The National Security Studies course is designed to promote the development of students as strategic thinkers and national security policymakers. Students selected for this school already are experienced with the operational level of thinking about "how" to do something (e.g., how to effectively and successfully implement an operation or a policy determined by someone else). A crucial objective of the Eisenhower School and the National Security Studies course is to enable students to effectively operate at the strategic level of crafting national-level policies and deciding "why" one policy is more likely to secure the nation's interests than another. More importantly, students (as future policy advisors or policymakers) must be able to select and integrate a wide range of policy decisions across diverse areas such as domestic and international politics, military strategy, economics, and informational and technological capabilities. As policymakers, they must be adept in the art and science of developing, applying and coordinating the instruments of national power to achieve objectives that ensure national security. In order to do this, students must understand the foundations, elements, and critical considerations for developing a national security "grand strategy".
Unit One -- "Who We Are : The Politics of U.S. National Security". This course relies on a framework that first introduces four terms or concepts that figure prominently in national discourse on strategy. They are respectively: Politics, Security, Strategy, and Resourcing. What are the characteristics of the U.S. political system that figure so prominently in U.S. strategy? What are the different meanings of security? How does one define strategy, and what shapes the U.S. approach to it? Finally, what is meant by resourcing and sustaining a national security strategy? Answers to these questions are found not only in this first session but throughout the NSS course and, indeed, the entire ICAF curriculum. After the introduction of these terms, the focus of Unit I shifts to the characteristics of the American system. What is meant by the term "interest" when using it at the national level, and do political systems deal with "interests" that may be subnational or supranational? All of the foregoing terms and subjects are defined and deliberated in a system of government grounded in constitutionalism, which the course studies and evaluates in light of its intent and impact on national security strategy. The unit concludes with three seminars that evaluate how the aforementioned affect or interact in the "defining" and "making" of strategy and then the "determining" of resources. It is the final session in Unit I that is so central to how ICAF studies strategya focus on not only "what" to do, but on the preferred means or instruments as well as the capabilities and resources that exist or that have to be created to enable and support the strategy.
Unit Two -- "Power, Sovereignty, and Globalization" introduces the second part of the framework, and this involves terms or concepts associated with the international environment or systempower, sovereignty, and globalization. This unit has eight sessions that begin with an introduction to different "schools" of thought or concepts on how the international system operates. It then examines past, present, and possible future perspectives on concepts of power, sovereignty, globalization, as well as the instrument of conflict. As noted in the general introduction, some approaches to the study of national security would begin here rather than with a study of national political values, institutions, and processes, but the emphasis ICAF assigns to resources, whether they are monetary, human, commercial, cultural, political, etc., as well as how domestic values and institutions affect choices about these resources and their allocation, places the national context first. The lessons in Unit Two review how the international system has evolved as well as how it may be changing. Thus this unit is the other critical part that has to be addressed and evaluated before one can start to assess how both national and international factors influence the choice, course, and outcome of strategic decisions.
Unit Three -- "Contemporary Strategic Challenges to Power Sovereignty, and Globalization." This brings in the third part of the framework. Through seven lessons seminar members study and evaluate how the terms and issues addressed in the first two units affect or determine the national strategic response to a series of current challenges that confront the United States and the international community. Seminar subjects include sessions on fragile and failed states, extremism and terrorism, food and water security, and arms control and environmental security among others. In each session the seminars not only evaluate the characteristics, scope, and scale of the strategic challenge posed by each subject but also identify and measure the political, security, strategic, and resourcing considerations that influence decisions in national security strategy on how to address these problems.
Unit Four -- "Making Strategy: Preparing for the NSSE." After most of the formal course work in ICAF, all students participate during the second semester in a National Security Strategy Exercise that integrates the entire curriculum to that point. However, the basic framework to which one returns for this exercise largely rests in the NSS course, since the task is to determine a national security strategy for the next ten years. To build on the first three units, this final unit of five sessions introduces some of the frameworks and processes that figure in the assessment of the strategic environment and creation of strategy. One developing issue since 9/11 that influences such assessment requires consideration of the differences between traditional national security strategy and what has become known as homeland security. Subsequent sessions consider approaches to strategic analyses as well as a session that look at the uses and misuses of intelligence in making strategy. Such considerations then move one into issues related to strategic assessment and finally the identification of perceived and real restraints that exist in the arena of both resources and politics. In a sense the final session closes a circle and returns to the terms and concepts studied in the first sessions of the entire course.
ICAF evaluations measure oral and written performance. They are intended to provide feedback to students as well as information for final academic reports.