Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby said Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey sent the letter after students at the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., raised concerns about the content of a class entitled "Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism." Dempsey ordered the course closed until the study is complete.
"Our concern is there are some unprofessional things being taught to students in professional military education curriculum," Kirby said during a press availability today.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is aware of Dempsey's order and he shares the general's concern, the captain said. "He also completely endorses the chairman's intention to look at joint professional military education across the board to make sure we have done an adequate scrub on the content of this type of curriculum," Kirby said.
Some of the material in the course was not simply objectionable but inflammable, Kirby said. A student who finished the course last month brought it to the chairman's attention.
One example of the objectionable material was a Power Point slide highlighting inflammatory statements. On the slide was the assertion "that the United States is at war with Islam and we ought to just recognize that we are at war," Kirby said. "That's not at all what we believe to be the case: We're at war with terrorism, specifically al-Qaida, who has a warped view of the Islamic faith. That's just one example.
"These assertions are not in keeping with our principles or ideas," he continued. "We believe the right thing to do was to suspend the course due to some of the things that were presented in the course."
Dempsey has also ordered an inquiry into this particular course to determine how this material got into the course, and what is needed to improve it moving forward. The course has been taught at the staff college since 2004.