Military and Civilian-Environment Military Training

Military and Civilian-Environment Military Training

G.A. Kabakovich

Modern weapon systems have reached a level in their evolution enabling personnel of warring sides to operate in a standoff mode, without coming into direct physical contact. Therefore, a person engaged in warfare turns from a soldier in the traditional meaning of the word into a military specialist operating a complex weapon system or ensuring or supporting its operation. At the same time the social role of a person defending his motherland remains immutable; what changes is only the content and character of military activity which is becoming increasingly intellectual. There is good reason to say that today we are seeing the emergence of a new stage in the military-technical revolution, based on high technology. All of this requires new approaches to the organization of the military education and training system.

The Russian military school, relying on a 300-year experience in preparing military cadres, is a unique phenomenon on a worldwide scale. Even so, it has to be recognized that as of the mid-1980s, its development took on an expansive character, as a result of which the quality of military education was maintained at world standards only thanks to large financial inputs. So, the issue today is not how to preserve or dismantle the traditional system of closed military education and training but how to promote the awareness that today the Russian state is clearly not in a position to maintain this system to the extent as it did in the past. Nor is it in a position, by using old methods, to build up the military training capability in line with the dictates of the 21st century. In defining development strategy for the military school, it is essential to strike a balance between the desirable and the real.

One major characteristic of the military education system is the quality of officer training which can only be appraised by independent experts, and even then only indirectly, by comparing it, say, with the civilian higher education system.

The country’s present system of military training, being formally one of the branches of the Russian higher education system, is developing to a very large extent independently, on its own basis and with its own resources. Far from all military establishments of higher education provide the same, equally high standards of training. Along with the real centers of excellence (military universities and elite military institutes), which are the pride of domestic military science and education, there are dozens of less important military establishments training low-level categories of military specialists to fill primary officers’ slots. It is these latter establishments–and they account for more than half of all military establishments of higher learning–that fail to meet the standards of modern higher education and training or the requirements of state certification and accreditation for such establishments whereby, in particular, no less than 60 percent of faculty members are supposed to have advanced academ ic degrees. Overall, the share of faculty members with advanced academic degrees in half of all military education establishments in the RF Armed Forces does not exceed 20 percent.

This is to a very large extent due to the intensive rotation of officers/instructors, as a result of which their academic and teaching activity normally lasts for 10 to 15 years while in civilian establishments of higher education it is twice or three times as long. Another disincentive to preservation and development of the academic potential of military training establishments is the existing system of compensation to military academic staff.

The majority of military schools (colleges) are, basically, one-level occupational training structures. Analysis of official enforceable documents (executive orders, directives, etc.) regulating the operation of the military training system shows beyond any doubt that the occupational component has unquestionable priority over the training component. Therefore, the main principle of higher education–close interconnection between science and training–is not fully adhered to. Scientific-technical research projects are of a purely military applied character. So, such structures are unlikely to provide fundamental higher specialized education. Most of the military education establishments are not in a position to train a specialist able to work creatively in the scientific-technical (military-technical) sphere and therefore, their ability to produce scientific-pedagogical cadres is rather limited.

A graduate of a military establishment of higher learning gets, in addition to a military specialized education, also a civilian education, which should ensure him an extra level of social security. Unfortunately, it has to be recognized that this social security largely exists on paper only: Graduates of military higher education establishments are unable to compete on the labor market with their colleagues from civilian establishments in analogous specialties.

Being rigidly tied to the manpower acquisition system of the Armed Forces, the military education and training system should compensate for the natural rotation and drop-off in the number of the officer corps. The latter, however, lags behind the ongoing major changes in the socio-political and economic environment of new Russia. Today there is a growing shortage of junior officers in platoon, company, and equivalent command positions. The official numbers of students at military education establishments, and corresponding funding levels, are contingent on the rotation of the officer corps, which for different categories varies between 5 percent and 7 percent a year. The actual rotation level, however, far exceeds planned rotation, reaching 15 percent. This means that even under ideal conditions, the military training system is only in a position to replenish one-third of the drop-off in the number of commissioned officers.

Attempts to alleviate the personnel problem by resuming, as of 1993, the practice of calling up reserve officers for active service were ineffectual. Far from addressing the problem, the call-up of reserve officers on a mass scale has a negative impact on the combat readiness and operational effectiveness of troops, also deepening stratification of the military community as a buttress of the state and a key factor of social stability.

Tough legal limits imposed on the numerical strength of the Armed Forces prevent military training establishments from increasing their capacity beyond the set quotas. But even if it was legally possible to expand the network of closed military establishments of higher learning, to increase the period of training at these establishments, and so forth, that would not address the problem of bringing the officer corps up to strength since the cost of training at closed military establishments of higher education is far too high.

The aforementioned leads to the conclusion that the present-day system of military training in Russia does not match either the current social or individual needs or the state’s economic capabilities or the ongoing development of modern weapons systems. Moreover, today it is not even in a position to fully meet the military’s requirements for commissioned officer cadres. The main cause of the crisis in the military education system apparently lies in its artificial insularity toward the civilian system of higher education. Being the narrow departmental structure that it is and therefore, inheriting and replicating the basic flaws of state military organization, the military education system nonetheless has the monopoly to reproduce military cadres. It is vital to break the established stereotypes, using unconventional methods to get things off the ground.

As is known, national defense is a nationwide concern, and so all available resources, including the civilian scientific-training potential, need to be tapped to the full. As mentioned earlier, the military training and education system, on one hand, is inseparably linked with the country’s education system, and on the other, insofar as it is part of the state’s military organization, has a special status and a good measure of independence. So the negative consequences of the socio-economic and political development in the late 1980s-early 1990s did not have the same impact on the military and civilian systems of education and training even though both are today in a state of crisis. Both of them are affected by an acute shortage of funding, but whereas the civilian system of higher education is finding extra sources of funding by engaging in economic activity and providing education services on a commercial basis, the military training system does not have this opportunity.

Changes within the military training system are predetermined, in the intellectual sphere, by the absence of any ideological impacts, and in the social sphere, by the use of contract service as a means of meeting military manpower needs for commissioned officers. These factors have to a considerable extent led to large numbers of young officers quitting and cadets dropping out of military training establishments. As a result, graduates of military training establishments had to compete on the labor market with graduates of civilian establishments of higher education.

Changes in the civilian education system were brought about by a sharp fall in demand for college and university graduates in traditional specialization areas, as defined by the state. There has been a change of paradigm in the higher education system: Whereas under a planned economy, its main objective was to meet the needs of the national economy for particular specialties, today it is basically geared to meet individual needs for education. This is the basic difference between the military and the civilian education system.

Nonetheless, despite the priority that the higher education system gives to meeting the educational needs of students, which would guarantee them maximum social security, they have to face stiff competition on the labor market all the same. A certain part of graduates of civilian senior colleges and universities could find employment, even if on a temporary basis, in the military sphere, if they had such an opportunity as well as appropriate training.

Thus, both in the military and the civilian system of higher learning there is an objective demand for a dual education–importantly, not only among men but also women. Dual education is beneficial not only for citizens but also for the state and society at large.

There is no doubt that introduction of a state contract system in the training of specialists for the national security sphere would be a step forward in reforming the military training and education system. Placement of an even a small part of these contracts within the civilian education system would be vital–in particular, enabling it to save, preserve and advance the unique scientific schools that exist in the defense sphere. Consistent application of the personnel conversion principle would be key to putting in place an effective, well trained, and combat ready reserve of the Armed Forces and other troops in the Russian Federation.

It is important to remember that peace-time armed forces in a modem state are unable to conduct large-scale combat operations: They only serve as a basis for deployment of a war-time army whose numerical strength increases several-fold through mobilization of a large reserve. The more effective warfare methods are, the higher standards are set for qualifications of the reserve forces, especially the reserve officer corps.

The main source of compensating for and replenishing the natural drop-off in the number of reserve officers both in Russia and in the majority of developed countries are civilian-environment reservist training programs. From the point of view of present-day social needs, it would be only natural to regard them as part and parcel of the military training and education system, but in Russia they exist and develop separately, under the jurisdiction of different government departments.

Many leading countries in the world give a very high priority to civilian-environment reservist training. Thus, in the United States, ROTC programs exist in more than 1,000 civilian colleges and universities with their number constantly growing. Graduates of civilian establishments of higher learning account for more than 40 percent of all officers in the armed forces. In Great Britain, there are 16 university squadrons providing instruction to students from 56 universities and specialized colleges.

In Russia, tends of thousands of civilian university alumni become reserve officers every year, but the quality of this contingent raises serious doubts. These doubts deepen further against the backdrop of the successful performance by U.S. reserve corps in the Persian Gulf conflict. Even though, amid the general downsizing of the RF Armed Forces, the importance of ROTC quality standards has grown dramatically, unfortunately, this quality is still insufficient-above all, because these programs are still geared toward gross, not quality indicators. Their reorientation toward the latter requires substantial changes in the civilian-environment reservist training system.

There is a large number of factors behind the insufficient quality of ROTC programs: the outdated training base, insufficient qualifications of faculty members, the two- or even three-tier chain of command with regard to university military departments, funding shortages, the absence of inter-college training centers operating to modern standards, lack of realistic military training, and what we believe is the main problem, lack of incentives for military training and the fact that university graduates lack practical experience in working in officers’ slots. Young people who have been commissioned reserve officers know that with very rare exceptions, they will not be called up for active military service.

Considering that in the event of a large-scale war, the overwhelming part of the officer corps will be comprised of reserve officers, we will have to recognize the expediency of training the bulk of the officer corps for active service through ROTC programs. Funds thus released could be funneled to the elite sector of the military training system to strengthen and develop it further. Nonetheless, the question arises: Is the civilian system of higher education in a position to provide effective officer training in a military specialty?

Surveys conducted over the past few years show beyond any doubt that civilian establishments of higher learning are well equipped to provide effective reserve officer training not only in the technical sphere but also in the humanities (indoctrination officers, military economists, lawyers, psychologists, specialists on arms marketing, etc.). This conclusion is fully corroborated by both international experience and, partially, by domestic experience. Analysis shows that the cost of civilian-environment reservist training is in most cases several times as low as at a military training establishment. What is especially important is that the proficiency of graduates of a military training establishment is, as a rule, on par with that of civilian university alumni.

In order to ascertain the level of proficiency of graduates of military departments at technical colleges of Ufa State Aviation University, a series of surveys were conducted. The surveys only targeted commissioned officers in their first two years of military service who graduated from either a military training establishment or a military department at a civilian higher education establishment. The survey showed that the proficiency level of graduates of military higher education establishments (e.g., general military training, managerial skills, command skills, etc.) was 35 percent, as compared to 28 percent with regard to graduates of civilian establishments. Within one to one and a half years, however, these indicators tend to level up. The survey also shows that the level of general technical training of graduates of civilian establishments is higher both at the beginning of military service and later on. One problem area in civilian-environment reservist training programs are insufficient commanding s kills and insufficient knowledge of official enforceable legal documents. On balance, however, civilian-environment reservist training enables a young military specialist to perform his duties in primary officers’ slots provided that he has an appropriate military occupational specialty.

Graduates of a civilian higher education establishment who received a military occupational specialty at a lower cost and served under contract, have high military qualifications, and when transferred to the reserves, can make an effective and flexible use of their knowledge and skills in civilian life.

The comparative survey of the proficiency level of military specialists and reserve officers who have served for two years in command or technical officers’ slots in the Armed Forces, points to the expediency of creating parallel officer training structures that would mutually complement each other.

Within the concept proposed by this author, a number of specific areas and levels of training are established (see Diagram), the main one being officer training in one of the military occupational specialties to a bachelor’s degree. The first two levels of higher education can lead to such categories of military specialists as junior military specialist, reserve lieutenant with a bachelor’s degree, or a lieutenant MS for service in state power (law enforcement) structures.

Students completing a second-level program with a corresponding military component who have signed a contract with the Defense Ministry (another state power service), are awarded the rank of lieutenant and assigned a duty position.

It is important to note that an officer BS has an opportunity to continue training at the third level of higher education–either civilian or military, depending on the occupational specialty he chooses. What makes the proposed scheme basically different from the traditional civilian-environment reservist training system is that a graduate receives a specialized military education analogous to that of a graduate of a military training establishment but with a higher level of basic and general military-technical training, let alone higher social security both in the civilian and the military spheres of activity.

This author believes that civilian-environment military training is not only highly topical and necessary but can also provide an optimal solution to the problem of manpower acquisition in the Armed Forces, creating mobilization reserves, and preparing highly qualified specialists for the military-industrial complex and other state structures. The proposed system ensures a flexible response to the changing needs for military-technical specialists or particular military occupational specialties without considerably increasing the level of state funding while the Defense Ministry will not be required to create new military education establishments. This will also expedite the process of integration. Transition to the system of continuous military education will effectively abolish the traditional division of officer’s term of duty into the training and service periods, thus ensuring stability and continuity of education and its successful adaptation to evolution and development of military science and the mili tary sphere in general.

The proposed multi-tier system of continuous civilian-environment military training is also viable from the economic perspective. It ensures the optimal use of the faculty and training facilities of civilian education establishments, providing better incentives for military specialist training.

Civilian-environment military training has tremendous potential for development. The use of integrated education systems provides very good opportunities. Today, all conditions are in place for the civilian higher education system, in interaction with military education establishments, federal structures, and central and regional national security agencies, to begin training not only reserve officers but also officers for active military service under contract both for the RF Armed Forces and for other power structures, forming the cadre potential for all spheres and levels of national security.

Today, it is paramount to reform not only the military establishment but also the corresponding mentality of the people and politicians. The military is not in a position single-handedly to either maintain highly qualified cadres or to retain real professionals within its ranks. This is a task for the state and society as a whole to address. The Armed Forces and other troops need officers with a university degree and a higher military education.

COPYRIGHT 2001 East View Publications

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group