Rick Andres is a former colleague of mine at the School of Advanced Air & Space Studies (SAASS). I still work at SAASS and find a number of his assertions in this post do not jive with the recollections of a number of his erstwhile colleagues.
This, however, is besides the point. I am more disturbed at the fact that what began as an eminently arguable excoriation of the Air War College has somehow morphed into unfounded condemnation of Air University as a whole and other schools, such as SAASS, here at Maxwell AFB that are entirely unconnected to the Air War College. I do not work at AWC so I am unable to provide informed commentary about the veracity of Dr. Hughes' claims in his now (in)famous chapter. I have met Dan Hughes, however, on a number of occasions and found him to be an irrascible, if eccentric, colleague. But hey, we're all human. It should cause followers of this AWC thread pause, however, to consider that both Dan and Rick were happy to take Uncle Sam's dime for many years here – indeed Rick still does given that he now works at NDU – before throwing rocks at the institutions they served for so long from afar.
In defense of SAASS, I will say this in response to Rick: we have mandatory courses on irregular war, cyberspace, space and national security, and campaign planning, as well as the foundational courses on strategic thought, military theory (and not just airpower), and military history. All of our students must complete these courses – an intense experience consisting of literally a book-a-day, 3,000 word essays at the end of each course, a Master's level thesis and a two hour oral comprehensive exam in order to graduate. Where most Master's courses of this calibre are of 18 month duration, we expect our students to complete this comparable degree in 11 months. General Officers from all services beat down the door here to recruit our graduates whose intellectual acumen stands head and shoulders above their counterparts from sister services, allies, and even a large number of supposedly reputable civilian schools.
To imply that we are not 'current' or concerned about our current wars is not only a fallacy, it is an insult to the countless graduates, and faculty members here, who have left the relative comforts of SAASS to do arduous deployments in Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond. Reports from the AOR consisitently laud our graduates and faculty for their exceptional contributions to the fight – exceptional contributions that were honed here at SAASS. Furthermore, every year we send 2-3 of our graduates to do a faculty-development Ph.D. at a civilian institution, mostly Ivy League schools, as well as places like the University of Chicago, Georgetown, and the like. In short, our graduates – and I'll come out with it, our faculty – are hardly out-of-touch intellectual slouches.
Before working in PME I also worked at civilian institutions. Each have their unique foibles and drawbacks, and each requires certain compromises in order to survive and indeed thrive. I have found that my time at SAASS to be the most intellectually and professionally rewarding experience of my life.
Lastly, I'd like to throw down the gauntlet to Tom Ricks. We'd love for you to come down and visit AU and find out for yourself exactly what it is we do here. Speaking for SAASS, we have nothing to hide and believe that many of the misconceptions, and at times disingenuous claims made in this thread, will be dispelled if you were to spend a couple of days with us.
Are you up for it?
John B. Sheldon, Ph.D.
School of Advanced Air & Space Studies
Maxwell AFB, Alabama