Graduate Applies War College Lessons
When Ambassador Hugo Llorens arrived at the National War College in August 2011 as a State Department faculty representative, he was returning to familiar territory. Llorens is a 1997 NWC grad.
Since then he has enjoyed an influential State career. He served as Director of Andean Affairs at the National Security Council, working with President Bush and National Security Advisor Rice on regional policy issues. He was Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM), the embassy’s second-in-command, in both Argentina and Spain. In September 2008 he arrived in Honduras, where he served as Ambassador during turbulent times: A coup, a controversial U.S. response, and the management of diplomatic relations through it all.
Earlier in his Foreign Service career he had served in the Office of Economic Policy in the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, and in foreign postings in Tegucigalpa, La Paz, Asunción, San Salvador, and Manila. Llorens was therefore already a highly accomplished officer when he arrived at NWC in 1996. Yet he says, “the War College changed everything for me.”
His year at the War College, Llorens explains, offered him a new way of thinking, even a new way of seeing events. He was encouraged to engage the strategic aspects of issues on which he worked, and offered practical tools for assessing strategy.
The first course of the year–Introduction to Strategy–was like “a new language that I learned, a language of how to think strategically,” Llorens explains–a way of thinking that became “an integral part of my professional armor.” From that point, “everything I did, I looked at it in a completely different way.”
Llorens kept this way of thinking handy in a very tangible form: a red loose-leaf notebook which contained the most significant notes from his War College year, insights into strategy that he would apply to later challenges. At the NSC, for example, he was asked–late on a Friday afternoon–by Condoleezza Rice and Steve Hadley to prepare an executive summary for a key interagency document. They wanted something that would offer a strategic framework into which the whole document could fit. Llorens worked through the weekend–using his NWC thought process and red notebook–to craft a rigorous approach to the issue. The larger document became the basis for a highly successful initiative.
The NSC experience is just “one example of many” of times when his War College education changed the way he tackled problems, Llorens explains. But more important than the notes or frameworks was the effect on his own the default mindset he brings to problems. “I have become a strategic thinker,” Llorens explains. When assessing a problem, he returns to key questions central to the War College approach: “The link between means and ends. The operating context, and its affect on strategy. The regional context. And making sure your assumptions are right–going back to them again and again, testing them.”
Llorens measures the difference made by his year at NWC with a simple belief. “I am convinced,” he says, “that I would not have been an Ambassador if I had not gone to the War College.”
|COL James Baker, USAF|