Guidelines for Learning

The courseware is intended to use the concepts of military education that have been developed by DOD and the military services.1  It supports a continuous, adaptive learning model to develop creative, and critical thinking, encourage initiative, promote teamwork, and stress accountability. The courseware enables context-based, collaborative, problem-centered instruction. The process is intended to be learner-centric, and should be part of a career-long continuum. In order to make the materials available at the learner’s point of need, the materials are packaged in short modules to support related distributed learning. 

The courseware can also support blended learning – combining technological delivery of basic concepts with live group problem-solving. Above all, the instruction uses outcome-oriented instructional strategies to provide operationally relevant content. When using these materials, the instructor should facilitate, rather than merely dispensing facts – no "sage on the stage." The courseware should promote “effortful study” and “deliberate practice,” by progressively challenging the learner with more difficult problems.2  And finally, the materials should make it possible to have appropriate measures of what the learner has in fact learned. 


"The explosion of information technologies that provides global and regional actors nearly instant access to information means that the United States no longer enjoys clear operational and technological advantages in the competition to "observe, orient, decide and act more effectively than adversaries.” 

--GEN Martin Dempsey, Ret. CJCS

The courseware is not intended to be an abstract, purely theoretical examination of illicit power structures as discussed in Impunity. While theory is important, it must be made applicable and actionable in the context of achieving military objectives. As Boyd explicated in his theory of the OODA Loop (Observe-Orient-Decide-Act), the competitor who is able to process information and make decisions and take action more quickly than the adversary will usually outperform and defeat the adversary. The goal of the courseware is to allow the learner to rapidly and effectively orient upon the observations made in an operational problem involving illicit power structures, thus allowing the learner to make effective decisions more rapidly and to take decisive actions to contain, control, co-opt, or destroy the illicit power structure. 

The orientation process involves interpreting a mass of observational data in order to produce information that can be used in decision-making. Determining what data are relevant is the biggest challenge, and often can be excessively time consuming, which can be fatal if the adversary is able to Observe, Orient, Decide and Act while you are still attempting to understand the data. One great benefit of applying social science research and analysis methodologies to the problems posed by illicit power structures is that such tools allow the construction of analytical frameworks that allow the data to be more rapidly evaluated and correctly understood. 

A Framework is: 

  • A set of concepts that allow data to be ordered and evaluated 
  • A tool to support critical thinking 
  • That allows more rapid orientation, decision-making and action 
  • Not a checklist 
  • Frameworks are not set in stone; they must be subjected to ongoing critique, modification, and replacement when needed

In this context, the term "framework" is used to mean a set of concepts that allow data to be ordered and evaluated; it is a tool that supports critical thinking, and allows more rapid orientation, decision-making, and action. A framework is not a checklist of things to do, but a structure of ideas that allow data to be understood properly. A useful framework allows us to ask the right questions to find the relevant answers. A framework should allow us to abstract from the data those things which are meaningful to our problem-solving without including the irrelevant and without excluding the essential. A framework must be constantly reviewed to ensure fidelity of abstraction. Frameworks should never be set in stone; they should be subjected to ongoing critique, modification, and replacement when needed. The Countering Illicit Power courseware is specifically designed to introduce conceptual, evidence-based frameworks that can universally applied.



  1. CJCSI 1800.01D, Officer Professional Military Education Policy (OPMEP) (cur. 5 Sep 12); Joint Education White Paper (16 July 2012); TRADOC Pam 525-8-2, The Army Learning Concept 2015 (20 Jan 2011). 
  2.  Philip E. Ross, “The Expert Mind,” Scientific American (August 2006), 71.