Academic focus and choice/ Key dates

The academic curriculum offered by the School of Strategic Landpower includes both required core courses and elective studies and activities that will enable you to reach the Individual Learning Objectives that you will develop early in the academic year, with guidance from your faculty advisor and inspiration from the range of enriching activities that you can use to create your personal Carlisle experience.

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Col. Matthew Robbins
U.S. Marine Corps, Class of 2015

Building upon the core-course foundation, each student makes personal choices about elective courses and strategy research paper (SRP) topic -- to meet Individual Learning Plan objectives and shape your own professional identity. Each student will complete an SRP contract with project advisor in December and finalize the SRP by 1 April. SRP options include group projects with faculty sponsorship. More choice lies in the series of electives you'll craft into a cogent learning plan, choosing from scores of electives. While every student will participate in a regional studies program, you'll select the region to study; some will elect to study a region for which you have some familiarity, and some will seek to explore something new.

Below, you'll find an overview of the resident MSS curriculum for 2016. You can anticipate some evolutionary change for the academic 2016-17 curriculum.

Students will sign-in at Carlisle Barracks No Earlier Than 18 July and No Later Than 27 July 2016. Upon signing in, each student will be assigned an appointment for Centralized Inprocessing, on 1, 2 or 3 August.

A. Core Courses, scheduled for August thru February. Each seminar is led by a cross-functional faculty team representing the 3 resident teaching departments). Each seminar incorporates Army, Air, Navy, Marine, National Guard, Reserve, federal agency civilian representative, and 3-4 International Fellows (senior officers in the student body representing 70+ countries; considered fellows to denote their dual role as students and contributors)

Introduction to Strategic Leadership

  • Theories of War & Strategy (TWS) - Emphasizes the theoretical approach to war and strategy. Provides key concepts for analyzing conflict and cooperation among nations as well as the causes and use of war. (taught by faculty of the National Security & Strategy teaching department)
  • Strategic Leadership (SL) - Develops an appreciation for the uniqueness of strategic leadership. Builds on strategic thinking and examines environmental scanning, managing change, culture and the profession, strategic and ethical decision-making. (taught by faculty of the Command, Leadership & Management teaching department)
  • National Security Policy & Strategy (NSPS) -- Examines the U.S. governmental process for integrating, balancing, and synchronizing the instruments of national power in promoting and protecting national interest. (DNSS faculty)
  • Theater Strategy & Campaigning (TSC) -- Critically examines the application of joint doctrine in planning and conducting unified and multinational operations. Evaluates service roles, capabilities, and cultures in providing ready forces to the Unified Commanders (taught by faculty of the Military Strategy, Planning & Operations teaching department)
  • Regional Studies Program (RSP) - Students choose to study US national security issues in relation to one of seven regions (Africa, Middle East, Asia-Pacific, Americas, Europe, Russia-Eurasia, and South Asia) (DNSS faculty)
  • Defense Management (DM) - Addresses how strategic guidance is employed within Department of Defense systems and processes to develop trained and ready combat forces.
* Strategic Research Project, completed concurrent with course work AND Oral Comprehensive Exams (required for all students)

B. Elective Courses -- students will elect 8 credits worth of elective courses, to be taken during two elective terms (March-April & April-May). The majority of electives are 2-credit courses; students will have options for special track electives that account for all 8 credits.

C. National Security Seminar - the final event of the academic year, NSS is a weeklong engagement with a cross-section of American citizens in seminar.


3 National Security Staff Rides are embedded in the curriculum. During the core curriculum months, NSSR #1 to Gettysburg puts the academic spotlight on the strategic environment and on senior leader decision-making of the Battle of Gettysburg. NSSR #2 and #3 are scheduled after core courses are completed. NSSR#2 to New York City, in April, emphasizes an understanding of the diplomatic, informational and economic instruments of national power. NSSR#3 to the National Capitol Region, in May, features visits to federal agencies and Congressional offices. Spouses are invited to participate at their own expense FOR NSSR#2 to New York City.

Major Program Choices. Several programs offer a distinctive path to the master's degree in Strategic Studies and JPME-II certification. Carlisle Scholars Program selections will be made prior to student arrival. Students will have the opportunity to self-nominate for the ASAP and NSPP and ADM programs after the School's Special Programs briefing to the student body, to be scheduled during the first weeks.

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Lt. Col. Karen Briggman
U.S. Army, Class of 2015

The Carlisle Scholars Program is a special program for students interested in developing and communicating innovative strategic thought during the academic year. The program's core philosophy is that USAWC students can be thought leaders, intellectual entrepreneurs who contribute to a broader strategic dialogue among national security leaders and stakeholders about the problems and opportunities of national security. To this end, Carlisle Scholars Program participants form a single seminar throughout the academic year, which entails a combination of independent work, team work and coordination with faculty. Through research, writing, and direct engagement, program participants seek to influence strategic thought in the national security community. To provide time for this work, scholars complete the core curriculum on an accelerated schedule. The focus of the program is publication and outreach, and participants work with senior civilian and military leaders, as well as with top think tanks. This unique program integrates the seminar concept of a traditional Professional Military Education experience with the autonomy of a self-directed fellowship. If you are interested in learning more about this program, now in its second year, contact Dr. Andrew Hill at or call 717.245.4808.

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Lt. Col. Liz Smith
U.S. Army, Class of 2015

The Advanced Strategic Arts Program (ASAP) is a six-month cohort program for which students apply after several months of the core-curriculum. The ASAP curriculum is rooted in history, following the evolution of warfare from Ancient Greece to the current and near-future state in order to understand patterns of conflict and application of that understanding to military strategic planning in support of national security objectives. The ASAP curriculum and staff rides are supported by instruction from USAWC faculty members, planners from combatant commands, noted military historians, and subject matter experts from numerous agencies and think tanks ensure that students meet MSS and JPME-II requirements while working on a parallel but distinct path.

The National Security Policy Program (NSPP) is a "how-to-make-policy" program, designed to develop in selected students a detailed understanding of the U.S. Government national security policy-making environment as well as the fundamentals for the craft of national security policy-making and implementation. Case studies, guest speakers who have been policy practitioners, student participation in policy-based exercise and travel to relevant agencies complement the program's emphasis on practical application tools for critical policy planner positions in the federal interagency environment, with combatant command staffs, and in U.S. billets in international organizations such as NATO and the United Nations.

The Advanced Defense Management (ADM) Course is a tailored elective track that provides selected U.S. students with a detailed understanding of the key processes that underpin force management within the Department of Defense. Students leverage previously learned material from the Defense Management Core Course in order to reach a deeper understanding of the relationship and interdependencies between major defense management systems and processes used to develop forces and capabilities for the Combatant Commanders. ADM consists of three sub-courses in Defense Resource Management, Research Development and Acquisition, and either Force Management (Army) or Joint Issues and Processes (Navy, Marines and Air Force). ADM also offers a unique small group visit program titled "Follow the Money" during the annual class trip to Washington DC that begins in the Pentagon with senior budget officials and culminates in engagement opportunities with House and Senate Appropriations Committee members and key staff on Capitol Hill. ADM is ideal for students who will be filling billets within the Pentagon on OSD, Joint or Service Staffs, as well as anyone interested in a better understanding of the major Pentagon processes that drive military programmatic and policy decisions.

Student interested in continuing study at the PhD level may be interested in the Professor, U.S. Army War College Program, established to promote an appropriate blend of military experience and civilian academic credentials among the USAWC faculty.

Professor, USAWC Program

The USAWC Strategic Leader Development and Resiliency Program spans a series of programs and guidance in leadership, resiliency, and fitness. The synthesis of these unique opportunities will be a smart, strategic enhancement of your motivation, mental and physical stamina; critical thinking and physical performance in combat. You will find guidance to address the long-term demands of strategic leadership, deepen Leader and Family resilience; and improve your understanding of the leader presence within the human dimension of war. Students' introduction to SLDR occurs in Zero Week on Leader Resiliency Day – setting the tone for a yearlong set of assessments, guidance and classes. The Strategic Leadership Feedback 360-degree assessment of leader attributes, coupled with SLDR guidance, provides the self-awareness and understanding that can accelerate leader development, improve decision-making, optimize adaptability, and increase interpersonal effectiveness. Resiliency Education, Performance Movement Analysis, and Strength for Wisdom are among the SLDR programs designed specifically for this generation's leaders to build stamina, improve command presence, and mitigate physical risk.