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JUNE 2017



joint and interagency programs, the goodwill that State as an insti-

tution derives from those interactions should also not be underes-

timated. I was surprised that many of the military officers I met at

NDU knew very little about the State Department, and found that

many of my FSO colleagues had exactly the same impression.

What I found, however, was that the more military officers

came to know and understand us, the more likely they were to

respect and value the role we play. Having senior officers assigned

to NDU is valuable, and our contributions can make a significant

difference. For example, we often invited officials from State to

speak to students about

a particular policy issue,

and those sessions can be

extremely beneficial to the

military officers. Neverthe-

less, State often fails to take

full advantage of opportuni-

ties that are practically on

our doorstep.

NDU is a 20-minute

drive fromMain State

(when traffic isn’t lousy), yet

it is remarkably difficult to

get senior State officials to

speak there. In the absence

of a senior representa-

tive, for example, I routinely stepped in to talk to officers in the

CAPSTONE course about chief-of-mission authority and how our

embassies abroad operate successfully. Useful—but perhaps not

the best use of an opportunity to influence the next generation

of DOD leaders. For readers not familiar with it, CAPSTONE is a

mandatory, six-week course for newly promoted flag rank officers


In keeping with NDU’s joint education mandate, each class

includes a roughly equal representation of officers from the Army,

Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, and a handful of civilian coun-

terparts. From a strategic perspective, however, the CAPSTONE

program is unique in that these classes represent the future of the

U.S. military. The men and women in this programwill one day

be combatant commanders, filling critical positions at DOD and

on the Joint Staff. In CAPSTONE they routinely hear from the top

military brass, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agency

heads or their deputies and well-known figures in the intelligence

community. Yet it was a rarity for anyone from our seventh floor

to address this group. The reasons are understandable: packed

schedules, long-planned visits from foreign dignitaries, competing

speaking engagements, etc. Nonetheless, State could and should

use this opportunity to influence the next generation of senior

military leaders to much greater effect.

The CAPSTONE course is held four times each year; we should

give much more attention to the messages we want to send this

group. Building relationships and encouraging officers to bond

with a new cohort of peers at the senior ranks is one of the goals

of CAPSTONE. State could send an officer to every CAPSTONE

class, but we haven’t done so for several years because the course

is not free. And the cost is significant: $12,000 to $13,000 for six

weeks. The long-term

benefits, however, could be

quite substantial if we view

CAPSTONE as an oppor-

tunity for State to develop

a contingent of officers

who can build and sustain

relationships with DOD.

Participants would have to

be carefully selected, ide-

ally with a focus on likely

future assignments. Giving

the opportunity to attend

CAPSTONE to somebody

who might one day become

a deputy assistant secretary

in the Bureau of Political and Military Affairs or a POLAD to the

CENTCOM commander might be well worth the investment.

The Way Forward

In sum, multiple opportunities already exist for the State

Department to deepen personal relationships with U.S. military

officers and strengthen institutional links with DOD. Academic

settings such as NDU offer one vehicle for doing so and also

provide opportunities for State to influence the thinking of future

military leaders. Making maximum use of these opportunities is

a challenge that will require a sustained commitment from the

highest levels of the State Department.

But one way State can counteract the “militarization of foreign

policy” is to reexamine in a rigorous and honest manner how we

motivate Foreign Service personnel to better understand the mili-

tary, how we utilize officers who already possess that understand-

ing and how we can take full advantage of opportunities—such as

the ones at NDU—to demonstrate that a multifaceted approach to

achieving U.S. foreign policy goals is far better than one that relies

too heavily on just one of the tools in the box.


One way State can counteract

the “militarization of foreign

policy” is to re-examine how

we motivate Foreign Service

personnel to better understand

the military and how we utilize

officers who already possess

that understanding.