for countering violent extremism.
The problems came to light after Staff College students complained that the course depicted Islam almost entirely in a negative way, officials said in a written statement outlining key findings and actions. “The inquiry recommends the course be redesigned to include aspects of U.S. policy and reduce its reliance on external instruction,” the statement said.
The study also recommends that the Staff College modify its processes for reviewing and approving course curricula while improving oversight of course electives.
The elective course relied on outside instructors who emphasized negative aspects of Islam. The review found that a lack of leadership on the course contributed to the problem, leading to an unbalanced approach to teaching the subject matter. The course is suspended and will not be offered again until changes are in place, officials said, and the military instructor has been relieved of instructor duties.
The inquiry report also recommends that supervisors review the actions of a Staff College civilian official to determine if administrative or disciplinary action is appropriate, the statement said. Another civilian official’s performance will also be reviewed to determine if administrative disciplinary action is appropriate, and a second military officer will receive administrative counseling.
The inquiry also addressed academic freedom. Officials said the chairman’s officer professional military education policy provides broad guidance on academic freedom and allows instructors freedom to pursue relevant knowledge and to discuss it freely.
The 2008 National Defense University Faculty Handbook gives instructors freedom to discuss subjects from all viewpoints, and states that no subject is taboo and instruction should be free from political interference. But the inquiry concluded that academic freedom cannot be divorced from responsibility to exercise sound judgment, objectivity and professionalism in the transmission of knowledge, officials said.
The handbook also says that “some facts, theories, and models are so intrinsically intertwined it would be unprofessional to slight or ignore them.” Given this, officials said, failing to include instruction on U.S. counterterrorism strategy, the five elements of the department's role in countering violent extremism and the pillars of the national implementation policy for counterterrorism strategy -- while presenting an unbalanced view of Islam -- does not meet appropriate academic standards.