The Business of Government Hour

 

About the show

The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The executives discuss their careers and the management challenges facing their organizations. Past government executives include Administrators, Chief Financial Officers, Chief Information Officers, Chief Operating Officers, Commissioners, Controllers, Directors, and Undersecretaries.

The interviews

Join the IBM Center for a weekly conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business.

Dian Stoskopf interview

Friday, December 17th, 2004 - 20:00
Phrase: 
"There is heavy demand for education and the Army has paid attention to that. Education has changed the Army’s image. eArmyU provides great opportunities to go to school for an army that has frequent deployments and that is the future of our army."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 12/18/2004
Guest: 
Intro text: 
Innovation; Technology and E-Government; Leadership; Strategic Thinking...

Innovation; Technology and E-Government; Leadership; Strategic Thinking

Complete transcript: 

Monday, November 8, 2004

Arlington, Virginia

Mr. Lawrence: Good morning and welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, partner in charge of The IBM Center for The Business of Government. We created The Center in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. You can find out more about The Center by visiting us on the web at businessofgovernment.org.

The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. Our special guest this morning is Dian Stoskopf, director of the Army's Continuing Education System. Good morning, Dian.

Ms. Stoskopf: Good morning, Paul.

Mr. Lawrence: And joining us in our conversation, also from IBM, is Andrew Fairbanks. Good morning, Andrew.

Mr. Fairbanks: Good morning, Paul.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, Dian, let's start by learning more about the educational program in the Army. Could you give us a brief description of the educational department and the services within the Army?

Ms. Stoskopf: Sure. The Army Continuing Education System provides a voluntary education program for the soldiers, the family members, and Department of Army civilians. The mission of ACES, as it's called, is to vigorously promote lifelong learning opportunities to sharpen the competitive edge of the Army. And we do that by providing and managing quality self-development programs and services. Those programs range from basic skills to graduate-level instruction. In addition to the basic skills program, which is known as FAST, the Functional Academic Schools Training Program, we also have a high school completion program and a very, very large post-secondary program.

Additionally, we provide the following support services: counseling, financial assistance, tuition assistance, the GI Bill, the loan repayment program. We have multi-use learning centers. We provide transcripts of military education, training, and experience, and national test scores. We also support the serviceman's opportunity colleges, which advocate on behalf of soldiers in the academic arena.

We have an initiative called GI to Jobs, which is really a credentialing or licensure program for those soldiers not interested in academic degrees. We also do language and cultural training, leader development opportunities, and provide testing, both military and academic.

Mr. Fairbanks: Dian, you've devoted more than 30 years of your life to Army education. Can you tell us more about how your career has progressed up to the point of becoming director?

Ms. Stoskopf: I have, Andrew, almost 33 years and I've served in every position that's available in the Army Education Career Program. I started out during the Vietnam War as a project transition counselor and went to Camp Same San in Thailand. And after spending a year there, went up to Bangkok for a short period of time before I went then to Korea, to Yongsan in Seoul, Korea.

I then was promoted to become an education services officer and went to Camp Casey, Korea, up in the 2nd Infantry Division. From there I went to Fort Huachuca as I served as chief of the Exportable Training Development Branch for the Military Intelligence Center and School. And then I became the senior education services officer in Baumholder, Germany, where I served for 11 years. There I had responsibility for 5 Army education centers, 15 learning centers, 5 schools of standards, and a driver's training school.

From there I transferred to Education Division Headquarters, where I served as an education administrator for the Army Apprenticeship Program, which is now defunct, the post-secondary programs, and tuition assistance. From there I was selected to the Military District of Washington, or MDW, where I served as the MDW director of education and education services officer, and later became the chief of the newly created Community and Family Support Division for MDW. I continued to serve as the MDW director of education while assigned as the chief of Community and Family Support.

Following this assignment, I was selected to serve as the education adviser in the top civilian position at ACES Headquarters. After a year, the division was reorganized and we lost our military chief and I became the director of ACES.

Mr. Fairbanks: In that position as director of ACES, what are the specific roles and responsibilities of the position?

Ms. Stoskopf: Oh, goodness, they're varied and vast, that's for sure. My responsibilities include: strategic planning; developing, managing, and evaluating the ACES program worldwide; formulating policies and goals for soldiers; voluntary education. Also, I represent the Army with the higher academic community and incorporate emerging educational philosophies and technologies into Army planning, policy, delivery systems -- which are worldwide.

I determine the resource strategies, recommendations, and provide general guidance to ensure that funds necessary to support the program are obtained and allocated. I monitor those resource expenditures, assuring their most efficient use in consonance with program objectives and installation requirement. I advise on priorities when required by funding adjustments -- and, unfortunately, we have a lot of those here lately -- and develop necessary directives for implementation. I currently am responsible for a budget in excess of $300 million.

In addition, I serve as what is known as a functional chief representative responsible for managing, through the career program structure, the intake of education interns and the careerists for training, evaluation, and referral of approximately 540 civilian professional educators and 15 interns, Army-wide. I develop career program management direction and assure equal opportunity, and defend the career program funds which amount to $260,000 in FY '05. That's up from 50,000 when I first arrived 9 years ago, so I'm really pleased with that.

In addition, of course, I provide first-line supervision and guidance to the Headquarters' staff.

Mr. Lawrence: Dian, when you were describing your career I was doing a map of the world. I heard assignments in Thailand, Korea, and Germany, as well as the United States. And I'm curious about your perspective in terms of working abroad for Army education and how that's helped you in your role as director.

Ms. Stoskopf: Right, it really has. You know, working abroad helped to, I think, expand my horizons. And to better understand the challenges and opportunities in the field, in providing education to our soldiers in deployed sites as well as locations throughout Europe and Asia. So it really has been very, very interesting and very challenging, too, Paul.

Mr. Fairbanks: Dian, you mentioned earlier that you really grew up in your career from the field all the way up to the headquarters level. Was that a difficult transition to make --moving from the ESO position up into the headquarters position?

Ms. Stoskopf: Well, you know, I was really fortunate because I became what is called the education advisor to the chief of the Education Division when I first assumed my responsibilities at Headquarters. So I had about a year -- time to transition, I think, into the job. And had I not had that experience I would have been totally overwhelmed, I think. It's a massive responsibility. Staying current with what is happening in both overseas theaters as well as what's happening in our stateside installations is a really big challenge.

Obtaining sufficient funding for our programs and services is also, I think, one of our biggest challenges. Army has been good to ACES, I must say, but it does require constant defending for the resources.

Mr. Fairbanks: In our work on Army education one of the things that really strikes me is just the sheer scope and size of the management challenge that you have, managing an enterprise across the world. How many employees currently work in the Army continuing education system and what are the skill sets and types of roles that they play in supporting soldiers?

Ms. Stoskopf: You know, Andrew, the civilian population supporting Army education today is only half of what it was about 15 years ago. That's really sad, but currently we only have 540 Department of Army civilians, plus about 24 foreign nationals who are employed on our rolls. In addition, we employ over 960 contractors to assist in handling that workload.

All counselors are required to have a master's and a practicum along with 24 semester hours in education to qualify for entry-level positions. That's at a GS-9 level. The managerial staff must have 24 semester hours in education or meet other qualifications that include experience in the field. The contractors then must meet positive education requirements depending on the job they're hired to fill. For example, a test examiner, since they're administering tests which award college credit, are required to have a bachelor's degree as a minimum. And many contractors bring to the organization technology skills which we are not strong in ourselves.

Mr. Fairbanks: In addition to the size of the staff that are part of the system, one of the other areas of scope is the sheer number of soldiers that you provide services to. What is the total number of soldiers right now that are availing themselves of services provided by ACES?

Ms. Stoskopf: You know, right now the Army's end strength is much higher than its authorized strength of 480,000 active duty soldiers. We do about 30 percent of those soldiers, so roughly around 14,400 soldiers are in the post-secondary program alone. So if you were to add in all of the soldiers that come in just for counseling or come in to use the learning centers or come in to take a test and do not sign up for a post-secondary program, that figure is really much higher than that. And then, of course, with the mobilized Reserve soldiers that we're now serving, we serve many more soldiers than the 30 percent.

Mr. Lawrence: Dian, I want to go back to something in your career because you've made education the focus of your study and then later it shifted towards management. What made you decide on pursuing management?

Ms. Stoskopf: I have really a love for lifelong learning. And I realized early on in my career that I did not have a solid background in management and I really needed one. And I took the opportunity to learn those new skills and applied to Boston University's Certificate of Advanced Graduate studies. And that program really was very, very helpful to me because it taught me how to do strategic planning and to deal with change. And I think both of those things are really critical in today's world of work.

I later went back to school when I was up at Headquarters and attended the Johns Hopkins University, and earned a certificate as a Hopkins Fellow in change management. And again, I think that program really helped me an awful lot in managing change and has been very, very rewarding for me. I tend to take what I learn from school and apply it on the job, so I think it's been good for the Army and it's been good for me personally, too.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, that's interesting, especially about all the change you've studied and also led. We're coming up on the fourth anniversary of the launch of the eArmyU. What is eArmyU and how does it fit into the Army's educational plans? We'll ask Dian Stoskopf, director of the Army's Continuing Education System, to take us through this when The Business of Government Hour returns.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence and this morning's conversation is with Dian Stoskopf, director of the Army's Continuing Education System. And joining us in our conversation is Andrew Fairbanks.

Mr. Fairbanks: Dian, can you describe for us again the size of the population served by ACES?

Ms. Stoskopf: Yes, thanks, Andrew. I think I answered that question incorrectly the first time. We serve about 144,000 soldiers, not 14,400. It's a very, very large program. In fact, it's the second largest college campus in the world following the Air Force.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, speaking of college campus, it's been four years since the launch of eArmyU. Could you give our listeners an overview of what eArmyU is in terms of its mission and goals?

Ms. Stoskopf: EArmyU really has been a very highly successful program. It is currently being offered to regular active duty and active Guard Reserve enlisted soldiers, and it provides him an opportunity to achieve a college degree or certificate anytime, anywhere, across the Army enterprise.

The program assists in building today's and tomorrow's future force by offering unprecedented academic access, choice, and flexibility in an online learning environment. EArmyU successfully reaches a new generation of soldier students and helps them achieve their academic goals. EArmyU develops educated technology-savvy soldiers who can succeed in the network-centric missions and battle spaces of the 21st century. It integrates educational opportunity with troop readiness, strengthening the Army's commitment to an agile, versatile, and adaptive force. And it serves as a retention tool by empowering a new population of soldiers to reach their educational goals.

Mr. Lawrence: How can a soldier participate in eArmyU?

Ms. Stoskopf: A soldier can participate in two ways now, Paul. First, there is a technology pack enrollment option, which is available solely as a retention tool and will be limited only to soldiers who re-enlist for assignment in a combat force operational unit as defined by senior leadership and it's subject to adjustments. In fact, we just had our first adjustment to that listing of units here the other day.

The laptop program enrollees will receive a state-of-the-art laptop to use in their participation, and they will be required to successfully complete 12 semester hours in 3 years. The soldier much have three years time in service remaining at the time of program enrollment and must have concurrent enrollment approval from the commander and an education counselor.

The second way that they can enroll is through what we call today e-course enrollment, and that's available to all enlisted soldiers to use their personal computers to participate in the program on a course-by-course basis. This is mirroring the traditional tuition-assistance program that's available to our soldiers. There is no longer a service-remaining requirement with e course enrollment. However, the soldier must have sufficient time remaining to complete the course in which they are enrolling.

Mr. Fairbanks: Dian, can you explain for the listeners what type of course offerings and degrees are available through the eArmyU program and who those courses are taught by?

Ms. Stoskopf: Sure. We have a large number of degree options that are available. We've got currently 22 undergraduate certificate options, 57 associate degrees, 47 bachelor's degrees, 17 master's degrees, and 3 graduate certificates for a total of 146 degree programs from 29 academic providers. Degree programs that are available are in such areas as business administration, computer science technology, criminal justice, health science technology, paralegal studies, aeronautics, human resource management, and nursing.

Our biggest providers are Central Texas College, Troy State University, Rio Salado College, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, St. Leo University, and the University of Incarnate Word. We also have two flagship providers of online instruction: the University of Maryland University College and Penn State University's rural campus.

Mr. Fairbanks: The latest numbers that I've seen show that there are more than 52,000 soldiers participating in eArmyU. Why do you think the program has been so successful in attracting enlisting soldiers?

Ms. Stoskopf: You know, soldiers really have greater access and flexibility with the eArmyU program than they do with the traditional programs where they've got to go and sit in the classroom every Monday, Wednesday evening, or at lunchtime or over the weekend, at a very structured kind of pace. With eArmyU they receive 100 percent tuition to cover their books and fees in addition to the tuition, and that tuition is paid up to $250 per semester hour or up to 100 percent of the tuition, whichever is less, with an annual ceiling of $4,500. In the traditional program, the books are not paid for and this makes quite a difference for some soldiers. Additionally, many soldiers were attracted to the opportunity to learn online as well as to receive a state-of-the-art laptop, which is provided in return for successful completion of those 12 semester hours and their 3-year SRR.

Mr. Fairbanks: I know that given the fact the soldiers have very rigorous full-time jobs that soldiers tend not to be full-time students. But have some soldiers been able to actually receive their degrees through the program?

Ms. Stoskopf: You know, we've had over 900 soldiers, Andrew, that have graduated through eArmyU. We think that this is a real enabler for soldiers to complete their college degrees, so we couldn't be more pleased.

Mr. Fairbanks: What type of feedback have you received from the enrolled students and graduates in terms of their overall satisfaction with the program?

Ms. Stoskopf: You know, our enrolled soldiers have told us that this is the best thing the Army has done for the enlisted soldier in a long, long time. They're very proud of this program and they hope that we never open it up to the officers. They consider it theirs.

Mr. Lawrence: I know that eArmyU publicizes anytime, anywhere distance learning. What do you see as the pros and cons of online education compared to that of the more traditional classroom?

Ms. Stoskopf: You know, eArmyU provides for greater opportunity to go to school for an Army that has frequent deployments, and that is the future of our Army. Online instruction, however, is not for all soldiers and is not a panacea for learning. It's most often harder and more time-consuming than a traditional classroom course.

Mr. Lawrence: In addition to the types of students that excel in online courses, external factors, such as the location of deployment, surely play a part in the contribution of the success. For example, how do students who are stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan deal with online coursework?

Ms. Stoskopf: We have many soldiers who've worked successfully in their eArmyU courses while stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan. I think over this past week, we've had a large number of enrollments come in from Afghanistan and we're delighted to see that happen. Education opportunities, particularly in those kinds of environment, provide a very positive reinforcement to soldiers and give them something to get their minds off of the war that's going on over there. So we find this a very positive thing. However, we also recognize that access to the Internet is not often reliable and sometimes it depends on where you're stationed as to whether or not you can have the ability to work online.

Mr. Fairbanks: Dian, you were talking earlier about sort of how some soldiers are better suited for online learning than traditional classroom learning and vice versa. What types of tools do you use out in the field to help advise soldiers and which mode of instruction might be better suited for them?

Ms. Stoskopf: Andrew, we use a lot of different discriminators to help counselors determine if a soldier's ready for online instruction. One way is to determine their maturity. You know, we tend to find that the older soldier does better. They had more self-discipline. They obviously need to have some computer skills in order to be functional. We're working on a tool, a readiness tool, called PReP that, hopefully, we'll have available to the field to assist counselors and soldiers and commanders in making better informed decisions about the readiness of a soldier to take online instruction.

But there are a lot of things that we look at. You know, have they taken a college course before? Have they done distance learning before? A lot of different factors come into play here to make this determination.

Mr. Fairbanks: How about once soldiers are actually enrolled in the program? What types of steps are you taking to try to help ensure that soldiers succeed in their distance learning courses in terms of services or other types of services that might be available to soldiers?

Ms. Stoskopf: I'm glad you asked that, Andrew. I think that eArmyU really has done a very good thing with the implementation of what we call Operation Victory. That's an initiative that reaches out to soldiers before they fail to make sure that they're on track and we are constantly monitoring to make sure that they're meeting the benchmarks, 3 semester hours, 6, 9, and 12, for example, to ensure that they succeed.

Mr. Fairbanks: I also know from the program that we also provide things like subject matter tutoring, digital library services. Are you finding that those services are helping soldiers to succeed as well?

Ms. Stoskopf: What we find is that those soldiers that use those services find them valuable. But as normally happens with many students, they choose not to use those things until they get themselves into trouble, perhaps. But those that are using them, yes, I think they find them very valuable.

Mr. Lawrence: That's interesting. Rejoin us in a few minutes as we continue our conversation about management with Dian Stoskopf, director of the Army's Continuing Education System. This is The Business of Government Hour.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence and this morning's conversation is with Dian Stoskopf, director of the Army's Continuing Education System. And joining us in our conversation is Andrew Fairbanks.

Well, Dian, eArmyU has received many awards. Could you tell us about these awards and why the program was recognized?

Ms. Stoskopf: We have received a total of nine awards, Paul, and, next week, we'll receive the tenth award, so we're really excited about our success. You know, back in 2002, we received the Excellence.gov Award, which was presented by the Industry Advisory Council, e-Gov, and the CIO Council. We were selected because the eGov Award recognizes government agencies that have shown exemplary leadership in creating innovative solutions that demonstrate e-government.

In addition, though, we've just recently received an award from EDUCAUSE for our customer relation management initiative. And this is the first award that we've received from the academic community, so I think that it's pretty exciting to know that the success of this program has been acknowledged, not only by the technology industry, but also by the academic community as well.

We will receive an award from the Sloan-C Conference here next week. And so we really are very excited about the fact that our hard efforts have paid off and indeed are being recognized. eArmyU is a cutting-edge program and we have led the way in this online program.

Mr. Fairbanks: Dian, you mentioned earlier that the program was launched back in January, 2001. What were the business-drivers that initially led the Army to head down this path?

Ms. Stoskopf: You know, Andrew, the Army confronted a real recruiting crisis in 1999. And it was in August of that year that the then-secretary of the Army, the Honorable Caldera, put a tasking out to his assistant secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs and said this is a crisis that the Army confronts, it's not for the recruiting command to work this problem alone. We need your help and what we need are some innovative ideas as to how to attract young recruits into the Army.

He wanted to change the image of the Army, you know. The Army's image was one of those that you crawl on your belly through the mud, and he wanted to change that image to be a high-tech Army. And somehow or another, that task ended up on my desk and I said, why me? But what a wonderful opportunity it was. I didn't realize that education would indeed change -- help him change the image of the Army.

What I did was to call together representatives from across the field in the education arena together with servicemen's opportunity, college folks, and we brainstormed some concepts as to what might be attractive for young soldiers.

We developed four concepts in reality, and all four of them were approved by the secretary of the Army. But the one that he really was excited about was what we know today as eArmyU. He liked the concept so much that he personally got involved in helping to tweak the concept and to make the decision to offer the program to all soldiers, not just new recruits.

And as we implemented that program we realized that we really couldn't test to see whether or not it would be a good initiative for recruiting purposes because we only had enough dollars to offer it at a few installations. So it's never really been tested as a recruiting initiative, although we're fairly confident it would work as such. We do know indeed that it is a retention tool.

Mr. Fairbanks: What were some of the challenges that you faced in getting through the acquisition phase and in getting the program launched?

Ms. Stoskopf: Well, I think there were really two big challenges for us, Andrew, and one you know very well yourself since you worked right alongside of us, and that was time. We simply were not given the time in which to get the contract written, awarded, and the program implemented. We were given a mission impossible, but, as you well know, we did that. We met every suspense that we had. The contract was awarded in about a six-month period of time, and then the contractor at that time was PricewaterhouseCoopers, now replaced, of course, by IBM Consulting Services. And in six months' time, IBM had that portal up and operating for us. It was an incredible undertaking.

Mr. Fairbanks: What have been some of the challenges that you've faced since that program launch in sustaining the program and in continually improving it?

Ms. Stoskopf: You know, I think as most organizations, communication is always our biggest challenge. And although we've provided extensive procedural guidance to the field, what we find is that many careerists out there in those education centers simply do not have the time to read the massive guidance that we've provided or they choose to call or e-mail rather than to read through the procedural guidance. I must admit, also, that many of our careerists are older and they are challenged by the technology skills which are required to operate this program effectively. And so that has become a tremendous challenge for us.

Too, we confront some resistance from those who do not feel ownership of this program. We opened the program at three installations. It's been expanded to 16 and we've now opened it up to all 117 of our Army installations. But as a result of the program being piloted for so long, there is a sense of lack of ownership out in the field and therein lies some real challenges.

Funding is also another challenge that we confront. And as we find the fight for dollars to become more fierce in the process, what we have found is some resistance to allowing soldiers to go to eArmyU because they know that this has increased our costs.

Mr. Fairbanks: How have you used that background in change management that you talked about earlier to try to overcome some of those geographic and bureaucratic barriers that you just mentioned?

Ms. Stoskopf: Well, what we've done, Andrew, is I think attempted to institutionalize this program and make it a seamless operation for the post-secondary program. That I think has been desperately needed. And we will find that the counselors, the education services officers, will begin to embrace this program as a part of their tool kit in providing post-secondary programs to soldiers across our Army.

What we've also attempted to do is to provide training to our staff to help them gain the skills that they need and to provide them with the massive amounts of information that they need in order to operate this program well.

Mr. Fairbanks: I think training is a challenge that a lot of managers and directors face across government. Can you go into a little bit more detail in terms of how you've gone about training employees out in the field to help support this program?

Ms. Stoskopf: What we did initially, recognizing the importance of training, was that we partnered with IBM in going to each of our installations to do hands-on training with the staff to ensure their success in implementing the program. Since we've implemented this program Army-wide, it would have taken us conducting a worldwide conference in order to provide that kind of training, and we were not able to do that last fiscal year. What we did instead was a series of six video teleconferences that reached out to all of our installations around the world to provide some initial training. We're still hoping that in this fiscal year we will be able to put together a worldwide training session to bring our folks in, in order to provide that necessary training, keep them current with their skills.

Mr. Fairbanks: Can you also explain for the listeners a little bit about the processes you use to survey staff out in the field to solicit their input for how the program can be improved for soldiers and what steps that you take to then implement those ideas?

Ms. Stoskopf: Right. We have appointed what are known as technical PoCs for the contract. And those people then on the ground should have a very good feel as to what is going right and what doesn't work as well as they think that it should. That provides us with valuable feedback that then we take and share with IBM to help make improvements with the program. What's really, I think, very delightful for me to see is that IBM has totally embraced the changes that the field has recommended or suggested and made those changes. And I think this, too, will do an awful lot to ensure ownership on the part of the field in operating this program.

Mr. Fairbanks: As you think back now almost four years since the contract was awarded, and you think back to those initial goals and objectives, how do you think eArmyU has succeeded in helping to transform the Army's image and, specifically and in general, the military's image?

Ms. Stoskopf: Well, you know, Andrew, I've already mentioned the fact that eArmyU has received nine awards for its program, and this has brought an awful lot of very positive coverage to the Army and it has enabled the Army to lead the way in providing such a cutting-edge program. This was a program that nobody else had ventured to attempt and everybody said that we would fail at it. The mere fact that we did not fail and we have been so successful has brought an awful lot of very, very positive coverage to the Army, and I must say at a time when the Army really needed positive coverage, too.

You know, the Army has always been looked down upon by the academic community, and there have been many, many academic providers that chose not to do business with the Army. But since the inception of eArmyU, that has completely turned around and those schools that we wanted desperately to do business with have knocked on the door and have asked to be a part and a player in the program. It's also been perceived, I think, by many people in the private sector as the next best thing since the inception of the GI Bill, and what an exciting thought that is.

Mr. Lawrence: You talked about how the Army came to think about eArmyU in terms of the recruiting context. I'm curious, how does the Army's approach to higher education compare to the approaches of the other services?

Ms. Stoskopf: Well, you know, each of the services are very different. They have different needs and, unfortunately, the other services have not yet felt the need for adoption of eArmyU, but we feel that it meets our need very well. You know, the voluntary education services chiefs recognize that we need to be much more collaborative than we have been in the past as we move into the future, and ACES wants very much to be a vital player in that move. In fact, our vision is to revolutionize and lead Department of Defense education, spearhead a lifelong learning culture to strengthen a mission-ready force. Obviously we see a merging of our efforts in the DOD arena and hope to be at the forefront to help lead that.

Mr. Lawrence: Interesting, especially on the roles of the other services. What's the future of e learning in the Army and what are the implications of e-learning for other government organizations? We'll ask Dian Stoskopf, director of the Army's Continuing Education System, for her thoughts when The Business of Government Hour returns.

(Intermission)

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence and this morning's conversation is with Dian Stoskopf, director of the Army's Continuing Education System. And joining us in our conversation is Andrew Fairbanks.

Mr. Fairbanks: Dian, throughout this show we've been talking about the tremendous success of Army education and the growth that it's experienced under your leadership. What are your plans for keeping up with the changes and demands for soldier education in the future?

Ms. Stoskopf: Andrew, we've built the defense for a budget which will support the very high demand for education that we see going on. You know, our budget has grown from less than 50 million for tuition assistance to 205 million in FY '05. That's a tremendous growth and we will continue to defend those dollars in the POM process as we go through it here shortly. We see this as a positive sign of support by the Army to ensure our soldiers can go to school and whatever mode of delivery best fits their need. And I'm very, very delighted that I have such tremendous support coming from the Army.

Mr. Fairbanks: What plans do you have specifically for expanding e-learning capabilities for the Army in the future?

Ms. Stoskopf: You know, we have done business with, oh, goodness, over a thousand different distance-learning providers historically on our military installations, and it just does not seem to me to make a whole lot of sense to continue to do business that way. We are looking at the possibility of merging all e-learning under the re-competed contract for eArmyU.

Obviously it's too early to determine the direction this will go in now since we're now in the stage of identifying our requirements, but we do know that it does not make a whole lot of sense for each of our Army installations -- 117 of them around the world -- to continue doing business with anywhere up to 120 distance-learning providers, for example. That means that counselors have got to look up each one of those schools and makes sure that they meet the requirements for tuition-assistance dollars to be issued. It means that the bills to pay for those courses have got to come into those education centers, be processed, invoices have to be processed and sent off to the finance office for payment. We just think that perhaps there's a better way to do that and we think that probably that way would be to put it all under what we know today as eArmyU.

Mr. Fairbanks: I know that one of the drivers of that increase in budget has been that you've increased the number of soldiers taking courses and pursuing their education. But another driver is the increasing costs of tuition that have gone on over the past few years. Do you see that trend continuing and, if so, how do you intend to deal with that challenge?

Ms. Stoskopf: Well, what we -- yes, we've seen a tremendous increase in our tuition costs, Andrew, and that is very concerning. We see it across our nation, it's not unique to the Army at all, but we know that we've got to find ways to drive those costs down. And again, centralizing our contracting effort is probably the best way to do that. We see that in the two tri-service contracts that we have, both in Europe and the Pacific area, where those tuition costs are kept down because it's contractual in nature. So we're looking for possibly centralizing and contracting out for the United States operation for all of our installations statewide.

Mr. Fairbanks: You mentioned earlier that the FY '05 budget has grown to more than $205 million for tuition. Why is it that the Army decides to invest so much money in education for the soldiers? What value does that give back to the Army?

Ms. Stoskopf: Well, the Army could not afford not to do that, you know. Without education it's very possible that the Army would not have an Army, they couldn't fill the ranks. We know that one of the top five reasons why soldiers come into the Army is money for college. And one of the very strong reasons that they stay is the tuition assistance that they obtain while they're in the Army. So we know that there's a heavy demand for education and the Army has paid attention to that. They know that it does indeed increase retention, and so they're happy to support that.

Mr. Fairbanks: Is there also feedback from the commander community that education also translates into improved readiness?

Ms. Stoskopf: Yes. In fact, we've done a study through the Army Research Institute, known as ARI, that's indicated that the voluntary education program does indeed have an impact on not just retention and recruiting, but also readiness. And that's a very strong factor for the Army being willing to provide those kinds of dollars to support Army education.

Mr. Fairbanks: In terms of your overall look at Army education over the foreseeable horizon, say the next five years, how do you anticipate the Army education program evolving over that time?

Ms. Stoskopf: Well, I'm not sure that I can really tell at this point in time how it's going to evolve, but I think, like I mentioned before, Andrew, it's going to be much more centralized than the program has been in the past. And because the Army is so heavily deployed and we envision it continuing to be heavily deployed, we see an online program as a natural way to help support soldiers in their quest for education.

Mr. Fairbanks: Will there be other ways in which you'll need to change the mix of services provided, to deal with a more deployed force?

Ms. Stoskopf: I think so. Yes, we've always had counselors on the ground where there are boots on the ground, and that whole concept is changing for the first time in many, many years. The Army is reorganizing and pulling soldiers out of theaters in both Korea and in Germany, for example, pulling those soldiers back home. When soldiers deploy they probably will not have time to do much more than do their soldiering responsibilities, but when they're back in the garrison they'll have plenty of time to go to school. So we see lots of changes in the future here for Army education and we hope that we can stay ahead of it.

Mr. Lawrence: In thinking about your present role and as you've watched the launch of eArmyU and as it's matured, I'm curious about the lessons you've learned and what advice you'd have for other federal leaders who manage large-scale educational programs or even e-government programs.

Ms. Stoskopf: You know, I'm not sure that I have a whole lot of advice to offer. However, I do know one thing is absolutely key and critical and that is that they need to build a good partnership with their integrator. I know that we could not have done eArmyU without the tremendous support that we've received from IBM.

Mr. Lawrence: As I recall at the beginning you were telling us you were celebrating your 33rd anniversary as a public servant. So I'd like you to be reflective now for a moment and talk to us about what advice you'd give to somebody interested in a career or perhaps just starting out in his career in joining public sector.

Ms. Stoskopf: You know, I think that there are wonderful opportunities to excel in the federal government. I'm not sure I can really speak to the private sector, but I know that there are massive changes that are taking place within the federal government to reorganize how they manage their civilian workforce. They're creating a senior Army workforce, or a SAW, which provides I think tremendous opportunities for one to come in, be trained, and move up very rapidly through the system. And I just think that there's so many wonderful opportunities that I would encourage anybody to look into it.

Mr. Lawrence: Well, Dian, that'll have to be our last question this morning. Andrew and I want to thank you for squeezing us into your very busy schedule.

Ms. Stoskopf: Thank you, Paul. And I would encourage those of you who are interested to learn more about Army education to go to a couple of websites. One is the earmyu.com website for additional information on eArmyU, and the other one is armyeducation.mil website, which will give you the information on Army Continuing Education System. Thanks so much for having me, Paul.

Mr. Lawrence: Thank you, Dian. This has been The Business of Government Hour featuring a conversation with Dian Stoskopf, director of the Army's Continuing Education System. Be sure and visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org . There you can learn more about our programs and research and its new approaches to improving government effectiveness and you can also get a transcript of today's interesting conversation. Once again, that's businessofgovernment.org .

I'm Paul Lawrence. Thank you for listening.

Dian Stoskopf interview
12/18/2004
"There is heavy demand for education and the Army has paid attention to that. Education has changed the Army’s image. eArmyU provides great opportunities to go to school for an army that has frequent deployments and that is the future of our army."

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