In a military milieu, the expectation for original thought, while essential, is counterintuitive for many and difficult for most.
Challenging authority, dissecting policy, unraveling doctrine, and critically engaging the ideas and campaigns of world-class strategic thinkers are simply not the sort of activities that most senior officers customarily embrace and readily welcome.
Most officers arrive at senior Service colleges (SSCs) with considerable experience writing memoranda, operation orders, policy letters, point papers, and the like, but their written documents have been little more than tools for getting the job done effectively and efficiently.
No longer is the requirement simply to understand what is being done, why, and how to do it; the new goal is to merge professional experience, critical thinking competencies, and acute insights to identify what could or should be done while advancing thoughtful analyses and perceptive recommendations supported by reason and evidence.
International and cultural sensitivity regarding what constitutes plagiarism and how seriously it should be viewed varies a great deal. Army War College degree on the merits of a heavily plagiarized document, his degree was rescinded and he was forced to abandon his re-election bid amid widespread controversy.
In Colombia, for example, an author’s “moral rights” to his/her intellectual work command legal standing. Cheating, plagiarism, and other forms of academic malfeasance are well documented, widely decried, and increasingly rampant across virtually every intellectual landscape and professional activity. Instances of plagiarism surface even among the most elite cadres of impressively accomplished military professionals preparing to assume the highest levels of national leadership.
Throughout the military, “officers headed for high rank need to be challenged intellectually and to sharpen their skills in critical, precise, rigorous, and imaginative thinking and writing.” At the highest levels, the tasks shift from artfully executing campaigns and missions crafted by others to identifying strategic challenges, rendering assessments, and advocating well-reasoned options to the most senior military and civilian leadership.
Effective execution requires development of critical thinking and writing skills well beyond the norm in military culture.
Writing integrity, like the ability to write itself, is an acquired skill, not an inborn trait.
Thus, PME institutions and others charged with developing senior leaders must revision writing integrity as a competency to be taught, rather than a preloaded, well-embedded, and thoroughly integral component of a leader’s character.