Commandant’s Career-Level Education Board (CCLEB) were released. The stated purpose of the MARADMIN was “to select the best and fully-qualified officers for career-level professional military education (PME), graduate-level education, and select special duty assignments.” As the title of this post suggests, I generally agree with the purpose and intent of the message. It seems logical that the Marine Corps wants to screen as many officers as possible such that the “best” be given additional educational opportunities. However, I disagree with how the FY12 board was conducted and I do not believe the Marine Corps is pushing educational opportunities far enough.
On the former point, the announcement of the board came in late August of this year, which caught many FY12 movers off guard. For example, Marines interested in some of the programs that were / are currently deployed will not have an opportunity to take GREs or DLABs. This would seemingly limit their opportunities outside of attending resident EWS or the Army Captains Career Course. Further, by August many Marines are already starting to line up their next assignments and billets (as several peers of mine have). In effect, the board created somewhat of a hostage situation for FY12 movers as to their future while they awaited results. (To clarify, while primary and alternate lists were released this month, actual assignments of those selected will not be released until mid-January 2012). What’s more, while a Marine may opt out of participating if selected, he will receive a letter of non-compliance in his OMPF. This is unfortunate, while the idea of being automatically screened for additional educational opportunities are laudable, the fact that a Marine may be forced to attend a program he has already completed is not. Thus, if I have completed EWS via local seminar or Individual Guided Study (IGS) I may be forced to attend resident EWS anyway.
Some of these gripes ought to clear up in next year’s board, particularly since FY13 movers should be aware of it. However, for the FY12 movers, I recommend some leniency for those who do not wish to participate. Because of the relatively short notice, I believe they should receive amnesty if they opt out of participating. I find it draconian that we are forcing officers to do something they had little time to prepare for and punishing them if they refuse to do so. With that said, future movers beware.
As for my other point – I do not believe the Marine Corps is seriously looking at expanding educational opportunities to its officers. What I see with the current career-level education board is more officers being screened for the same number of available slots that existed before. Rather, what I would like to see is an overall increase in opportunities available but also an understanding on promotion / command boards that extra education in lieu of fleet time is a good thing. I understand that many Marines balk at the idea of missing a deployment so they can spend 9 months at resident EWS or 2 years at Naval Post Graduate School, doing so appears to make them less competitive. (And quite frankly there are many officers that harbor no desire to attend a school they see as having little impact on their ability to do their job, or simply want to EAS immediately following a fleet tour without incurring obligated additional service that attendance at such schools require). Ideally, with the Marine Corps’ commitment to Afghanistan winding down, and with fewer deployment opportunities available, this stigma can change. Expanding educational opportunities to company grade officers through corporate internships, graduate programs, and fellowships should be looked at as in investment in the Marine Corps future. Further, officers participating in such programs should be looked at favorably on promotion and command boards for their unique experience and insight. Unfortunately, we appear to be heading into a period of financial austerity and cuts to the size of the Marine Corps are likely to make expanding educational opportunities less likely.
For the time being I applaud the Marine Corps for looking to ensure officers get screened for additional educational opportunities. At the same time, there is more that needs to be done in order to ensure that Marine Officers can be exposed to additional educational opportunities.