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NEWPORT, R.I. – The Naval War College (NWC) will change the name of one of its three core teaching departments from National Security Decision Making (NSDM) to National Security Affairs (NSA). The new name goes into effect on March 1. This change is intended to better reflect the department’s broad focus on contemporary national security studies.
“The department’s curriculum has evolved substantially over the years, particularly since the War College began differentiating between its senior and intermediate courses approximately five years ago,” said Dr. David Cooper, who became Chair of NSDM in July 2010. “I think this change better captures the scope of what we teach in a way that will be more easily recognizable and intuitive for our students as well as external audiences within academia and government policy circles.”
NSDM will remain as the title of the NSA department’s senior-level course, which concentrates on national-level strategy, leadership and decision making processes. However, the name of the intermediate NSA course will change from NSDM to Theater Security Decision Making (TSDM), reflecting its focus on regional security challenges at the combatant command level.
“Despite these differences in emphasis, each course will continue to provide students with a broad grounding in national security affairs,” Cooper said. “Both the NSDM and TSDM courses will be organized around sub-courses in ‘Security Strategies,’ ‘Policy Analysis’ and ‘Leadership Concepts.’”
NEWPORT, R.I. (Feb. 16, 2011) Professors Stephen Knott, Tom Nichols and Rick Norton are the directors for the three sub-courses for the National Security Affairs Department. (Photo by David Reese)Cooper first raised the idea of changing the name shortly after coming on board at NWC, and then decided to pursue the initiative after receiving encouraging initial reactions. After a series of discussions within each of the department’s three sub-courses, and then a “town hall” meeting involving the entire faculty, it became obvious there was wide support for the idea.
“As a civilian academic, I am very happy with the name change because there is clarity to it that the old name lacked,” said Stephen Knott, professor with National Security Affairs. “This also puts us on par with many of the nation's civilian academic institutions, which is a positive development in so many ways. I will no longer have to explain to my peers in the academy what we do, and the change may in fact help with the potential recruitment of civilian scholars.”
“Through these internal discussions, we learned that many of our professors had already been mulling the potential advantages of some type of name change,” Cooper said. “This collaborative approach let us bring forward a recommendation to the War College leadership that had the full support of the faculty. It was gratifying to receive approval from the NWC President, Rear Adm. Wisecup, and the Provost, Ambassador Peters.”
Faculty members reiterated the view that the timing was right for the change and the transition will prove beneficial to NSA’s goals.
Professor Nichols said that for several years, NSDM had been responding to significantly broader Navy and Department of Defense guidance to engage questions including leadership, regional issues, cultural and ideological aspects of international security, and the role of domestic and international institutions, among many others.
“Although we're retaining our focus on decision-making in the further education and preparation of national security professionals, the name change more accurately describes our alignment with our wider mission,” Nichols concluded.
"While the study of decision making remains a core component of the department's content, future national security professionals need a deeper understanding of the context of our times, and the current intricacies of formal government processes,” NSA Professor Rick Norton added.  “Accordingly, our students need to examine a much broader spectrum of issues, tools, techniques and concepts than ever before. The new department title more accurately reflects this reality."
By David Reese, Naval War College Public Affairs