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NEWPORT, R.I. - College of Naval Warfare students presented proposed future grand strategies for the United States to distinguished national security leaders at the Naval War College (NWC) on Feb. 24.
As the capstone to the National Security Decision Making (NSDM) course, nineteen student seminars each conducted an analysis of the future security environment, developed a new national grand strategy, a new national military strategy, and identified new concepts and capabilities to be developed as part of that military strategy.

"The exercise provides students a great opportunity to practice peer leadership and generate cutting-edge national security ideas," said NSDM Chair Joan Johnson-Freese.
NEWPORT, R.I. (Feb. 24, 2010) A Naval War College senior student presents his seminar's proposed future grand strategy for the United States during the National Security Decision Making course Final Exercise. (Photo by MCC (AW/NAC) Robert Inverso)The NSDM Final Exercise (FX) allows students to practice what they learned in the Department's three sub-courses on Strategy and Force Planning, Policy-Making Process, and Senior Leadership. Students from all four services, federal civilians, and international officers from the Naval Command College worked together in 19 seminar teams to devise new strategies, which were supposed to be innovative but pragmatic. 

FX Deputy Director, Prof. David Burbach, noted that the seminars are given wide latitude in framing their strategies and in organizing themselves to do the work. 

"We deliberately make the FX an ambiguous, blank-slate project with students responsible for structuring their process," Burbach said, "that may be out of their comfort zones, but it reflects what they will face in senior staff and command roles." 
Overall, the CNW seminars developed strategies broadly consistent with the themes of the Obama Administration. Most saw future challenges coming from transnational issues like failed states, terrorism, crime, or environmental degradation, rather than traditional wars between nation states. To deal with these challenges, most proposed greater international cooperation between the U.S. and other global powers. 

There was considerable diversity in how seminars saw the military carrying out that vision, however. Many groups recommended shifting resources away from traditional capabilities like aircraft carriers and armored ground forces and towards "lighter" forces designed for counterinsurgency and security cooperation. Seminars explored concepts ranging from advanced robotics to Department of Defense energy efficiency to developing standing U.N. peacekeeping forces. All of the seminars were challenged by the expectation of tight federal budgets in the future.
NEWPORT, R.I. (Feb. 24, 2010) A panel considers a seminar's proposed future grand strategy for the United States during the National Security Decision Making course Final Exercise. (Photo by MCC (AW/NAC) Robert Inverso)After an initial round of judging by NWC faculty, two seminars delivered their presentations to a distinguished panel on Feb. 28. Listening to their briefings were Mr. John McLaurin, Deputy Director of Force Management, Dept. of the Army; Rear Adm. James. P. Wisecup, President of the Naval War College; and Ambassador Mary Ann Peters, Provost of the Naval War College. The panel appreciated the innovative ideas developed by the NSDM seminars, offered their perspective on the real resource and political constraints in which strategy must operate, and agreed that the NSDM FX practiced the teamwork and broad perspective that NWC graduates will need in future assignments.

From National Security Decision Making Department