HomeAboutHistory

The History of NDU

Beginnings

Before World War II, American scholarship in the profession of arms matured in each of the military services more or less independently. Requirements for advanced education for leaders of the nation's military and naval forces were met as they arose through postgraduate colleges set up by and for the respective services. The 20th century imposed a growing need for closer ties between force and diplomacy, between America's military services and the industries that arm them, and particularly among our military centers of higher learning and research. This led to the creation of the Army Industrial College in 1924 and, after World War II, the formation of joint colleges of higher learning. These new joint colleges included the Armed Forces Staff College, the National War College, and the Army Industrial College, which later became the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

NDU was established in 1976 to consolidate intellectual resources and provide joint higher education for the nation’s defense community. The Industrial College of the Armed Forces (now the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy) and the National War College were the original two constituent colleges of the new institution. The Armed Forces Staff College (now the Joint Forces Staff College) was added to the university in 1981. A year later, the Department of Defense Computer Institute (now the College of Information and Cyberspace) joined. The university’s newest school is the College of International Security Affairs, which was created in 2002 as the School for National Security Executive Education.

A Holistic Approach

NDU’s education, research, and outreach programs are integrated and mutually supportive, creating an exceptionally rich learning environment. This approach combines the unique strengths of the university’s five colleges, research institute, international student program, library, gaming and simulation center, and deep relationships with organizations throughout Washington to produce a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Students also benefit from the diversity of their peers, who represent all the military services, along with many federal agencies, private sector companies, and partner nations.

NDU students’ experience in the classroom is first-rate and is enriched both by the experienced faculty and by the university’s research program. Leading the research program is the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS), which was established early in the life of NDU to provide policy research and applied strategic learning, and now provides timely, objective analysis to senior decision makers and supports NDU’s educational programs. Through its five centers, INSS focuses research on key issues ranging from complex operations, to technology and weapons of mass destruction. INSS serves as the university’s research arm, think tank, and is one of the most recognized venues in the National Capital Region for scholarly expertise on national security issues.

NDU conducts outreach via the International Fellows program, a multitude of international visits yearly by senior officials from nations that are important to U.S. national security, and via scholarly publications and presentations. Through its International Student Management Office, NDU hosts more than 100 International Fellows each year, who study in the university’s colleges and develop a deeper understanding of American government and society. The university also engages peer institutions and senior officials from a wide variety of countries, as well as U.S. universities, to increase understanding and cooperation. The NDU Press supports education, research, and outreach as the university’s cross-component, professional military and academic publishing house. In addition, NDU’s subject matter experts are frequently called upon to provide briefings for senior officials throughout the U.S. government.

Unique Value

NDU is a strategic national resource that prepares senior leaders to think and operate effectively at the highest levels in an increasingly dynamic, complex, and unpredictable international security environment. It does this by preparing them to understand, develop, and employ strategies that incorporate all elements of national power.

This senior leader development is made possible by NDU’s holistic approach and unique combination of curriculum, location, and student/faculty diversity. NDU students develop an understanding of the canon of strategic theory, and are able to apply and creatively adapt this knowledge to current and future security challenges. This foundation of theory and application is informed by cutting-edge research. The educational experience is also enriched by the many distinguished speakers who engage the students in candid discussions. The university’s ability to attract these top speakers and build relationships with federal agencies, academic institutions, and international partners is enhanced by its location in Washington, DC. Intentionally integrating students and faculty who come to NDU from all military services and a broad spectrum of interagency, industry, and international partners provides a diversity of thought in every seminar. This ensures that NDU students are exposed to an exceptionally wide range of perspectives, and fosters personal relationships and peer networks, which continue to serve NDU alumni throughout their careers.