U.S. Army War College Program Overview

The U.S. Army places a high premium on the training and education of the officer corps. Officers are expected to engage in life-long learning and professional development relying on a blend of institutional training and education, operational assignments, and self-development.

The U.S. Army War College (USAWC) is the Army's ultimate professional development institution that prepares selected military, civilian, and international leaders for the responsibilities of strategic leadership in a joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational environment.

Master of the Strategic Art

The USAWC holistically views the development of strategic leaders.  In broad terms, the programs and curricula of the USAWC are built around the concept of mastering the strategic art, which we define as "The skillful formulation, coordination, and application of ends (objectives), ways (courses of action), and means (supporting resources) to promote and defend the national interests."

The skills necessary for mastering the strategic art fall under three general identities, roles, or categories:  strategic leader, strategic theorist, and strategic practitioner.  Each category dictates competencies that graduates must have if they are to maximize their potential.

Strategic leaders provide vision and focus for their organizations and institutions. They also must master command and peer leadership skills that are unique to the strategic arena, especially critical thinking and consensus-building. Moreover, they must understand the differences between management and leadership at the strategic level (in contrast to that at the level of direct leadership or management of an organization at lower levels). Effective strategic leaders must shift from their familiar direct leadership roles based on personal example to the practice of establishing and cultivating values-based, ethical climates and cultures throughout their organizations that inspire others to think and act. They must do this in organizations that are much larger and more diverse than those of their previous experience, and which often consist of geographically dispersed operating units that perform disparate functions.

Strategic leaders need to move beyond a deep expertise in a relatively narrow field and develop wider intellectual and professional horizons. This is essential if they are to integrate and coordinate more broadly defined ends, ways, and means to fulfill long-term objectives that will both help realize their organization's strategic vision and contribute to the security profession at large.

To perform effectively, strategic leaders must understand strategic theories and have the ability to develop strategic concepts. Strategic theory covers a wide spectrum that includes leadership and management, the philosophers of war, international relations, the process of national security decision-making, and the conduct of multinational operations-in peace, but especially in war-at the theater strategic level. Strategic leaders also must be able to translate these theoretical principles into concrete strategic concepts that can be applied to resolve current and anticipated strategic issues.

Strategic theorists must be familiar with the history of warfare and conflict. Few professions can draw on the past for lessons to the degree that the profession of arms can. The study of warfare offers an opportunity to experience war vicariously, to understand the underlying theories and causes of conflict, and to gain insights that may be used to influence the future conduct of warfare.

Strategic theorists also must have a comprehensive grasp of the elements of national power-political, economic, military, and informational-with a thorough grounding in the characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses of each. Equally, they must be able to effectively wield the instruments of national security policy. Ultimately, they must have the capacity to formulate ends, ways, and means that appropriately blend the elements of national power to promote and protect national interests.

General Curricular Information

The structure and content of programs and curricula foster the development of these capabilities and traits within students. Depending upon the specific program, curricula may include: strategic thinking (critical, creative, systems, ethical, historical), theories of war and strategy, strategic leadership (leading and managing change in large complex organizations within volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environments), national security policy and strategy (the art and science of developing, integrating and applying the instruments of national power-diplomatic, informational, military, and economic-during peace and war), theater strategy and campaigning, and the development and employment of landpower within a Joint, Interagency, Intergovernmental and Multinational environment.

Educational Practice

The USAWC educational practice is based on an inquiry-driven model of graduate study. Utilizing the adult learning model, seminar dialogue and discourse are the basis for learning. The intent is to focus on how and why one thinks, rather than on what to think. Curricula, collectively, and seminars, individually, address complex, difficult issues that are not given to school solutions. USAWC does not seek to achieve consensus, but encourages debate and exploration of opposing positions during seminar discussions.


Our students are largely military officers, who range in rank from senior captains (O3s) with 8-10 years of experience through lieutenant generals (O9s) with 30-35 years of experience. Our students include not only Army officers, but also officers from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Navy; international officers; and senior civilians from key agencies throughout the U.S. Government. All students are carefully selected from within their parent organizations; the USAWC does not independently enroll students.

Upon program completion, many graduates begin operating in the national strategic or theater strategic environment-either directly or as advisers to the senior leadership of the Armed Forces, the Department of Defense, other governmental agencies, or in foreign militaries. A select number of graduates eventually will assume the most senior leadership positions within their organizations, leading them at the strategic level.


The U.S. Army War College is accredited by the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, as a program for joint education, Phase I Senior Level for the Distance Education Program and Phase II Senior Level for the Resident Education Program.

The U.S. Army War College is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, 3624 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, (215) 662-5606. The Commission on Higher Education is an institutional accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

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