NEWPORT, R.I. - This spring’s 12-day reserve National Security Decision Making (NSDM) course at the Naval War College (NWC) concluded on May 7 and provided stimulating dialogue and ideas that focused on past and current security decisions involving the United States.
Offered by the NWC Operational Support Office, College of Distance Education (CDE) and the NSDM Department and faculty, the course utilizes a multi-discipline approach that synthesizes concepts from disciplines such as political science, leadership, psychology, management, and anthropology. The lectures and seminars help prepare reserve officers for intermediate level command and staff assignments.
“The framework or backbone for this reserve course is the Assess, Decide, Implement, and Assure (ADIA) cycle,” said Professor Anthony DiBella, who taught Decision Making and Implementation during the course. “We teach our students that when they accept a position of responsibility—whether it’s commanding a regional emergency preparedness program or managing a department at the Pentagon—they need to develop a thought process that involves strategy formulation and development as well as strategy execution and implementation.”
The graduate-level program mirrors the NSDM intermediate-level resident course, and it involved one panel discussion, nine lectures and 21 seminar sessions. Upon completion of the course, students will have earned approximately 50 percent of their NSDM Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) phase one requirements from NWC.
Poignant events and topics discussed during the intensive two-week course included a detailed case-study analysis of the U.S. military’s involvement in Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in 2002, President George W. Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the current administration’s handling of the recent oil spill emergency along the gulf coast of the United States.
“Despite the short time period the course allows, our students were fully engaged academically and devoted several extra hours each night as they prepared for the daily lectures and discussions,” said Professor Sean Sullivan, who instructed students on Contemporary Staff Environment. “We were impressed with their thorough grasp of historical and current events, probing questions and search for the best strategic solutions.”
The faculty, who engaged the students in lively give-and-take discussions, also embraced the students’ enthusiastic participation in voluntary “Lectures of Opportunity” provided by the college. Likewise, the students benefited from the professors’ unique perspectives as well as the networking opportunities with their classmates.
“There was a good balance between instructors with a strong academic background and those who have spent a lifetime in the military,” Marine Col. Joel Garland said. “It also was enlightening to compare opinions before-and-after class about national decision-making issues with fellow students.”
After the final exams, faculty and students shared ideas for future course curriculums. Suggestions included inviting security and decision-making experts from Washington, D.C., to speak on relevant topics of military and national interest.
Students also proposed an idea to provide a “real-world” application of NSDM models and concepts. Air Force Col. Miriam Michael explained that seminars could be divided into several subgroups and assigned a current issue to solve. These subgroups would be paired with subgroups from another seminar in order to compare and contrast the application process of each other’s work. This would increase the “cross flow of student engagement, decision making principles and service culture “joint” learning.”
Sixty-three reserve students from the Air Force, Air National Guard, Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy participated in this year’s NSDM session. Many students believed their expectations for the course were exceeded by the efforts of the faculty and support staff.
“In my opinion, this is the best environment—not just in the Navy, but in the military—for a reserve officer to learn this material from the most knowledgeable people available,” Navy Capt. William Davies said. “Ellen Silveria and the NWC’s Operational Support Office should also be applauded for their superb efforts in coordinating the logistics and administrative details every year.”
In addition to the NSDM course, the NWC Operational Support Office
annually facilitates two-week reserve courses for the other NWC JPME resident core courses including Strategy and War in the fall and Joint Military Operations in the winter. Students can enroll in these reserve courses or take other CDE courses to earn JPME phase one credit, an important milestone in a military officer’s career.
by David Reese, NWC Public Affairs