1. Panel members
Dolman, Ehlers, Allison
2. Types of questions asked:
Overall, my questions were about my personal overall themes from SAASS. I was not asked questions like what appear on the Comp Wiki. Those were very specific. Instead, the panel expected me to lead them in seminar by discussing SAASS topics that were of interest to me. I needed to prove to them how the impact of this or that book, or this or that seminar influenced my thinking. In this sense, it was like a graduation exercise to demonstrate to the staff that I internalized new patterns of thought.
3. Anything you might have done differently in preparation?
I studied everything. I reviewed every book of every course. I read every syllabus. I read all of my notes. I made a 50 page personal study guide. This was the WRONG way to go. Its not that it wasn't valuable, but doing it that way focused way too much on the trees and not enough on the forest. It also ate a lot of time that would be better spent on your family at the end of the SAASS year.
If I had to do it again...here is what I would do. Review every book and every theorist we came across in SAASS 600 and 601. Do this because everything in SAASS is built upon these two courses. Once beyond 600 and 601, pick 2 or 3 books that had personal significance for you. Be able to articulate why those books are important to you. Then I would sit down and tie your favorite books together with about 3 or 4 themes for the overall SAASS year. I would write this out in a one or two page document just for you. This document then becomes your SAASS study guide. Use it as your wheelhouse to steer all questions they might ask. 4. Any other comments:
At the end of the day, they want to know how SAASS changed YOU. In that light, you can't be wrong since no one knows you better than you. Use your wheelhouse books to provide some supporting evidence of why you think the way you do...give them your personal opinion...rather than spouting off what Jomini, or Boyd thinks.
1) It really was fun - once it got going. As Ox pointed out to me, it was like a seminar that I didn't have to interrupt anyone to be heard - and no one interrupted me either. You can talk as long as you want, so when they hit a good vein - keep digging.
2) Nearly all of the questions stemmed from seeds that I planted in previous answers. Take the conversation where you want it to go and don't bring up a book you don't want to talk about. Throw out the bait that causes them to bite on your comfort zone.
3) The only one in the room who introduced a book or an argument was me. I didn't need to match title to author or anything like that. They didn't ask about so and so's argument contrasted with or related to another.
Questions that didn't relate directly to my previous answers:
1) Pavelec: Which book most resonated with you? This was a great place to plant some seeds.
2) Pavelec: Why do we need an AF (an independent service). I first answered the role of the AF and then he clarified his question vis a vis independence.
3) Davis: You seem very focused on IR? How does military theory relate to IR? I think he was getting at the role of the military in grand strategy - at least that's how I answered it.
3) Davis: Does the US public's embrace of cyber affect AF advocacy of airpower? This question was asked in a pretty convoluted way that I'm still not sure I grasped, but I cyber may be contributing to our identity crisis similar to the way nukes affected the Army post WWII.
4) Davis: Would you recommend a subordinate read Clausewitz' section on genius? He was getting at the danger of saying that military genius is born. How do you justify PME etc. if you either got it or you don't?
All the other questions stemmed from my answers. They were thankfully happy hovering around my IR thesis.
1. Panel Members Muller, Kometer, Schwonek
2. Types of Questions Asked (Or Specific Questions)
Conversational, but they didn’t build only on issues I brought up. They brought up issues and then asked me to use ideas or books from SAASS to explain. The whole event was very friendly and they were happy to provide clarifying information (I probably should have asked some more looking back)
-Given the events in the Middle East and the uprisings in the Arab Spring, what books help to explain what is going on?
-Name all the SECDEFs since Forrestal (he was just kidding). He wanted to talk about whether Sec Gates will be a significant transformer of the DoD, or just a footnote in history.
-Why does every new medium (air, space, cyber) start developing theory by using naval theory? What is the attraction?
-What would WWII have looked like without airpower, especially CBO and the bombing of Japan?
-We talked a LOT about Kosovo and the strategy in OAF, conflict termination, and nation building (those questions didn't start from Dr. Muller, though)
-What are some historic examples of good centralized command and decentralized control? What are examples of centralized control?
-Talk about the civ-mil relationship issues in the firing of General Moseley and Sec Wynn.
-What are some of the characteristics that move the Middle East toward instability vs. stability?
-Talk about Kosovo and how the strategy on both the operational and the political levels.
-Has the AF maintained a common vision of airpower or has it changed since 1910? Is there a common theme that runs throughout, or is it significantly different?
-Is there such a thing as a decisive victory?
-Why do strategists get caught “flatfooted” by major events in international security (Arab uprisings, fall of the Soviet Union, etc.)?
-Conflict termination – how would you write the last act of a conflict?
-Issues in Kosovo and strategy for conflict termination.
3. How did you prepare and what would you have done differently? Most of what I reviewed was never discussed. I would have been better off reviewing the instructor’s strengths/areas of interest, because I got a few questions on those topics. 4. Any other comments?
1. Panel: Chiabotti, Col Coyote Smith, Dr. Conversino (AWC).
a. How does your thesis relate to the SAASS curriculum?
b. What can a Strategist do with the information/analysis from your thesis?
c. How would you apply the notions of Image, Belief Structures, and decision-making you addressed in your thesis and that you studied in the SAASS curriculum to the CBO? How would you relate those notions to the frameworks provided by Rosen and Posen? Do you agree or disagree with one or both of them?
d. Looking at thinkers like Colin Gray and others, strategists must be both deductive and inductive thinkers. After studying the histories and theories here, give me your vision of the future and project how you would advise the Air Force to prepare for that future.
e. You talked about the shortcomings of some of the classic theorists. Are they still relevant and should we still study them?
f. What did you learn from you thesis research and from the curriculum and what do you 'know' now that you didn't know before? How have you changed?
g. Compare and contrast the theories of Douhet and Mahan.
h. How might the Air Force get over the 'identity' crisis you mentioned?
i. When has/does Air Power work well and when has/does it not?
j. Give me Clausewitz in a nutshell.
k. WW II was an intersection of 'four wars' (cited a bunch of stuff and people we didn't read). If the 'Great Patriotic War' (Russian part of WW II) was the most important 'war' fought during WW II, why was that so?
l. How might the Germans have won WW II?
3. I prepared by: Picking all the books in the curriculum that were important to me. I reviewed each based on my notes and highlights. I practiced connecting each course in general (i.e. Van Creveld's notion of Command to Rosen's notion of preparing for uncertainty). I prepared my own theory of war, airpower, strategy, and connected them to some authors we read. I re-read the Melian Dialogue and reviewed basic Prussian. I wouldn't have done anything differently.
4. Constructs provided by Pape, Clodfelter, Jervis, Khong, Allison, and basic history of Korea, WW I, WW II, Vietnam, were very useful. You direct the conversation. Pay attention to what panelists say. Sometimes they talk for a while and then a question emerges. If you daydreamed, then it's hard to answer. Get back to your circle. Admit to what you don't know. Don't correct the panelists, even if you 'know' they are wrong. Technique only.
Dan-Gre Post Strike Report
Panel Members: Sheldon; Pavelec; LaSeine.
LaSeine: Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions has gone out of fashion in recent years. What is the book’s value to the contemporary air power strategist?
Pavelec: I believe you are going into a technically-oriented Joint command tour for your next appointment. With your cyber background, tell me the one book from the cyber course you would urge your subordinates to read and why. Then relate that book to two other technology related course texts.
Sheldon: Without mentioning the words “fear, honor or interest” describe 2 narratives from Thucydides and relate them both to a contemporary defence issue or world event.
Pavelec: The UK has a reputation for counter-insurgency. Using UK history, what recommendations would you suggest to your US colleagues?
Sheldon: I believe you are going to join your Chief of the Air Staff’s strategic studies group. In light of the current fiscal challenges facing the RAF what three texts from SAASS would you urge him to read?
LaSeine: As a non-USAF officer, what lessons can you draw from Builder and do you believe his work has validity?
Pavelec: Define air-mindedness. Then applying your definition, should the Services be independent or a Joint defence force?
Sheldon: How would you improve SAASS?
Present the panel with your analysis of the works that you wish to employ in your answers and synthesis, synthesis, synthesis! Leap all over the courses as much as you can in crafting a coherent answer and don’t be afraid to critique why some of the texts have validity, and hidden dangers or weaknesses.
Pick a theme for SAASS that works for you and provides a framework that can link all your answers. Mine was that SAASS creates an Opposable Mind. This allowed me to compare and contrast polar opinions and present my own middle road in each answer. Study everything from 600, 601 and 632. These are easy texts to apply to any answer. Then pick your 3 or 4 texts from each course: not just the books that resonated with you, but include a few that you really didn’t like. Make sure they are contrasting texts so you can present a balanced answer. The more you study, the more academic ammo you have to draw upon and the deeper your argument can be, so no time is wasted when prepping.
In short, comps was great fun. A seminar of one, so as long as you are answering the question, just keep talking and making those links and it will be fine.
Panel: Chiabotti, Hughes, Ehlers
Everything revolved around strategy.
started with my thesis and what i did. immediately went to civ-mil relations (cause I wrote on the AF and Congress) and how the AF fits into standard civ-mil dynamics and then how it fits into strategy. With that I had to give my definition of strategy. (chiabotti)
2) have senior leaders (military and civilian) been effective strategists in the manner of civ-mil within my definition of strategy. (hughes)
3) is there a better government in making strategy (ie democracy vice dictatorship, autocracy, etc). and why. Which is best at making strategy and provide historical examples. (I used Cold War and DIME to help detail the answer). (hughes)
4) What strategy was employed in Cold War--Containment (the word they were looking fro)
5) is containment a good strategy for China. Why or why not? (chiabotti)
6) what are the characteristics of a good strategist? I queried with military strategist? yes (hughes)
7) What are the constituent elements of an air campaign? (ehlers)
8) Does an air campaign require an enemy? (chiabotti)
9) can't remember the question but the point was, every air campaign / strategy have an underlying idea to meet the objective. (Berlin: keep it free, WWII: unconditional surrender of Germany) (ehlers)
10) what was hte 'idea' of Rolling Thunder. Went into Pape--risk, denial, decap, punishment
11) give a successful and unsuccessful example of risk. They said Kosovo was successful risk. I said not according to Pape. But I disagree slightly with Pape cause coercion campaigns are not solely 1. So there were aspects of risk in Kosovo, but truly...in my opinion it was denial with aspects of risk and punishment. (all 3 piled on this question)
12) What is suicide bombing according to Pape? punishment. Does it work? my answer: might work tactically, but doubtful strategically. (ehlers or Hughes)
13) Take 627 representative air campaign (ie Battle of Britain or Kenney) and explain what compromised the air campaign and how it helped achieved victory for 1 side and not the other. (I used DDay) (ehlers)
14) give an example where strategy of an air campaign was successful and 1 example where strategy was not. (Chiabotti said the question really was where was strategy didn't matter much--his example: vietname of WWI).
15) is strategy a guess? evaluate (hughes)
16) would you rather follow a strategist who was lucky or smart. why? (Hughes)
17) some question that went into technology with heterogeneous engineering (with imagineering): fact that strategy is adaptive and iterative (Chiabotti)
18) talk about these 3 words and their place in the success or failure of implementing strategy or a set of strategic options: context, culture, and rationality (Ehlers)
19) it appears we've met the challenge of air power as USAF. there are other unment challenges for DOD. How do you argue for air power and keeping the fiscal budget we have for a met challenge? (hughes)
20) favorite book. why? least. why?
my the answers to these questions covered the gamut of saass topics: from IR: gilpin, waltz, keohane, and wendt, to atran. huntington, feaver, snider-neilsen, penny packets, N Africa (thanks PJ), DDay, battle of brittain, vietnam, kosovo, discussed need for space and cyber. independence of AF as a service vice constitutive effects of all aspect of combat arms, Pape, Schelling, Clodfelter, Bjiker, moltke, sun tzy, thucydides, clausewitz, and probably other stuff that I therw out that I can't remember now. :)
I did a review of a few books from most courses. Emphasized 600, 601, 627, 628, 632, 670 (my thesis). I did not start with 1 course and move beyond. I jumped around the curriculum to ensure I had a wide review before time ran out without looking at space, cyber, IW, etc. Good Luck, Don't Suck!
Panel members, Col Buono, Doc Wright, Doc Terino (ACSC - PhD from U Penn in History of Technology)
Most questions flowed very much like a conversation, similar to Aaron's comments; the following is a summary of my notes/memories from the conversation:
- The PPW provides a rich background from which many insights can be gained. Other than the obvious "fear, honor, interests," discuss some of the other themes and the context surrounding those lessons.
Follow-up: Relate each one of your answers them to specific historic examples in the post-WW2 era - either successful or unsuccessful.
- What is your definition of strategy?
Follow-up: What was US airpower strategy in the 1930s, considering the context of the era?
Follow-up: What should US airpower strategy be today?
Follow-up: Define the ends and national interests of the US. Now that you've provided those, how does airpower help achieve those ends? Why shouldn't we invest in other options/strategies to achieve those ends?
- Discuss any of Clausewitz's trinities and apply them to current events.
- Compare and contrast Realism, Liberalism, and Constructivism, to include their utility to strategists.
Follow-up: What are America's interests and values? Which are more important? Which informs policy and interests?
Follow-up: (Based on my slamming constructivism, a 35 minutes conversation ensued where I had to defend the hate train I'd laid down): How do ideas intersect with international relations? Mustn't constructivism directly relate to certain types of realism and liberalism to form the interests or values you specified?
Follow-up: Does America really care about values? Why do we care about Libya, but not Syria? What do you mean we hedged bets, or were convinced to take a side in one, but not the other? Isn't in all about interests? (90 seconds later) Isn't it all about values?
- You're Iranian leader Ahmedinejad. Should you pursue nuclear weapons? Why or why not, based on different IR lenses? What do they facilitate or risk?
- How does the fundamental role of airpower change in irregular warfare? Why?
- Which three books affected the way you view the world the most, and which three did you disagree with most vehemently? Why?
- Is cyber in the same type of position as airpower was in its nascent years? Why or why not?
Follow-up: You talked about definitions, domains, capabilities, theories, norms, and institutions. Why is cyber as a domain even a question?
Follow-up: Doesn't man define all of his domains? What are the physics behind cyber? You said cyber is unique because we create the domain ourselves, that we can make as many cyberspaces as we want, that there's not as easily a definable boundary as the others. So what?
Follow-up: Landpower is to the earth, Seapower is to the oceans, Airpower is to air, Cyberpower is to ___________.
Follow-up: Who cares if the EM spectrum isn't a perfect match? Isn't the EM spectrum in this table? If cyber is the EM spectrum (I interrupted and said it's an approximation and is debatable), then isn't our definitions everything?
Follow-up: No, you're wrong, there's no difference between the geographic, tangible boundaries of land and water and the defined boundaries of outer space and cyber. Everything depends on how we define them. Can't we define cyber to be whatever we want, in order to take advantage of and fight in this domain? Even if we have an infinite # of cyber domains, why is that unique or different from land, sea, or air?
Follow-up: What theorists might inform your exploration of domain definitions and exploitation?
- In the last 10 years, the AF hasn't done a lot of strategic, independent operations. What, then, is the value of an independent AF?
Follow-up: OK, but can't all that be done as a service under the Army or Navy? Why must the AF be independent?
Follow-up: OK, but those roles, functions, and unique aspects (intertheater airlift, AAR, space, cyber, CSAR) can all be done in any service, right? Other countries have Air Forces underneath other services? Why wouldn't that model work for us?
Follow-up: I understand the panacea of reorganization argument, I understand that some experience and perspective would be lost, I understand its unique roles, and I understand the dangers of extrapolating a 10-year snapshot in history to the entire history of airpower, but why couldn't other services do it?
Follow-up: An equal seat at the table and an unbiased air perspective and an advocacy position that airpower is best suited for a given task is weak. Make the argument that the AF MUST be independent.
- In a sentence, what was your research question? In 3 sentences or less, what were you answers?
Follow-up: Conflict and resource scarcity was central to the discussion in your research. What generalities can you draw based on your research?
Follow-up: China today is currently hungry for resources. Some would argue its expansion across nearly every continent reflects this drive for resources. What should the US strategy be WRT China's expansion and resource scarcity?
- Whether you realize it yet or not, this year has undoubtedly changed your thinking. Which one course was most influential in altering the way you think, and why?
- I reviewed my class notes, and continually tried to pare them down to the key points.
- I spent 5 hours in a group of 3, just taking turns highlighting big themes and take-aways from the individual courses. Also, this was an opportunity to correct knowledge errors and gaps.
- I reviewed all the extra products we had to create: theory of war, how the world hangs together, the 1-page summary of a technology book, the interpretation of deterrence-compellence-coercion-violence and how they interact or are subcategorized.
- I spent 10 minutes the morning of, looking at BBC for current events.
- I spent 10 minutes researching the academic interests of the 3rd member of the comps boards (the unknown).
- I spent 1 hour making sure I knew the main points from the class that most closely approximated his research.
- 9 hrs sleep, protein and caffeine for the meal before comps.
What would I have done differently:
- At about the 2 hour point prior to comps, I would have stopped reviewing, and just sat and thought about themes, how the world works, and what I think about it.
- Bring lots of water - the rooms are hot, and you will be the hot seat.
- Take a position and defend it - acknowledge the other points, but defend your beliefs. Much easier to be passionate about something you believe in, than the opposite point.
- They can tell when you're driving back to your circle of comfort, and will force you out. Wendt was 1 of my worst 3 books, and 35 minutes was spent on Wendt.
- Take risks (from Col Schultz).
- If you don't know the answer, tell them where you'd look to find it andstart thinking about it.
- Identity crisis of AF and desire for independence was repeated theme (among different comps).
- If you can make a link to another class, even mid thought, do it - it shows breadth. Then return to your original line of thinking.
Panel – Lt Gen Peck, Lt Col Bryan, Dr. Hughes (P, B, and H below)
1. (B) Give us the elevator brief on your thesis.
2. (B) What should be beyond civilian leadership?
3. (H) Air campaign...what does an air campaign consist of, what are the element parts, what is airpower good/weak at in the air campaign?
4. (H) Based on last answer, what should we invest in?
5. (P) Where has airpower been decisive and less decisive but more supporting? Give examples?
6. (B) Should Iran pursue nukes? What should the US reaction be? How would they deter the US?
7. (H) Should I imagine myself in the enemy's shoes? Is strategy an educated guess? Would you rather have a smart or lucky leader?
8. (P) Centralized control/decentralized execution...how did we get here with regards to centrally controlled, planned, and tasked airpower?
9. (B) What do you mean by strategy? What is different about strategy and planning?
10. (H) What's the next challenge for air power?
11. (P) Start with the military aspect of NATO...does the US need the alliance? Does the alliance need the US?
12. (B) Should the AF pursue space and cyber? What is the definition of war? Do the concepts from SAASS 600 apply to cyber?
13. (H) What's unique about an AF airman vs. a Marine or Army airman?
14. (H) The target lists from WWI, WWII, and DS look the same...is the AF in a rut or is there an enduring fact they're pursuing?
1. Panel Members: Dr. Sheldon, Dr. Kiras, Dr. Allsep (ACSC)
2. Type of Questions/Specific Questions:
- (Allsep) Clausewitz is credited for being a strategic thinker. What is
Clause's relevance today with respect to cyber? What aspects are unique to
cyber and his concepts and are there any new or original problems with
- (Kiras) Which maritime/naval theorist would I recommend a young officer
read with respect to cyber and why? (Went with both Mahan and Corbett)
- (Sheldon) The world is changing into a multipolar environment. Which 3
book on IR would I give to SECSTATE and why? (Went with Doyle, Wendt, and
- (Sheldon) Does cyber change the current paradigms of the international
system? Are they outdated?
- (Allsep) Evaluate the airpower lessons of WWII and the extent they've
been learned? What lessons should we have learned and how have we
benefited? (Went with lessons of Strategic Bombing and relearning CAS).
- (Kiras) Who has been the most & least effective airleader and what
lessons can we draw from them. (Went with Kenney (most) & Harris (least))
- (Sheldon) Has the AF and other services embraced Boyd's OODA loop? Is it
really a theory or just a stratagem? (Went with the Marines have more fully
embraced his ideas and turned them into their own while the AF has more
embraced his ideas tactically/operationally. See his ideas as a stratagem
vice a theory).
- (Allsep) Does the AF culture produce strategic thinkers and why has the
other services led current fights?
- (Kiras) What about Irregular Warfare (IW) challenges the idea of
airpower? How is AF relevant to the current fights? What concepts from 601
best explain why we are were we are today.
- (Kiras) Why is Vietnam often referred as the obvious analogy to
- (Sheldon) What 3 books would I give to the Air Staff to digest and help
integrate cyber into the AF? I mentioned Technomanifestos, Complexity, and
Posen/Rosen. Brate because of the founder's humanist intent, how complexity
has contributed to non-benevolent intent now by states and other actors, and
how Posen/Rosen's ideas can demonstrate organizational/doctrinal change.
3. How did you prepare and what would you have done differently?
Just like what's been offered--pick your strong suits or wheelhouse and go
with them. Didn't hurt to brush up on weak areas but I'm glad I didn't
overfocus on them.
If I could go back, I would have talked out my thoughts more, not have spent
as many hours re-reading Thucydides and Clause, and not have been as
stressed about it. It went fast and was a dialogue environment, not always
just a Q&A.
4. Any other comments?
Caffeine and don't be afraid to tell 'em you don't know
1. Panel Members
Dr. Springer (ACSC)
2. Types of Questions Asked (Or Specific Questions) *Kometer - Give us a brief synopsis of your thesis.
*Kometer - Using Allison's three models, describe how Airpower (Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps) was applied in Desert Storm?
*Kometer - To what extent do Pape's coercive mechanisms apply to cyber?
*Kometer - What is strategy?
*Springer - Give me your top theorists in Land, Sea, and Air, and explain how they apply to Space.
*Springer - Will space power reduce the fog and friction of war?
*Springer - Is the use of autonomous weapons a Revolution in military affairs?
*Springer - Should we allow autonomous weapons to employ weapons without human input?
*Springer - Will the use of Unmanned/Robotic systems increase the US willingness to apply violence?
*Davis - Can the Air, Space, and Cyber domains be considered one domain? Are they similar domains or different domains?
*Davis - Do we need a different strategy for each domain; air, space, and cyber?
3. How did you prepare and what would you have done differently?
From bell ring to comps I had about 84 hours to catch up on sleep and review the entire year of books. I focused my in-depth review on 600, 601, and 632. Aside from that, I picked my flagship books, and reviewed them to ensure that I was tight with my interpretation of the material. My personal notes from seminar, and TITNF notes helped me focus my studies. This part is a bit in the weeds, but here goes... when I read, I highlight with yellow, in seminar and when I extract material to write the class paper, I highlight with blue... for comps review, I skimmed the books and looked at all the green highlighted text (yellow+blue=green) to extract what seemed important at class time. Simple, yes... but it worked for me.
4. Any other comments?
Panel Members: Winton, Holzimmer, and Dr. LaSaine (ACSC Dept Chair, Historian)
1. (Winton) Which two theorists’ definitions of strategy are most useful for you and which one theorists’ definition is least useful to you? Why? (This led to a follow-on discussion concerning the theorists I chose.)
2. (Winton) What are the characteristics of a good definition?
3. (LaSaine) Does Walzer’s book have any value to the military strategist? Why?
a. Follow-on (LaSaine): Does Walzer legal and moral framework offer flexibility to the warfighter?
b. Follow-on (Holzimmer): What is the utility of just war? (This question confused me because I felt I answered this earlier, but Holzimmer wanted to hear me say that fighting justly not only demonstrates America’s principled stance to the world but to ourselves too.)
4. (Winton) Pick any air campaign in history and any two theorists, airpower or other, and explain how their theories applied to both sides. Which theorist better accounted for success?
5. (LaSaine) If my boss wanted me to explain an IR issue to him using Waltz’s three levels (System, State, and Individual) how would I do so? (I told them that Waltz’s emphasis on the state as the primary actor is too constraining and launched into how I would use SOD techniques to frame the environment and then decide how each level of analysis contributed to the problem.)
a. This answer launched into a 10-15 minute discussion on design.
6. (Holzimmer) You are called into the CSAF’s office and have to provide him with a way forward regarding Air Force innovation. Which two books in the Innovation class would you use to guide your suggestion for a way forward?
a. Follow-on (Holzimmer): What types of suggestions would you make?
b. Follow-on (Holzimmer): You have talked a lot about technology, what other suggestions would you make? (I launched into TTPs and training for operating in a technology-challenged environment. E.g. “A day without space or cyber.”)
7. (Winton) How would you deal with the threat of radical Islam? Where is the solution going to come from?
a. Follow-on (Winton): Apply this to Egypt, Libya . . .
Panel Members: Dr. Allison, Dr. Muller, Dr. Hampton
Types of Questions Asked (Or Specific Questions)
- Discuss how the Berlin Airlift was a successful strategic use of airpower? (something like this)(Dr. A): I talked about the instant effect of boosting the depressed morale of the German people as well as a more far sided effect of ultimately promoting and possibly being the catalyst that ultimately brought down the Berlin Wall and reunited the country.
- What books would you use to explain the environment and reality of what is occurring with the Arab Spring in Africa today?(Dr. H): I used Wendt, Here Comes Everybody, Parker, and McNeill
- What world leader in my lifetime exemplifies Clauswitz’s ideals/theory? (something like this) (Dr. M): Margaret Thatcher because she balanced the people, military, and government (trinity) during the Faulkland Islands.
- How important and successful is COIN, and how useful for the future? (Dr. H)
- How do you filter which, of the numerous ‘flavor of the month’ books you decide to read? (Dr. A)
- How do you explain Gen Deptula’s wistfulness about the ‘old AF?’ (Dr. M): He was trying to get me to talk about what is wrong with the AF of today and how to fix it.
- How could PME better prepare strategists? (Dr. H): I said include more interservice students, or better yet, only have totally interservice schools vs separate ones. I also said to include more interagency personnel, as well as select NGO members and academics to gain a broad perspective during PME
- What would have been the best use of assets had the Allies decided not to conduct strategic bombing campaign? (Dr. M): I said use the money to build aircraft better suited for interdiction and work with industry to improve the capabilities of these type of aircraft.
- What benefit did strategic bombing have during WWII? (Dr. M): It forced Germany to focus production on defensive aircraft to protect the cities (and try to gain air superiority) instead of on the tanks and other equipment desperately needed on the front lines. (This is what he ultimately wanted, I focused on hitting the production plants to stop production of aircraft, but never said why.)
- Then, we got into a morale discussion about the bombing of Dresden (Dr. M, follow-on by Dr. H): I messed this one up. I discussed Waltzer Jus ad bellum and ad belo, but never got to the points they wanted. Waltzer talks about using excessive force in Supreme Emergencies of aggression, genocide, and I think there is another.
- Tell me a military leader you admire and what are his/her traits? (Dr H): Eisenhower. I talked about his credibility, trust, integrity, brains (the fact that he warned about the military industrial complex, and also his use of compellence to bring and end to the Korean War). Then the conversation went to what was his method to deal with nukes? I talked about Massive Retaliation policy.
- What is your idea of how history helps you? (Dr. A): I talked about how history provides the evidence to place in various theories to evaluate for credibility and lessons. From there you can adapt to your situation or not.
- Do military members rise above politics or is there always some form of politicization of the military? The conversation revolved around Gen Petraus and Gen Powell and what I thought of them
How did you prepare and what would you have done differently?
Re-reading my papers was the single best thing I did for myself. Since I wrote them, I could easily remember my thought once I reviewed them, and because we use so many references, it was a good review. I am very glad this was the last thing I did the night before. I would have also read them once before I studied to guide the rest of my studies.
I also studied mostly the first 5 courses, and glanced at the COIN section.
Types of Questions Asked (Or Specific Questions)
Drs Tucci, Davis, and Conversino
- Favorite/least favorite book and why
- Several questions about air power theory and cyber in particular
- Repeat of 600 and 660 essay questions (best theorist for strat/op level
- What was the research question of the SAASS curriculum and how well did
the curriculum help you answer it?
How did you prepare and what would you have done differently?
I reread my papers (which helped me nail 2x questions). I also reread my
class notes, syllabi, and picked up about 3 books to look up a reference. I
also spent a lot of time defending books/paperwork from my 6-month old
hunter/kill of all paper products...she had laser-like radar, rapid
tracking, and could take a bite out of paper before I could get it away from
her. To do things differently: I would have packed all my books in HHG vs
keeping them for unaccompanied baggage, and made a wall to defend any paper
products from a relentless baby. :) I also would have spent a little more
time memorizing author to single sentence topic to better demonstrate
1. Panel Members
Muller (M), Schultz (S), Singer - (He asked the same four questions he asked muffinz).
2. Types of Questions Asked (Or Specific Questions)
(M) What would Bob Pape say about the raid against Osama Bin Laden?
(S) You are on the Air Staff.. How would you advise the AF procurement strategy
(M) Some book about the army talks of its "echoes of service" - enduring themes of the army. what would be some of the AFs enduring themes good and bad?
(S) Apply Schelling to the Melian dialogue
(M) Without using the terms Fear, Honor, Interest, what are the enduring lessons of Thucycdides.
(S) How does the Air Force encourage Cybermindedness?
(M) What do you think of the current AF reading list?
(S) Link Kuhn, Biddle, Jervis, and Waldrip
(S) You are going to IW at the pentagon, what should be the AFs take on IW?
3. How did you prepare and what would you have done differently?
Merged my notes, reread some. I would have played more golf last week... the hay is in the barn.
4. Any other comments
Schultz (lead), Holzimmer, Baltrusaitis (AWC)
Types of Questions/Specifics
Started the session asking me which three books I would recommend to Israeli Prime Minister. I froze and couldn’t think of three books that I wanted to discuss, so I just said, “How about my favorite three books from SAASS, Obama’s Wars, Essence of Decision, and Visions of a Flying Machine.” And off we went, spending the next 30-40 minutes discussing those books. I got debriefed on not properly answering the question, but hey, it was better to stay with books I knew than spend 30-40 minutes on topics and books that I hadn’t completely prepped…so it was well worth the downgrade.
Schultz: Melian Dialogue, Convince me Thucydides is a liberal, and how did Pericles die?
Holzimmer: “The follow up guy”. At least that’s my recollection. He had a knack for always asking questions on issues that I raised earlier. I don’t remember getting a single “cold” question from him. So, once again, it was good to stay with books and topics that I knew because Holzimmer dug into every topic that I brought up.
Baltrusaitis: Also follow up questions. Stayed with core course concepts
Schultz: Key dates in airpower history, What is a “revolution in warfare?” He was looking for both technological and organizational examples.
Does the AF have a right to be the lead in the cyber domain.
Spent at least 20 minutes discussing C2 for Afghanistan, but I think this was because my thesis discusses C2 and I’m deploying to Afghanistan.
What we didn’t cover: Only one question on space. Only one question on cyber. Only one author from 632: Schelling.
How to prep/Big takeaways:
Very few “cold” questions. The discussion went exactly through the doors I opened (at least with my group).
For studying: I reviewed my notes from the major theorists and went through the wiki. Contrary to some opinion, the wiki is far from “fools gold”. I thought it was a great review for comps.
BLUF: My experience, in general, was extremely positive. I think this had a lot more to do with my panel than it does with me.
There was no confrontation, and except for Dr. Dolman using my own words to illustrate how little I knew about "defining domains," I didn't have to assume a defensive posture. In hindsight, the vast majority of my answers were prefaced with phrases like "in my opinion", or "I feel that..." Then in my answer I tried to name drop an author/book/theme from the course to back up my answer. I got positive feedback for that approach.
Allison (chair), Dolman, Johnson (ACSC, military historian)
Types of Questions/Specifics
A: What is the use of history to a strategist? Why do we spend so much time studying history? What does it do to us and for us?
J: Just War theory...how does it apply to today's uprisings in the Arab world? How do we decide where to get involved? What advice would you give our political leaders on intervention?
D: (from left field) What are the possible downfalls of an all volunteer force? How does an all volunteer force affect Huntington's ideas of civilian control of the military?
A: This IW stuff...why do we care. I don’t think we need a whole course on it. Is it really important to read works like Che?
J: What is cyber war? What's a cyber warrior? Why does this capability need to reside in the AF as opposed to an autonomous agency or sister service?
D: Huge discussion on whether or not cyber is a domain--I opened the can of worms and he dumped it on my head and made me eat them. It was ugly.
J: Given current and impending fiscal constraints, how should the AF make procurement decisions?
D: Ok smart guy, tell me what technologies we'll need for military application in 20 years.
A: How is the AF doing with the contemporary IW wars? Is it too stagnant or too malleable? What changes should come from the experience of the wars of the last 10 years?
J: What should our future space strategies look like? Specifically, do you think theories of land, sea or air power or more applicable?
D: Explain to me the difference between deterrence and compellence, give a historical example of each. Did deterrence work during the cold war?
A: We seem to have nostalgia over WWII. Do we give it too much prominence in the development of airpower? Should we be dividing the SAASS airpower history courses somewhere else other than WW II? What is the defining moment in the history of airpower? (yes, this was all one question)
A: With thousands of books published every year on military history, how do I know the difference between a good book and a bad book?
D: Why did Sparta go to war with Athens?
A: If you were going to describe SAASS to a prospective student and could only use 5 books, which would they be, and why.
For studying: I reviewed most of the 600 and 601 books and pretty much reread Thucydides and Clausewitz. Whenever I was in trouble I fell back to these two books and never got much push back. Beyond that, I tried to pick a couple books from each course that really resonated with me and have a good working knowledge of them. Luckily, the specific questions I got happened to be from books I knew well. Apparently chance plays a role in comps as well...
Overall, I had a very congenial panel and I fall into the "enjoyed it" category. Kometer, Winton, Westerman (USAFA/SAASS/AGGIE prof)
Kometer: started with a hand out of a Tom Ricks parody (it was a worksheet) for how the air force produces strategy. "Discuss."
I went went to my wheelhouse and brought up Morgan, arguing that Tom ricks sees the Air Force as a Mechanical organization applying a Jominian approach to strategy. I offered that the Air Force seems more like an organism and ought to be like a brain (double-loop learning). That opened the door for a follow-on from Westerman about how air force interwar theory evolved in an organism-like organization (driven by adaptation and survival), and I baited into covering relationships of Douhet, Mitchell and Slessor for the next 20 minutes.
Follow on from Winton: You implied Douhet was a foil for another theory of air power, are foils useful? Somehow I got hooked into comparing and contrasting Mahan and Corbett, Dolman and Klein
Westerman: You mentioned clausewitz earlier. Is there a cult of the offensive and how could that impact space strategy/policy?
Kometer: Desert Storm, Allison/Zelikow model 3--go.
Westerman: Airpower in Vietnam--go. (it was seriously that open-ended) Could bombing have worked?
Winton: Relate theory, history, and application--forward and backward. I unpacked this using bousquet and kuhn and dragged it out for a while.
Kometer: He asked something about Cyber as a separate domain. I launched into a 15 minute verbal diarrhea of my cyber paper.
Winton: Is the united states justified in Armed RPA attacks in Pakistan?
Winton: Do you agree or disagree all or in part with Kilcullen's prescription for Afghanistan?
There were a few more I just can't remember--it was a blur, I was afraid to disrupt my diatribe (for better or worse) by taking notes, and they seemed willing to let me pontificate until they latched onto something and steered a different direction.
I reviewed my notes and QC'ed against the wiki, while reviewing my highlights in about 80% of the course material then developed a wheelhouse around 2-3 books per class in addition to any core theory books. It worked for me, but may have been overkill. my TOP recommendation (which is becoming a trend item for us that I didn't see on XIX) is to REREAD YOUR COURSE PAPERS the day before if not the day of your comps as part of your wheelhouse. Obviously you should follow your own train of thought (easier to recall) and refit to match the question. I got significant mileage out of 2 or 3 of my papers as well.
Forsyth (lead), Tucci, Hampton (ACSC)
Types of Questions/Specifics
T) Asked if I still agreed with my 600 essay about favorite theorist and why.
F) If all the info about strategic bombing were destroyed, what one sentence would I pass on to the future about this topic. Answered strategic bombing is just one of many tools--not a strategy by itself.
H) Defend the justness of firebombing Dresden, other German cities.
H) What books would relate to Arab Spring?
F) Pape, Kosovo...lots of discussion about Kosovo, how the air strategy relates to Libya (is Europe using wrong analogy that air power is effective in humanitarian crisis?) Overall, we talked a lot about Middle East, Kosovo, air force culture, IR...tied a lot to Jervis, Bull, etc No right answers and it really did flow like a conversation. Even when someone tried to change the topic, it seemed to revolve back to core topics...is that my wheel house?
Stressed that I didn't mention enough books or make multiple connections for every topic but got complimented at the end that demonstrating how the books changed how I thought about issues (how I internalized SAASS) was what they were really looking for vs. regurgitating what each author said. (There was a little of that but when I faltered I just asked for help.) Won't lie and say it was enjoyable, but it wasn't as bad as I expected and it went by fast.
Key books they brought up: Khong (general question about usefulness of analogies), Pape, Clodfelter
How to prep/Big takeaways: I reviewed all my notes, the Wiki, reviewed a few key books then I wrote down my big 3 overall lessons from SAASS (about a page) and what books fed those lessons. Didn't actually talk about everything I'd written but just having categories of lessons helped. I was stressed until the end...shot of "Dutch courage" just before helped...but making sure I slept well the night before was key.
As you appear to be the 2 people that can be affected by this: quick review from my comps this morning
Big picture – he asked questions that led to specific books but mostly in a way you could pick the book to talk to, just had to be a specific book. More of his questions were reattacks on answers I already provided. Accept that he is going to dig at what you said to get a further level of discussion on it
Asked which theorist – airpower or non-airpower theorist - (reiterated as I started to answer, had to be 1 singular theorist) best allowed me to build my theory of airpower.
Civ-Mil Relations – original question was from Sorenson but then Wright asked me to apply Huntingdon to non-western liberal democracies (particularly by the end of the discussion, how applicable is Huntingdon to non-democratic rule) – ultimate answer he was looking for was that it provides a framework within which to analyze, even if the fit isn’t quite right
Which book over the year did you most disagree with the argument made (not which book did you dislike, was about the argument being made within the book)
Pretty much framed each of his questions around one of the SAASS classes & a book or 2 within it, but left broad enough you didn’t HAVE to just answer within those books (exception was his first question which was much more open-ended)
- What are the motives of Al Qaeda & evaluate the appropriateness of America’s response
- Having read books on bureaucracy, is placing space & cyber within AF right way to handle it. I answered with discussion of you either have to make new bureaucracy or fit within an existing one. If you go with the existing one then you are facing the possibility of the new mission being forced into an old mindset so that bureaucracy has to be able to expand its thinking to best utilize the new mission rather than just framing it within existing ones (used the example of the airplane, first just like a balloon then progressively expanding uses as thought outside the existing ideas)
- Huntingdon & Allagapa – pick one of the countries Allagapa talks to and contrast with how Huntingdon recommends objective control with a politically neutral military
- Year is 2013. Obama was re-elected. You are the CSAF. Calls you into his office & says he still wants a world of zero nukes. Is the world better or worse off that way. Ultimately whittled this down to he was simply asking is deterrence better off with or without nukes. Then went down the, if you get rid of nukes (we came to an agreement that was an assumption that is probably a stretch but) where does deterrence now fit. I discussed Schelling, Pape, alternate forms of deterrence (econ, conv mil…) but ultimately came down to yes we still need a word with deterrent threat. Even wrapped in Wendt & constructivism within it but managed to discard his notion because still deterring people from leaving the norms by threatening exclusion from the group
- Tech determinism or socially constructed? (the exact question from our technology class paper). Then went on to ask why China lagged in tech innovation after millennia of leading the way in early innovation (not just in mil aspects)
End of the day, both guys let you make your case & build what you want from it. They then just take parts of your case & further drill into what you meant. Nothing adversarial at all. They liked that I drew from examples both within SAASS & examples from all over the world. They critiqued that I didn’t formally identify which person had which theory/model/framework that I was taking from to build my own answer enough