The Europeanization of Military Training and Education

This guest post by Dr. Tamir Libel, currently a Non-Resident Fellow at the UCD Centre for War Studies, reports on research he conducted as a Marie Curie Fellow at the UCD School of Politics and International Relations in 2012-2013:

In the aftermath of the Cold War, European militaries have drastically transformed national systems of officer education. Several have consolidated their military education institutions, which had once enjoyed considerable autonomy, into a new arrangement of National Defence Universities with civilian academic accreditation. At the same time, European militaries are under considerable pressure – within the context of the CSDP and the European Security Strategy – to maximize interoperability, to improve military capacity and to meet the challenges of the new security environment. The Marie Curie ‘Europeanization of Military Training and Education’ postdoctoral project was the first effort to explore these developments as well as its societal, political and security implications.

Three case studies were chosen (Finland, the United Kingdom and Romania). Each has followed a comparable path of reform while representing a useful European cross-section among variables of geo-strategic position, political profile within the EU, military power projection and historical experience. This selection increases the possibility of making generalisable claims for the derivation, nature, significance and implications of a process of Europeanization and civilianization of military education. The research combined a series of interviews conducted through phone and on- site visits to each one of the NDUs with thematic analysis of a wide collection of primary sources as well as historical study of the evolution of the post- Cold War European military education.  These were both done with Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software, mainly NVivo10.

The study made several contributions regarding the causes, evolution and implications of the National Defence Universities. The study demonstrates that they were not founded as a top- bottom Europeanization through the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Each one of them resulted from a national decision to move the military education system from a teaching- oriented military colleges (with exclusive military faculty and curriculum) to a research oriented Defence university (with inclusive military- civilian faculty and academic accredited curriculum). However, the findings of the case studies (the National Defence Universities/ Academies of UK, Finland and Romania) indicates a bottom-up Europeanization through the construction of an epistemic community networking the national NDUs. That community also gradually constructed a different type of European Officership which centered on the CSDP’s civilianized concept of ‘crisis management’.

Therefore, the study found that in contrast to the common criticism of the minor influence the CSDP had on national policies it did have influence indirectly at least on the education and training of Europe’s future generals. The knowledge and skill- sets required were gradually included within the continent’s leading military colleges, scenarios of CSDP operations were rehearsed in war-games and the EU’s Security and Defence policies were studied. While the resulting skill sets and knowledge are relevant for the employment and further revision of the CSDP, in total the younger generations of European officers are lacking deep knowledge of the mid- to higher end of the spectrum of operations. As a result there is a knowledge deficit among the European evolving military elites regarding anything beyond the immediate conflicts, which thereby strengthening the military downsizing trends within the EU member states.  Risking sound alarmist, it may that the EU will lack both the capabilities and knowledge required for territorial defence.

The changing education and value orientation of the NDUs’ graduates both resulted from and facilitates a major change in the European civil- military relations. As many scholars suggested the European security landscape is characterized by movement to ‘security governance’, whereby a variety of partnerships between between private and public, military and civilian or government and civil society bodies shape policies and events. Thereby, the NDUs’ structure of civilian and military educational programs and faculty, public and private stockholders as well as governmental and civil society outreach indicated not only an adaptation but also a pro- active approach to prepare future defence leaders to the evolving environment.

On the policy- oriented level the study concluded that the current limited efforts by the EU in supranational level education on CSDP may be beneficial but come short of producing Europeanized Defence professionals. The study concluded that while the NDUs provide the right organizational settings for training and educating professionals to work in CSDP context they can provide only European oriented national professionals. Only a European Defence University held and run by the EU can truly prepare a European Defence professionals corps. It will also provide the EU for the first time with independent research, teaching, simulation, advising and policy developing capacities. Therefore the EDU can become the cornerstone of the research, education and policy development cornerstone of a European Security and Defence policy.

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