Marshall Center Curriculum, Student Body, Impact Grow
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
GARMISCH, Germany, Sep. 11, 1998 The George C. Marshall European Center for Strategic Studies here is offering more courses this year to a broader spectrum of students than ever before.
The United States and Germany opened the center in 1993 to provide advanced professional education to military and civilian officials from North America, Europe and Central Asia. The center aims to create a more stable security environment by advancing democratic defense institutions, promoting active, peaceful engagement and enhancing enduring partnerships.
Robert Kennedy, center director since November 1997, calls the Marshall center "probably the most unusual, historical phenomena we've ever seen."
"Never in the course of history has a country, much less two countries, joined together to educate and train a series of people from former adversary countries in the dimensions we're talking about and on the issues we're talking about," he said.
The center initially offered a semiannual 19-week Executive Course for lieutenant colonels, colonels and civilian equivalents. The course was cut recently to 15 weeks and now offered only once a year.
From the start, course topics included such issues as democratic control of the military, civil-military relations, security issues and defense planning in a democratic environment, Kennedy said. Though the course was shortened, much of its content was retained, he said.
The center expanded its educational programs to include students of more diverse ranks based on Executive Course graduates' feedback. They reported having trouble conveying what they had learned to superiors and subordinates. Neither the generals nor the captains and majors understood what the graduates had learned or were trying to put in place, Kennedy said.
To remedy this problem, the center created a semiannual two-week Senior Executive Course for top-level military and civilian leaders. Rather than deliver a fixed curriculum, the course provides students with a forum for discussions. Kennedy said he hopes to double the number of classes soon.
In the other direction, graduates said they'd ask junior officers to do staff papers and get blank looks, he said. Hence, the center now offers a nine-week Leaders for the 21st Century Course twice a year for 85 captains, majors and civilian equivalents. At an appropriate, lower level, Kennedy said, the course focuses on the same topics as the Executive Course -- democratic control of the military, legislative-military relationships, and so forth.
The three courses now offer more people more educational opportunities, said Kennedy, an academician from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a former deputy civilian commandant at the NATO Defense College in Rome.
"Now we have a coterie of people who we hope will be able to go back and be able to work together to ensure this transition from the Cold War to the new democratic approach," he said.
In this respect, the center's impact on Eastern Europe is already noticeable. The Estonian defense chief and Latvian navy commander are alumni, and so are several ambassadors and senior politicians of former Eastern Bloc nations. At least one student took a class project home and put it to work -- a Bulgarian student in 1994 reportedly took his home and used it to write the country's actual national security plan.
Determining the success of the new syllabus, though, will take a few years, Kennedy said. "In theory, the center's right on target. In this sense, we are the only organization that takes this spectrum of people into consideration and tries to bring them along together."
Along with expanding security studies courses, the center hopes to offer more educational assistance soon to NATO's three member- selects, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, he said. Officials of the Marshall Center, the NATO School in nearby Oberammergau and the NATO Defense College in Rome have been meeting to outline initiatives that might be useful to the three countries, such as language training, he said.
Defense and security study courses are only part of the schooling at the Marshall Center. The school also offers foreign area officer, language and computer training. A conference center conducts sessions at the school and in host nations. A research division conducts long-term interdisciplinary international research programs.
In their effort to offer quality education, school officials recently combined three academic departments, said retired U.S. Army Gen. John P. Otjen, deputy director since November 1996. The three disparate organizations were reorganized into a team, he said, then boosted with new hires and infused with an attitude of collegiality.
Ensuring the school's programs keep up with a rapidly changing world environment is one challenge the newly enervated Marshall Center staff faces, Kennedy said. There's also the challenge of working in a multinational environment with differences in language, culture and history.
"The greatest challenge I personally have had since I've been here is trying to stay abreast of the talent we have here," he said. "I've been very impressed with the quality of the staff here at the Marshall Center, and I've been very impressed with the quality of the course members we're getting here from the varying countries.
"It is truly a unique effort. To be associated with that kind of effort, to be able to perhaps contribute in some minor way, is not only a great challenge, but it's a great undertaking, and I am absolutely delighted to have that opportunity."
Otjen said the Marshall Center is important as a long-term investment, an opportunity for long-range influence with developing democracies. He believes the center's growth potential in the 21st century is unlimited.
"There is great opportunity here to expand," he said. "We want to become a leading trans-Atlantic institution. We want to be recognized even more so than we are already as a great benefit not only to client states and countries, but also to our own country and our partnership country, Germany."