The Basic Strategic Art Programme (BSAP) is an academic programme taught at the US Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. The course was designed to support the educational requirements for Functional Area FA59 (FA59), US Army Strategist, formerly called Strategic Plans and Policy. The first course began in 2003 and the school continues to teach three 16-week courses per year.
The course provides most new Army Strategists, who transition from a different US Army basic branch, with a foundation in strategic theory and practice. It helps officers connect their early tactical experiences with the challenges of operating in the strategic environment. The course, which includes various staff rides and modules, is taught to rigorous academic standards. Failure to achieve these standards is cause for disenrollment from the programme and removal from the functional area.
In September 2001, Army leaders in coordination with various senior service colleges such as the Army War College and National Defence University “convened a workshop to determine the competencies and educational requirements for Army strategists”. The attendees identified the functional area’s “skills, knowledge, and attributes” and designed the resulting BSAP course to support them.
On 16 January 2002, the Army G-3 directed the Commandant of the Army War College to develop a basic qualification course for Functional Area 59; the G-3 approved the BSAP concept on 22 July 2002. The pilot course was conducted 16 June through 17 September 2003, graduating seven in its plankholder class.
By 2006, the course grew to two classes per year and by 2008 had grown to three classes per year. Its first civilian interagency graduate in 2009 marked an effort to diversify the course.
A 2010 analysis by the BSAP Director at the time, Lieutenant Colonel Charles P. Moore, noted that US Army strategists, in a relatively new career field at the time, had dissimilar experiences and a “degraded sense of identity and commonality” because not all new 59s were able to attend BSAP. Moore stated that, “In time, all strategists will share a common BSAP experience, strengthening their commonality and collective identity” although noting that BSAP cannot accomplish the latter alone.
According to the US Army War College’s Department of Military Strategy, Planning, and Operations:
BSAP provides officers newly designated into Functional Area (FA) 59 (Strategist) an introduction to strategy and to the unique skills, knowledge, and behaviors that provide the foundation for their progressive development as Army strategists. BSAP also creates a shared common foundational experience for Army strategists, acculturates officers to the functional area, and assists graduates in the creation of their FA59 self-identity as part of a network of Army FA59 strategists.
Faculty from across the US Army War College support BSAP, which also draws from world class academic and professional guest speakers and lecturers. There are three 16-week courses annually (January to April, May to August, and September to December). The course includes various staff rides or visits including a trip to Washington D.C. to visit US government interagency organisations and a staff ride of US Grant’s 1864 Overland Campaign at the conclusion of the course. Students share experiences with those of the Advanced Strategic Art Programme, the US Army War College resident programme, and other Senior Service Colleges.
As of 2018, the BSAP curriculum comprised the following six modules: strategic theory, strategic art, national security decision-making, contemporary strategic challenges, institutional strategy and planning, and joint and Army planning. Using the graduate seminar method, the course combines history, theory, exercises, guest lectures, and staff rides to develop a ‘rich professional perspective on policy, strategy, and doctrine.
The first BSAP module is Strategic Theory, which allows students to “evaluate doctrine and strategy”. Students consider military classics by authors such as Sun Tzu and Clausewitz. The course also considers modern strategic theory related to service and joint doctrine as well as strategic culture and practical application of theory. In the Strategic Art module, students study campaigns including the Peloponnesian Wars and Global War on Terrorism. Topics of discussion include: “strategy and policy match, theories of victory, mirror imaging, civil-military relations, pre-war plans and wartime realities, and coalition warfare”. The National Security and Decision-making module focuses on decision-making and organization within the executive branch of the US government, including real-world case studies and a trip to Washington D.C. for US government interagency visits including the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Council, State Department, and others. In the Contemporary Strategic Challenges module, students learn about homeland security as well as conduct regional studies related to Northeast Asia, Southwest Asia, Western Hemisphere, and Europe. The Institutional Strategy and Planning module centres on the US Army related to resources, force management, readiness, and transformation. In the Joint and Army Planning module, students learn about campaign planning with US Army forces and landpower in a broader strategic context.
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