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U.S. Army War College
Strategic Studies Institute
Army Heritage and Education Center
Collins Hall
Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute

National Security Policy and Strategy

National Security Policy and Strategy (NSPS) is a U.S. Army War College core course focused on national security policy and national security and national military strategies. The course also examines all the elements that underpin policy and strategy. These include: strategic culture and national values, the domestic and international security environments; the United States national security decision-making system; the elements of national power; national strategy documents and contemporary non-conventional and conventional national security threats.

NSPS has two major blocks of instruction:

Block I: The Domestic and International Security Environments and the National Security System.

This Block examines the domestic and international security environments within which policy and strategy decisions are made and the U.S. system for making these decisions. It discusses the concept of grand strategy and examines its relationship to national policy and introduces the USAWC Strategy Formulation Model, which is designed to enhance student understanding of the policy and strategy formulation process. Further, we will examine how and why strategic culture and national values - both ours and that of other international actors - affects policy and strategy formulation. We will also examine the domestic environment and discuss national purpose, interests and power and the interaction of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches of government in the American political system that strongly influences the character of national security decision-making. We will also discuss the role of the broader national security community - the media, interest groups and public opinion - in shaping national security policy and strategy. We will conclude our examination of the domestic environment with a discussion of the challenges of Homeland Security in a post -September 11th world. Next, we will examine the international environment and systems that present both challenges and opportunities affecting U.S. national interests. Under this heading, we will examine the international economic system and globalization and also evaluate the roles and impact of international organizations, non-state actors and non-governmental organizations in U.S. national security policy and decision-making. We will then progress through three lessons on the U.S. National Security System. These lessons will include an examination of the strategy formulation process where we will build on the theory of strategy introduced in Theory of War and Strategy as well as the concepts of strategic culture and national values and national purpose, interests and power discussed in earlier lessons. We will also discuss the intensity of U.S. interests (vital, important or peripheral) and identify threats and opportunities affecting the pursuit of national interests, as critical steps in the process of policy and strategy development. We will also examine the interagency process by which various national security actors interact to assess security issues, evaluate alternative courses of action and formulate national security policies and strategies as well as the proper role of the uniformed military in that process. Finally, we will examine the elements of national power (using the DIME construct) as we strive to understand how these elements may be employed to secure national objectives, as well as the many factors that should be considered when deciding how and when to employ them. To facilitate synthesis and validate comprehension of Block I concepts, we conclude with the NSC-68 Case Study which examines Cold War strategy formulation.


Block II, Contemporary Security Issues and National Security Policies and Strategies.

This Block focuses on current and future non-conventional and conventional security issues and corresponding U.S. national security policies and strategies. The block begins with an examination of the current National Security Strategy and the major defense-related national strategy documents: the National Defense Strategy and National Military Strategy. The remainder of the block addresses significant threats to U.S. and international peace and security: (1) religious violence, terrorism, and counter-terrorism and; (2) internal violence, civil war, state failure and genocide; (3) transnational threats; (4) state challenges and (5) proliferation and counter proliferation of nuclear, radiological, chemical, biological weapons and conventional weapons. In examining each of these issues we will critically evaluate current U.S. policies/strategies for addressing these threats. During Block II, we will take a four-day Strategic Leader's Field Trip to New York City. The purpose of this trip is to expose Army War College students to large and complex public and private enterprises with the objective of examining local, national, regional and international issues within the dynamic urban environment of America's premier city - and arguably - the world's financial and information capital. It is designed to provide students the unique opportunity to explore and analyze the nexus between public policy, private enterprise, local, regional and state government and national security. Finally, the trip includes one day of small group visits to a diverse group of corporate and government offices and public and private agencies, presentations by UN Officials, and visits to the UN Missions of our International Fellows as well as presentations and question and answer periods with city leaders in an Urban Affairs Forum. Block II will conclude with a one and a half day Strategy Formulation Exercise in which students will collectively analyze a national security issue and provide a policy recommendation. The background and scenario for this exercise will be distributed separately. (6 credit hours)