Cover: Imagining the Future of Professional Military Education in the United States

Imagining the Future of Professional Military Education in the United States

Results from a Virtual Workshop

Published Apr 18, 2023

by Emily Ellinger, Marek N. Posard

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Professional military education (PME) institutions prepare leaders for complex future conflicts. Recently, PME institutions experienced a sudden shift to distance learning during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Studies show that pandemic-related disruptions have significantly affected military policies and readiness and negatively affected education for both students and educators across all education levels.

To discuss objectives, requirements, capabilities, and implementation options for the continued evolution of PME programs, the RAND Corporation National Security Research Division led a one-day joint PME workshop with participants from various PME institutions, J7 Directorate for Joint Force Development, RAND researchers, and others. In this report, the authors summarize the results of the workshop to identify areas for change following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Participants generally agreed on PME's goals but tended to disagree on the means for attaining them. Consensus centered on providing PME students with communication skills, joint warfighting strategies, and critical thinking skills and preparing these future leaders for an unknown national security environment.

These results highlight several opportunities for PME moving forward, including utilizing the general agreement on objectives to build clear documentation, leveraging technology during the pandemic, and building a diverse student body. The results also bring forward several possible barriers that may complicate the implementation of PME objectives. These roadblocks, which received the largest discussion during the workshop, included difficulties navigating bureaucracy, obtaining stable funding, and balancing the varied demands of talent management.

These conference proceedings were conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Program of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD), which operates the RAND National Defense Research Institute (NDRI).

This report is part of the RAND conference proceeding series. RAND conference proceedings present a collection of papers delivered at a conference or a summary of the conference.

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