The U.S. Army has decided to shutter the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies, a.k.a. “Red Teaming University,” ending one of the most revolutionary experiments in applied critical thinking and effectively pulling the plug on red teaming in the American military.
“Effective 1 October 2021, the Army will defund the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies (UFMCS) and repurpose our $2.5 million for other priorities. As a result, the Army, and the Department of Defense at large, will no longer possesses the ability to train and educate Red Teamers,” said the school’s director, Mark French, in a statement sent to me by UFMCS Friday. “At this stage, UFMCS leadership has exhausted the avenues for reconsideration.”
This cost-cutting move, necessitated in part by the Trump Administration’s absurd decision to steal money from the Pentagon to pay for a worthless wall on a tiny stretch of the nation’s southern border with Mexico (a wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for, the president promised), reflects a broader turning away from critical thinking – and indeed thinking in general – that has occurred under this regime.
It’s an unfortunate decision, because UFMCS was widely regarded as the gold-standard for formal red team training worldwide – and because red teaming is needed now more than ever, not just by our military, but by every organization.
It’s also my alma mater.
Red Teaming University
UFMCS was established in 2004 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, as part of the Army’s Command and General Staff College.
By then, what had originally looked like easy victories in Afghanistan and Iraq were starting to look a lot more like inescapable quagmires. The Army knew its own missteps had contributed to the dire situation that now existed in those two countries. It was determined to learn painful lessons of those failures and take measures to ensure they were not repeated in future conflicts.
A lessons-learned team established at the Pentagon concluded that the military’s failure to challenge its own assumptions, a tendency to ignore disconfirming evidence and alternative perspectives, and an arrogance born of past success all contributed to the problem, so it decided to create a formal methodology for challenging its own thinking and stress-testing its own strategies. This methodology would rely on an array of applied critical thinking tools and groupthink mitigation techniques, all of which would be taught at a new school created specifically to train contrarian thinkers.
The school’s name – the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies – was a clever cover designed to prevent America’s adversaries from discovering its real purpose.
Since it first opened in 2004, UFMCS has provided red team training not only to Army officers, but also to those from other service branches, government agencies and even allied militaries.
In 2015, I became the first – and now only – civilian from outside government to