Today the Air Force TJAG blog reported that “[t]he Army JAG School has announced that the New Developments Course has been cancelled.”  For an old-timer like me, that seems like  a momentous development.  The New Developments Course has long been a staple in military justice training, with attendees often passing on the knowledge by giving PME summaries of the course when they return to their home commands.

The blog post didn’t indicate the reason for the cancellation.  I assume the concern was fiscal.  The course never struck me as a boondoggle, so I wouldn’t think that it would have been axed as part of the post-GSA “What Happened in Vegas Didn’t Stay in Vegas” “death to conferences” fervor.  And I never heard of any escort-type scandals (or any scandals of any other sort) associated with the course, so I wouldn’t think it was axed as part of the post-Secret Service “What Happened in Colombia Didn’t Stay in Colombia” anti-scandal fervor.  My guess is that a decision was made that we simply can no longer afford to present what was high quality and very useful training.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the new fiscal environment will affect the military justice system.  Today’s court-martial system looks far different than that of 2002.  Consider that in FY 2011, we tried half the number of special court-martial cases (1,502) that we tried in FY 2002 (3,1097).  I believe that both the military justice system and the judge advocate organizations that support them will look far different in 2022 than they do today.  The main factor that reshaped the military justice system over the past decade was combat.  I believe the main factor that will shape the military justice system over the next decade will be fiscal.

The truth is, the military justice system as a whole spends vast sums of money in wasteful ways with grossly inefficient redundancies.  The military justice establishment is notoriously resistant to change and resistant even more to any change proposed from outside that establishment.  Calls for defending the various services’ prerogatives have held major steramlining reforms at bay thus far.  But when the fiscal drought threatens every aspect of DOD’s water supply, interservice legal redundancies that waste even comparatively small amounts of water will be seen as unjustifiable extravagances.

The fiscal drought will test the military justice establishment.  Will it anticipate the coming climatic change and voluntarily and proactively eliminate redundancies?  Will it play bureaucratic games and seek to preserve redundancies so that when the budget cutters come, the known redundancies can be offered up as eliminations to meet whatever savings quota is assigned to the various services’ military justice establishments?  If that occurs, will outside forces take the lead in reshaping the military justice system and its supporting entities?

The New Development Course’s cancellation suggests that the system’s water supply is already in peril.  Maybe the New Developments Course will be back next year.  Maybe, like the Joint Base Andrews air show, it’ll become a biennial event.  I don’t know.  But what I do believe is that this year’s New Developments Course won’t be the last military justice casualty in a new era of fiscal constraint.

25 Responses to “TJAGLCS cancels 2012 New Developments Course”

  1. Gene Fidell says:

    Congratulations to Dwight on this important post. The potential implications of the fiscal climate change the federal government faces are daunting, but the end result of a protracted drought could be a military justice system that — to shamelessly mix metaphors — gets better gas mileage. I see three subsets: (1) programmatic contraction/selectivity; (2) BRACing to eliminate brick-and-mortar redundancies (schools, courtrooms, courts); and (3) systemic restructuring to increase efficiency, fairness and transparency. Whether the sequelae of fiscal drought represent casualties or (at least in some respects) opportunities will be in the eye of the beholder, but if the drought is a fact, then, like it or not, it is far better, as Dwight suggests, to view it as the latter and make the most of it.

  2. Just Sayin' says:

    It would be great to see some streamlining and tightening of the miljus system (VTC testimony for remote witnesses anyone?) but I hope that when decisions are made for fiscal reasons, we have the backbone to admit it.  Unlike, for example, a multi-victim sexual assault which resulted in a ludicrously low PTA which the military still refuses to acknowledge was based on the convening authority wanting to save a buck and instead spent the better part of 2 years trying to crucify any lawyer who so much as looked at the case file…

  3. Zachary Spilman says:

    It would be nice to see some breakdowns of military justice expenses in the Department of Defense. I have a feeling we get a great bang for our buck. For comparison, the DLA Energy Fact Book shows that in FY11 the DOD spent $18,150,300,000.00 on petroleum (PDF page 32).

    I feel pretty comfortable saying that the marginal cost of the New Developments Course (or the average PME, or contested trial) pales in comparison to the marginal cost of individual training flights, ranges, and exercises. Heck, the cost of a single Hellfire missile is in the $68,000-$98,000 range, depending on variant.

  4. stewie says:

    Yes, but those missiles are built by folks who live in districts with congresspeople, so they aren’t going to be cut before bodies and benefits and training are cut.
    I do think that everything that happened at new developments could have as effectively been done by shipping a CD out to everyone. I don’t know that live presence enhanced things much, and I’ve been to four of them.
    I DO think it was a useful course so I hope they put out a CD and don’t kill it completely. I think you are going to start to see more and more training being conducted on military installations instead of in cities (even though Vegas is usually one of the cheapest options you can get).

  5. Phil Cave says:

    VTC.  If it’s good enough for an accused it’s good enough for training.  Unlike a CD there is some opportunity, as the VA Bar says, “for interaction with the instructor and students.”  I agree there could be cost savings in TAD money AND you might expand the direct audience, rather than rely on the after action PME.  Have TJAGSA host it.  And, if I may interject some self-interest, allow civilian counsel to participate for a reasonable fee (VA Bar charges around $200-300 for that, and I’d be willing to pay that, perhaps others who need relevant CLE would also.)

    Join the JA schools at TJAGSA, having been saying that for 20+ years (didn’t go down well during my active duty time.  Had something to do with rice I think.  Although I’m not sure what food had to do with the decisions).  Save money, save trees, get a good education, be efficient.  Tell a Congressman that, especially the one who mandated that the AF school would be at Montgomery, AL; interestingly enough within his parish. 

    As a civilian counsel who has had the opportunity to practice across the Services, I’m still not convinced that the special nuances of a particular Service are so compelling to justify the expense of separate JA schools.  Of course tell that to certain politicians in Rhode Island and Alabama.  Do what we did at the Armed Forces Staff College:  Service weeks at the beginning of the course for all, and add a Service specific week at the end to address the admin law stuff.  Make all the pubs joint pubs, they do that quite a bit in the line world.  There is a great deal that could be done to rationalize how we practice military law, if the politicians in and out of uniform would let us.

  6. stewie says:

    You’d have to significantly expand TJAGLCS I would think to accommodate all of the services using it as one.
    It’s filled to the brim as it is. I concur that you’d probably save money in the long run by just having one joint JA school, but it would require spending a lot of money in the short term, and folks aren’t going to like that.

  7. Dwight Sullivan says:

    Stewie, I doubt that in real life, many people would sit down and watch three or four days worth of instruction on CDs or podcasts.  One of the many advantages of in-person instruction is that the participants actually see the lectures.  Also with CDs and podcasts, even if they are watched, they are often watched while the individual is “multi-tasking.”  The individual will get far less out of having the CD or podcast running on the computer while also editing a motion or monitoring email or any of the myriad other things one might to in one’s own office while a lecture is running on one’s computer.

    Also, the interaction between lecturers and course participants and among the course participants themselves is a huge advantage of in-person training.  When an entire group watches the same lecture at the same time, there’s a far greater chance that they’ll discuss the lecture content than if various individuals watch it individually at different times. And, obviously, watching a lecture on CDs eliminates the opportunity for real-time interaction with the lecturer and significantly reduces the chances of follow-up interaction.

    I’ve both attended the New Developments course as a student and lectured at the course.  It’s great training that’s highly relevant to what the participants actually do.  Among various CLEs one might attend, it probably has the highest practically applicability quotient of just about any training.  I’ve also both attended and delivered lectures via VTC and something is lost compared to in-person training both ways.  And I’ve been subjected to podcast training, which is a good way to communicate specific messages and requirements, but not conducive to learning complex information.  We can debate whether the difference between the “full value” in-person training and the reduced value remote forms of training is worth the price of the in-person training, but to me at least, it certainly isn’t the case that remote training is as good as in-person training.

    Of course, I’m 50 years old, so there’s a generational difference between most judge advocates and me.  Maybe for the younger generation, remote training is as fully effective as in-person training.  But I really doubt that.

    So I bemoan the demise of the New Developments Course.  If I were prioritizing the military justice establishment’s expenditures of funds for the year, there are many, many things that I would have cut before doing away with that course — cuts that would offset that course’s cost many times.  Cuts that won’t be made, so money will be expended for what I view as lesser-value priorities while the New Developments Course is canceled.  Which brings me back to my point about the military justice establishment having to decide how to deal with the fiscal drought.  If it isn’t done in a systemic way, we’ll end up eliminating valuable programs while continuing to fund redundant infrastructure and operations.  It’s already happening.        

  8. stewie says:

    Whenever I’ve had someone who works for me attend a course like this, I make sure they bring back the CD, and then have them teach a class or two, and I also pass out the CD copies that we’d make to my folks. I’d look through it to see if anything major would have changed, because if I missed something, I would look like an idiot (and poorly serve my client).
    I’ve been to either 3 or 4 NDCs and most of us junior folks (O4 and below) saw it more as an opportunity to return to Cville for a week to be honest. And the vast majority of folks don’t attend this anyways. At best you might get one attorney per office, if you get that.
    The vast majority of remaining JAs are still going to have to get that information from disks or the folks who did attend then teaching classes (which are just going to be off the disks anyways).
    They’ve expanded the CLAC to two weeks, I think that more important than New Developments if they have to cut something. The MJ Manager’s Course is probably more important.
    What crim law short courses would you cut before the NDC?

  9. Phil Cave says:

     One of the many advantages of in-person instruction is that the participants actually see the lectures.  Also with CDs and podcasts, even if they are watched, they are often watched while the individual is “multi-tasking.” 
    This is the reason that the VA Bar has reduced the number of hours that can be CLE credited for online or CD training. 

    As an aside, the ND portion of the CAAF Judicial Conference is a thing of the past, but like D”ML”HS I think there was a substantial benefit.  True, the majority of the CJC were likely participants in making those ND’s.  But it was certainly better about hearing an author’s talk about recovering a submarine. 

  10. Dwight Sullivan says:

    Stewie, I’m not trying to limit the cost-benefit analysis to courses put on by TJAGLCS.  That’s my whole point.  In this budgetary environment — and even more so in the coming far more austere budgetary environment — we should look at the military justice system and supporting establishment systemically to decide what in the system is of greater value than something else.  Under such an approach, a course could be saved by, for example, closing one courtroom (thereby saving the costs of updating its security) and consolidating trials from two bases in a single courtroom.  If the taxpayers hadn’t just spent millions and millions of dollars to build three new military appellate courtrooms over the last few years, there could have been huge savings by consolidating the CCAs in one location and using a single appellate courtroom (or using CAAF’s).  It’s not like they’re so busy that all five military appellate courts couldn’t share a single courtroom.  That would have also spared the embarrassment that the last two oral arguments at AFCCA were held in the dark because almost nothing in the year-old courtroom — including the overhead lighting — actually works.

  11. stewie says:

    But is that how the money is allocated? I don’t believe the budget for TJAGLCS is the same pot of money as the budget for the appellate courts for example, nor do I think that savings in one will necessarily result in more money for the other.
    I do agree it was unnecessary to move ACCA for example but BRAC made the decision it would save money so there you go, although I’m not sure that money (to build the new ACCA courtroom) actually came out of funds for JAG so to speak. I don’t know that if those funds hadn’t been built, there would be more money for TJAGLCS (or anything else).
    I would also agree we could use one courtroom, maybe CAAF, although the distances now make that prohibitive.

  12. Dwight Sullivan says:

    Stewie, that isn’t how money is allocated at the moment.  Again, that’s the point.  In a drought, we have to prioritize the allocation of water.  But right now, we’re allowing some water to be squandered in one area while there isn’t enough water for important purposes like growing crops in another area.  If things get bad enough, the control of water would become more systemitized to ensure that the all of the available water is used for the most highest value purposes.  A monumental fiscal drought is coming.  Will the military justice system be able to allocate the limited funds available to their highest value priorities?  Or will different “pots of money” be treated as sacrosanct?  If the latter occurs, then the budget constraints’ negative effects will be heightened.

  13. John Baker says:

    I’m a huge fan of this move.  The New Developments Course may have made sense before CAAFlog or the appellate courts began posting their opinions, the briefs and digests.  Lately, for many it seemed to be used as a good excuse to meet old friends in C’Ville.  I’d much rather our very limited training dollars teaching new counsel the nuances of defending (or prosecuting) cases or regional or DSO wide training.

  14. stewie says:

    I think different pots of money will fight aggressively for their pot not to be shrunk. I think your plan works if everyone is on board with it, but I don’t think that will happen.

  15. Dwight Sullivan says:

    Stewie, the approach would also work if you had someone above the parochial players doing the water rationing.  Normally the same governmental agency wouldn’t regulate, say, cash washes, swimming pools, and agriculture.  But in a drought, the government steps in to severely limit or shut down cash washing businesses and swimming pools to ensure there’s enough water for higher priority uses like agriculture, sanitation, and drinking.  If we want to avoid a situation where money is being squandered on low-priority military justice infrastructure or programs while higher priority uses are eliminated, then some fiscal control must be imposed above the levels at which budgetary decisions are currently made.

    Again, I offer the taxpayers’ recent expenditure of funds to construct three separate appellate courtrooms as a perfect example.  Look at the oral argument audio page on AFCCA’s website.  It includes 21 oral arguments going back to 7 October 2009.  While oral arguments aren’t the only thing the AFCCA courtroom is used for, as this figure demonstrates, the AFCCA courtroom isn’t used very often.  The four CCAs could easily share one courtroom without stepping on one another’s toes.  So instead of building three separate courtrooms, the taxpayers could have built a single CCA courtroom with all four CCAs co-located with it.  I’m sure there are other facilities that could have been shared as well, resulting in still further savings.  While I haven’t seen budget figures for the construction of the three courtrooms, I would hazard a guess that the savings would have run in the tens of millions of dollars.  At a time when we have joint bases matching up just about every combination of branches, the concern that a CCA would be on “someone else’s” base probably doesn’t matter as much — and it shouldn’t matter at all. 

    The military justice establishment could have done better things with the tens of millions of dollars that it spent to build three separate CCA courtrooms.  And it could do better things with the dollars required each year to operate and maintain four separate CCA courtrooms.  That money is water under the bridge now, but it demonstrates the high cost (literally) of our current approach to military justice expenditures and suggests the benefits of an alternative approach.  

  16. stewie says:

    unfortunately, that is way too logical to work I think in today’s bureaucracy.

  17. Dwight Sullivan says:

    John, Colonel Trout — my outstanding Marine Corps Command and Staff College Distance Education Program professor — had many great phrases, one of which was, “If your plan counts on everything going right,  you’ve got a bad plan.”  I’ll offer a corollary to that:  a military continuing legal education plan that depends on CAAFlog is a bad plan.

    (BTW, to Stewie, I offer the Marine Corps Command and Staff College’s Distance Education Program as further proof of the greater benefit of in-person training compared to remote training.  I certainly got far more out of the program because I participated in the distance education seminars than I would have without live instruction and physical association with other students. My brother teaches both live college courses and online college courses; I’ll ask him what he things of the relative merits of each.) 

  18. stewie says:

    I dunno, I tell my folks to read this blog once a week!

  19. Christian Deichert says:

    Interesting thoughts on creating a joint JAG school.  As the current Army instructor at the Air Force JAG School, this thought has crossed my mind once or twice. 

    One anecdote on joint schooling: one of my first TDYs as an AFJAGS instructor was to scenic Fort Jackson, SC, to go teach the new Air Force chaplains.  The AF Chaplain School used to be here on Maxwell, but BRAC combined all of the service chaplain schools into one joint school at Jackson.  And yet, the school was joint in name only.  When I got there, I flagged down a Navy chaplain’s assistant for help locating my Air Force POC.  He had absolutely no idea, because the various chaplains’ schools don’t really interact: they all had separate faculty and separate courses.  (And brought in separate subject matter experts, apparently.)  This floored me, because I would not have thought that chaplains really do things all that differently among the several services.  Maybe it’s more a case of, you can make us all live here, but you can’t make us play together.  For a joint JAG School to work, then, the services would have to make it want to work.

    From what I’ve seen over the last couple years teaching at AFJAGS, the Army and Air Force legal practices are pretty similar.  I typically comment that they are about 90% the same (or close enough).  Administrative and civil law is the most different, because the area is so regulation driven.  Military justice is pretty similar, and operations and international law is very similar.  So for new attorneys, joint classes could accomplish a lot of what we need to get across, and service-specific breakout classes could get the rest done.  That’s how a lot of my grad course worked.  Perhaps my sister service alumni from the “Friendly 58th” would disagree, but I thought we did a pretty good job at being joint.  Short courses here at AFJAGS often have a joint audience and go pretty well.  So the question would be whether we did a better job of working together than the chaplains apparently do.

    I have to wonder, though, if combining the schools in Charlottesville would be the “good idea” that killed TJAGLCS.  Does Charlottesville has the physical footprint to be able to increase its facilities to handle all of the services? Even if it did, would Congress pay to grow a leased facility that much? Or would someone in Congress smell the potential for home cooking, as the late Rep. Bill Dickinson did, and move this consolidated JAG school to a base in his or her district in order to make it more BRAC-proof?

  20. Christopher Mathews says:

    @ Christian Deichert — religious schisms are more resistant to change.  Bloodier, too.  Hopefully, not so much at the chaplains’ school.

    My recollection of the school at Charlottesville is that there is sufficient adjacent space physically to expand, but there may be restrictions on its use from U.Va that aren’t readily apparent.  I’m curious though as to why it’s assumed that Charlottesville would be the preferred situs for a joint school.  Maxwell AFB probably won’t be closing any time soon — why not expand there?

  21. stewie says:

    Well it’s always been located on a the campus of a law school, so there’s a long tradition there.

    I also think it makes sense to maintain a tie to the legal community in that way as opposed to moving it onto a random base.

  22. Christopher Mathews says:

    @ stewie —

    The Air Force JAG school has been located at Maxwell AFB since 1950. 

    The Air Force considered moving it to a college campus about twenty years ago but decided against doing so.  The Army JAG school was located at U. Mich. for several years before relocating to Fort Myers and eventually, in 1951, to U. Va.    I’m less familiar with the NJS’ background. 

    I don’t have strong feelings one way or another about the benefit of locating a JAG school on a college campus.  If budgetary constraints are the driver, though, the lease payments for the Charlottesville school might support consolidation at a military base — even a random one.

  23. stewie says:

    ok, almost always, I stand corrected. But I’d say 60 years is a long time, and I’d struggle to see why you’d move the Army school to an Air Force base in Alabama. That’s what I meant by random. If we are truly talking budget constraints, then just move it to Fort Belvoir or Fort Lee since those are the closest military bases to Charlottesville.

  24. Zachary Spilman says:

    Well it’s always been located on a the campus of a law school, so there’s a long tradition there.

    I also think it makes sense to maintain a tie to the legal community in that way as opposed to moving it onto a random base.

    That sounds much better than “Charlottesville is such a great TAD location.”

  25. Christian Deichert says:

    Why consolidate at Charlottesville versus Maxwell or Newport? Three reasons; the Army has the biggest JAG corps, and the biggest JAG school faculty, and is the only school of the three service JAG schools that offers an LL.M.

    Why does the Army JAG School remain at UVa? I think primarily because of the LL.M. program.

    As far as the Air Force deciding to keep AFJAGS at Maxwell, I don’t believe that’s how it happened.  I’m told the Air Force was looking to move to Colorado and get nearer to a law school.  Rep. Bill Dickinson saw that, said heck no, you’re not moving out of my district, and decided that Montgomery’s Jones Law School would be good enough for the Air Force.

    (Or so the legend goes.)