College of Naval Warfare (CNW) students presented proposed future grand strategies for the United States to a panel of national security leaders at the Naval War College on March 10.


As the capstone to the National Security Decision Making (NSDM) course, nineteen student seminars each conducted an analysis of the future security environment, developed new national security and national military strategies, and identified new concepts and capabilities to be developed as part of that military strategy.


"The exercise provides students an excellent opportunity to practice peer leadership and generate cutting-edge national security ideas," said NSDM Chair Joan Johnson-Freese.


Overall, the CNW seminars developed strategies in line with the likely direction of the new Obama administration.  Most groups saw future challenges increasingly 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 seminars proposed greater international cooperation between the U.S. and other global powers.  While few recommended major changes in the military's current force structure, most did propose expanding U.S. capabilities for counterinsurgency and security cooperation.  Many also addressed the need to improve interagency coordination. 


Not all seminars agreed with the majority view.  One seminar proposed a "strategic restraint" approach that included withdrawing from NATO.   Another echoed the former administration's focus on spreading democracy and promoting American values. 


Seminars developed a wide range of concepts, from focused research and development on robotics and unmanned vehicles, to new programs to improve the cultural and regional knowledge of U.S. service members.


After initial rounds of judging by NWC faculty, two seminars delivered their presentations to a distinguished panel on March 10.


The panel included Dr. David Chu, who recently retired as Undersecretary of Defense for Manpower and Readiness; Ambassador Larry Dinger, currently the American charge d'affaires in Burma; and Rear Adm. James P. Wisecup, president of the Naval War College.  They appreciated the innovative ideas developed by the NSDM seminars and offered thoughtful commentary on the possibilities of implementing them. 


At the conclusion of the presentations, each of the panel members addressed the students. Chu shared his views on some of the critical challenges facing the new administration. Dinger provided the students with his perspective on the political developments in Burma. 


Wisecup noted the great value of the NSDM exercise to the students and expressed his appreciation for the effort all seminars made in bringing the trimester to a successful conclusion.  He also presented Dr. Chu with a lithograph signed by NWC faculty in appreciation of his thirty years of strong and frequent support of the Naval War College.


In addition to the substantive proposals that emerged, the NSDM final exercise also gave the seminars valuable experience in developing policy in fluid group environments that brought together individuals from all four military services, civilian agencies, and international officers.


Commending the students on developing such professional briefings, exercise director Derek Reveron noted, "The National Security Council should be inspired by the efforts of our students."

By Dr. David Burbach, Naval War College

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